Parental controls for users of BT broadband includes an option to block “gay and lesbian lifestyle” sites, as well as sexual health information.
The help section of the BT site includes information on categories which block things like “pornography”, “nudity”, “weapons and violence” and “games” so that children are not able to access harmful or dangerous information.
At the bottom of the page is a category called “Sex Education”, which enables parents to “block sites where the main purpose is to provide information on subjects such as respect for a partner, abortion, gay and lesbian lifestyle, contraceptives, sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy.”
Included in the categories is also a section which allows parents to block their children from accessing information about illegal drugs.
It reads: “This category will block sites that give information on illegal drugs or misue of prescription drugs.”
Conservative MP Mike Freer told PinkNews: “BT should think again about blocking access for sexual health or any health information. We obviously have a problem in the country with sexual health and we should be allowing access to that. This policy should be reviewed urgently.”
PinkNews founder Benjamin Cohen, who was formerly a technology correspondent for Channel 4 commented, saying: “I can perfectly understand why parents would want to block their children from accessing sites about drugs, or self harm, and of course pornography, however, I don’t understand why parents would want to stop their children from accessing sexual health or information which might help them while in the process of coming out.
“It is also the case that young people gain access to the internet from a variety of different devices, and for these filters to work, parents would also need to block them from accessing sexual health information from school, mobiles and public wifi. I don’t think this is possible.”
Sarah Radcliffe, policy and campaigns manager at National AIDS Trust said: “If we want to prevent the spread of HIV in the next generation, it is vital that all young people can access the information they need to maintain their sexual health and enjoy happy, safe and respectful relationships, particularly when we know that they are not consistently receiving this education in schools.”
Yesterday, just hours after leading internet provider TalkTalk apologised for blocking an LGBT charity’s website, it emerged that the company’s porn filter was also blocking the Liberal Democrat’s official LGBT+ group’s website.
TalkTalk has since apologised for the oversight.
A statement from BT read: “There has been an accidental mis-description of the way our parental controls operate. Some parents of very young children may wish to block sex education material. One of our optional filters does just that. It does not discriminate between heterosexual and LGBT content. We apologise for any confusion that has been caused. We shall revise the way we describe the optional sex education filters available for parents of very young children. The filters in question are not turned on by default, but are activated only if chosen by parents. “