Sky broadband announced that it would automatically block adult content by default for new customers from the beginning of 2016. Its Broadband Shield filtering system for adult and malicious content is now optional for subscribers, but from 2016 it will come by default for new subscribers. The system is programmed automatically to block content unsuitable for underage until 9pm. It is also noted that the users can personalize this setting as they wish.
The British ISP promised to send out notifications to all existing customers asking them if they would like the filter to be switched on. If the subscribers reply nothing, the ISP will turn on the filter automatically, like it did following a similar email sent a year ago, when all customers who joined prior to November 2013 were contacted.
The industry experts explain that it is part of a system to create an “unavoidable decision”, where users who don’t want a filter must take some action to be heard. The broadband giant believes that such “default on” approach will encourage a greater use of home filters and ensure a safer online experience for users. This move is taken in order to meet the Prime Minister’s objective of providing more protection for children on the Internet.
The government supports Sky’s plans, saying that family filters are an extremely helpful tool for parents to protect children from age-inappropriate material, and the approach of the Internet service provider can be a perfect example of how industry is exploring various technologies to help keep children safe on the Internet.
According to official statistics, by June 2015 Sky subscribers were the most active in using content filters – for example, about 1/3 of them left content filters switched on. For comparison, Sky’s rivals – BT, Virgin Media and TalkTalk – managed to reach only 15%. Besides, 2/3 of Sky’s customers who had received “unavoidable decision” notification had kept some form of parental control turned on.
On the other hand, some groups criticize this approach, claiming that the broadband provider was not giving customers an informed choice about filters by turning them on by default. They also insist that parents should not be lulled into a false sense of security by filters, but rather educate their kids how to safely use the worldwide web.