Just days after PinkNews revealed that TalkTalk’s internet filter was categorising the Liberal Democrat’s official LGBT website as pornographic, it has emerged that O2 has labeled Stonewall, BBC News, the Conservative Party and the Number 10 Downing Street website as unsuitable or uninteresting to under 12s.
The ‘Under 12s’ parental control filtering system has been in place on O2 for a number of years, pre-dating David Cameron’s recent campaign on internet filters for adult content. Parents opt-in for their child’s mobile internet browsing to be restricted to a selection of pre-authorised websites.
However, most parents will be surprised to find that the websites that are blocked by default include parts of the website of the BBC News, the Houses of Parliament, gay rights charity Stonewall, every political party including the Conservatives, as well as the Downing Street website. Indeed, all Government websites are blocked along with the websites of the Metropolitan Police, and other police services. PinkNews along with all other mainstream news websites is also blocked from phones using the service.
O2 told PinkNews that Stonewall, BBC News and even Parliament’s website do not comply with the following categories of content, deemed suitable and interesting for children:-
1) Activities and crafts
3) Interactive learning, information for school projects, sites to answer children’s questions and thirst of knowledge.
4) Homepages of popular books; publishers of children’s books; book discussion with other kids
5) Official sites of comic heroes, publishing houses, fan-sites made for kids.
6) Age appropriate gaming portal
7) Age appropriate homepages of singers and pop groups, online archives, downloads
8) Homepages of children’s shows, movies, TV stations, producers
9) Homepages of clubs, leagues, associations. Publications on sports. Educational sites on rules/regulations. History and background information.
10) Age appropriate portals, directories, search, technical help and tutoring
11) “Cool” sites for kids – sites associated with currently fashionable topics like Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. Popular “cool” sites (voted on by children – as offered by several kid portals) like virtual zoos, magic, etc.
The mobile provider told PinkNews that it was a “mistake” to have blocked children’s charity ChildLine and that this website would be unblocked within 24 hours. O2 stressed that blocked websites were not being labeled as pornographic, instead their content was deemed as either unsuitable or irrelevant to children.
An O2 spokesman told PinkNews: “The technology classifies content accurately for the vast majority of sites. With the millions of sites now connected to the web and the wide variety of content, mistakes can happen. We are able to review any website that is currently blocked and re-categorise and correct any mistakes so that it’s accessible to the appropriate audience.”
Children using an O2 mobile with the service activated will still be able to access the blocked websites when connected via WiFi to their home broadband provider or alternatively on O2’s 9,000 WiFi hotspots that only block access to pornography.