The adult content filters being rolled out by some internet providers under a scheme championed by David Cameron are blocking the websites of businesses and charities and are a “distraction” for parents seeking to protect children from online pornography, claim campaigners.
But campaigners say that it is misleading to suggest these filters are just about blocking pornography, and that they block a range of content, such as drugs, sex, alcohol, tobacco and anorexia.
The Metropolitan police are currently producing a list of websites for the filtering services which they regard as terror-related.
A website discussing the legalisation of cannabis found itself blocked, as did several small wine dealers, said Pam Cowburn of the transparency campaign Open Rights Group. Last year research by the group found that 54 registered charities had their websites blocked by one or another of the filters.
Several were offering support and services to young people escaping abuse or alcohol dependency. One such charity, Alcohol Support, based in Aberdeen, called it a “big brother” approach.
“It’s still a problem; it isn’t being tackled in the rush to block what is deemed unsuitable.
“But it’s very simplistic: URLs with Sussex or Essex in them, for example, are blocked. It’s arbitrary and a blunt tool.
“There is no guarantee that all porn sites can be blocked, so parents can have a false sense of security that will actually stop them doing what they need to do, which is to talk to their children about the internet and about internet safety.”
Vicki Shotbolt, CEO and founder of social enterprise project the ParentZone, said: “Filters are at best a distraction from the most important way to look after your family online.” Open conversations and keeping informed were the way forward, she said.