The majority of UK broadband users have rejected parental internet filters that block harmful material – including dating sites.
David Cameron announced on 22nd July 2013 that the four ISPs – BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media – would introduce the filters by December 2013.
The measures give new customers an “unavoidable choice” whether they want to activate the parental filters or not.
These filters were intended to protect children from harmful material on the internet, by blocking content such as pornography.
However “Dating” is included by three of the four ISPs as a category to block – sitting alongside “Pornography”, “Weapons and Violence”, “Phishing and Malware” and “Drugs”.
Virgin Media is the only ISP that doesn’t have dating as a category.
Each ISP offers different levels of filtering – based on strictness – apart from TalkTalk, whose filter is customisable.
BT have a Strict, Moderate and Light option. They also offer a custom filter, where users can tick or untick various categories.
In BT’s filter, dating is automatically blocked in all three options, as shown below:
Sky have a PG, 13 and 18 option. They also offer a custom filter.
Dating is blocked by their PG and 13 option, but not the 18 filter.
TalkTalk’s filter is either on, or off – but users can pick which categories they want filtered. (Note the spelling of inappropriate).
Luckily for dating sites, Ofcom found that of the four ISPs, only TalkTalk saw more than 10% of new customers implement the filters.
Across all four, the average was 13%.
These are the percentages of new customers who turned on the filters:
- BT: 5%
- Sky: 8%
- TalkTalk: 36%
- Virgin Media: 4%
Virgin Media only offered the feature to 35% of new customers, as engineers who visited customers’ homes often bypassed the filter for quick internet installations.
Despite the low numbers, this still poses a problem for dating sites, as new broadband customers could turn on a filter, not realising it could block regular dating brands.
If the customer visited a site, and found it blocked by their internet filter – they might not return, or make the effort to unblock it.
The problem seems to stem from having “dating” as a very broad category – lumping adult sites and Christian sites together – meaning dating sites are even blocked on the less strict filtering options.
Read the full Ofcom report here.