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Many of the bigger ISPs in the UK (such as BT, Sky, VirginMedia, TalkTalk) offer child-friendly filters that can be installed to stop a variety of sites from being accessed by children - including pornography, self harm, politically sensitive sites, terrorism and drug taking.

For new customers, they had to explicitly opt-out of the filter, but for existing customers they had to explicitly opt-in.  At present, only 1 in 7 households are using the filters with usage as low as 5% for some ISPs.  Engineers fitting new connections have even been reported to not switch on the filters for customers, saying "grown men can make their own decisions".

The UK had a law introduced over the last few years which forced ISPs to block MP3 and torrent sites automatically for customers - making it difficult to access services like Piratebay.

Prime Minister David Cameron said that he also wants to extend the filters to extreme(ist) forums - but then where does free speech fit into this and who are the people who determine what is "extreme".  There are also many reported instances of sites being incorrectly blocked due to combination of words on pages.  Websites on sexual health and drug information sites are two examples of useful public information, yet can get blocked by these filters.

Many children are more literate in using the internet than their parents.  Getting around enforced filters is always going to be possible and if anyone is going to be able to do it, children will find a way - leaving parents flumuxed!

Are any other countries in the world rolling out filters like the UK?  If you are living in one of these countries, please comment!

 

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