Sky Porn-filters to be ‘default-on’ as internet censorship comes to the UK

Sky block porn
If you are based in the UK, and your internet is supplied by Sky, you might be a little surprised to learn that for you, the internet is about be censored.

This is because Sky is changing the settings of its ‘Broadband Shield’, the technology they offer to allow parents to stop their children accessing inappropriate content.

Filtered

This change in the default setting will mean that all Sky broadband users will have their content filtered unless they specifically contact Sky to request otherwise. For new subscribers, the setting will be automatic, while existing customers will be contacted and asked if they would like their settings changed

However, in perhaps the most troubling part of the process, if Sky cannot contact existing customers, they intend to make the changes anyway. This means that many users will find their internet being censored by their ISP without having any say over whether this is what they want or not.

Cynics have pointed to the fact that Sky’s ‘Broadband Shield’ has been available for some time and take up of it has been extremely poor. Sky themselves admit that only between 5% and 10% of their subscribers use it.

But they also pointed to a trial they held last year with some customers where the service was switched on by default, and they claimed around two-thirds of their customers did not change the settings.

The move by Sky is timely given that the UK Government is increasingly pushing to increase the use of web filters to protect children from being able to access inappropriate content on the internet.

Forced

Few would argue that providing parents with such a tool so they can make their own choice regarding how their children use the internet is eminently sensible. But where privacy campaigners are unhappy, is when, like Sky, this technology is forced upon users whether they like it or not.

The main type of content that is being blocked is pornography, and this is where the opt-in approach makes so many people uncomfortable. Because a lot of people look at pornography online, which they are of course perfectly entitled to do.

But how many of them will feel comfortable making a phone call to Sky and effectively having to ask someone to ‘switch on their porn’? Sky’s own figures suggest that a great many people are not willing to do this.

Then there is the broader issue of online freedom. Why should Sky, as an ISP, have the right to control access to the internet? Surely it is up to individuals and parents to decide if they want these controls in place. This is what Sky did previously, and around 10% of their customers took them up on the offer. Why are Sky looking to change this now?

If they want to increase uptake, maybe they should promote and explain the ‘Broadband Shield’ technology better, rather than force it upon customers who haven’t asked for it.

Of course, there are ways to get around the filter without having to make that call to Sky, the most obvious of which is a VPN. All of the most popular VPNs such as IPVanish and ExpressVPN allow users to get around online censorship, whether it is being enforced by ISPs unilaterally, as in this instance, or by state censors.

But many will still be shocked that while Britain is quick to criticize censorship and restrictions of freedom in other countries, that something like this could be happening much closer to home.

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