Sky Broadband caused controversy today with the announcement of the automatic enabling of their adult filter, Sky Broadband Shield. Censorship has been a hot topic of conversation in the UK over the past 2 years with David Cameron the current prime minister pressuring internet providers in the UK to step up online censorship of adult material at the end of 2013.
The reasoning behind this was all very well intended but the actual implementation was something akin to mass censorship of UK internet connections. Last year all major ISPs rolled out “adult” or “parental filters” with the aim of protecting children from the nasties of the internet.
To bypass Sky Filters
I strongly recommend due to the increased censorship that is being felt across UK ISPs in recent years that UK users push forward towards full time VPN use to ensure they can surf a free and open internet. Three providers we highly recommend for this job are IPVanish, ExpressVPN and VyprVPN, we also list up to 20 vetted providers in our VPN Comparison Guide so that you can choose a provider suitable to yourself.
Not only will a VPN service protect your privacy but will also allow you to bypass the Sky filter extremely easily.
Flick a switch for adult content on/off
The way in which this was adopted ranged from a single request to turn on or off the filter to a constant nagging request that wouldn't let you access the net before confirming this.
I wrote about the dangers of this type of system at the end of 2013 which has since gone on to be one of our most popular articles, highlighting the obvious concern and interest in this censorship debate.
Sky Broadband, one of the major ISPs in the UK have today announced that their adult filter will now be enabled by default for all customers and each individual customer will have to specifically turn it off to access adult content. Protecting children from adult content seems like a noble cause, although problems have been evident in the lack of technical ability of such filters that are over zealous and have been accused of blocking sites relating to sexual health and other matters that shouldn't fall within such a block.
The other more concerning area is less technical parents will feel safe because their children are protected by a technological solution that in essence could be seen as a replacement to good parenting. The safest way for children to access the internet is under the supervision of adults and no amount of technological intervention will ever be able to replace this. Giving unaware parents a false sense of security is never a good idea.
Another issue with Sky Broadband automatically enabling their Sky Broadband Shield aka “adult filter” is that those who do wish to access adult content or just want the filter disabled should rightly feel their privacy and rights are violated. In a way it automatically makes you suspect of being a “dirty old man” who wants to access adult content, when in reality you just may not want the filter for other reasons.
Lyssa McGowan, Brand Director of Communications Products for Sky Broadband stated in a blog post today.
We’ve come up with a user and family-friendly approach to online safety that we’re starting to communicate to customers this week. We want to ensure no one misses the opportunity to benefit from better protection online.
Although I have to question if the system was such a good choice, why aren't families and those concerned contacted to be informed how to enable the system.
Adult filters fail to protect
Adult filters such as the Sky Broadband Shield have been shown to be ineffective and block legitimate sites. In fact our own tests carried out in July 2014 found that 16 of 22 VPN providers websites at the time were blocked by at least one of the ISPs adult filters. This is a baffling amount considering none contain adult content or content harmful to children.
Users of Sky Broadband who are opposed to the automatic enabling of the Sky Broadband Shield are advised to sign up to a VPN provider who will allow surfing of the internet in an encrypted and anonymous manner. Use of a VPN will obfuscate your usage making it impossible for your ISP to understand what you are accessing and remove the requirement for you to enable or disable any kind of censorship filter.