back to article Mobile net filters block legit content too – campaign group

Mobile operators currently provide filter systems that enable parents to stop children accessing websites deemed to contain content suitable for individuals aged 18 or over. However, the Open Rights Group (ORG) said there are "a number of serious problems" with how those systems work. "At present the filtering systems are too …

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Just this morning

I was blocked from reading an article about the social risks of "family friendly" internet filtering, by O2's family friendly internet filtering.

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Anonymous Coward

it amounts

to censorship. School filters have the same problem where legitimate sites may be blocked.

Sadly it can also be detrimental to businesses who find themselves on a block list for no reason other than the filter does not like them.

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Anonymous Coward

Yep, the current mobile censorship blocks put in by the mobile networks is rubbish. I can still reach adult websites. Certain online booze shops are being blocked, and other legitimate non-adult websites are being bizarrely filtered (including, ironically, a childs online toyshop I was trying to access the other day). Webpage proxies are easy to find and circumvent the blocks anyway.

Unfortunately, the latest versions of Opera Mini don't get around this anymore. If I can only find a way to go back to a previous version...

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opera mobile

Opera Mobile might work where Opera Mini doesn't.

It's easy to get the two confused. Opera Mobile seems to use remote proxy servers and compresses the content between the device and the proxy, so it saves data costs and time too.

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Re: opera mobile

Um. no. Wrong way round. Opera Mobile is the full browser on your phone, Opera Mini is the one that does most of the processing on the remote servers. (Opera Mini is available even for J2ME devices, so is available on anything post 2004...)

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Pint

Re: opera mobile

Thank you for this ... you've reminded me that I need to install it.

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Silver badge

Whatever.

My kid had free reign to the Internet. In the family living quarters, not in private ... at least not until she went off to Uni. When she ran across "icky stuff" (her words, not mine), we discussed it. Her daughter (18 months) will be raised the same way, or so she says ... Growing up in a barn helps, IMNERHO ;-)

Why parents provide unsupervised access for their kids to access the tawdry underbelly of the entire planet is beyond me ... In my day, parents parented.

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The filters are very OTT

Orange seems to ban pretty much anything that happens to be an internet forum. You wouldn't notice that as a post paid user though for some reason my iPhone sometimes gets blocked and I have to reset it.

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Silver badge

Re: The filters are very OTT

I don't know if this is a related issue to yours, but whilst I can read TheRegister on an Orange phone with Java Opera Mini, I can't usually read the forums... I'm now trying to remember if I was connected through WiFi on those rare occasions the phone has let me read the comments page.

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JUST WISHING

THAT SOMEONE WOULD BAN MY HUSBAND SO THAT I DONT HAVE CARRY ON THE PRETENCE OF A MARRIAGE TOO MUCH LONGER

AS FOR FILTERS THEY DONT WORK VERY WELL

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Gimp

Re: JUST WISHING

Sorry to go off topic but...

I have a confession to make Mrs Big Dumb Guy - I have fallen passionately in love with you since you started posting here - I think I have read three posts of yours now and I have a feeling which I have never felt stronger before about anyone - will you please marry me so we can run away to Western-Super-Mare and live happily every after together, until the machines rise and eliminate all of mankind!!!?!!!

I know it will be tough for Mr Big Dumb Guy and I will of course be sorry for his loss, but I just cannot resist a high quality upper-case MILF like yourself! I am your ticket out of here baby, we won't need the governments 'back of a fag packet' legislation idea as an excuse for you to leave him now - our love and the fine Westcountry resort of WSM will be all we need. Please say yes my love, for my heart melts like cheese on toast whenever I see your capitalised musings! xxx

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Anonymous Coward

filters: so much work, so little function

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Silver badge

Oh hell, I do hope they don't procreate...

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Go

Financial redress

if my site were incorrectly blocked by an adult filter would i be able to get some compo?

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Unhappy

Re: Financial redress

Nope, because the state is always correct and never errs. And if it was done by a mobile phone company they would be something in their T&Cs to ensure you don't get paid. However with the later there could be a case for taking them to court, but they go on the basis that the little people can't afford expensive court cases.

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Silver badge

Can this be done at App level?

Can Android / iOS require a password for some apps to be run? Rather than filter at the ISP level, it seems easier to have a specific kiddie browser that only allows access to white-listed websites. (That's if it is your phone that they are playing with, of course. If it is a phone in the child's hands for extended periods of time, they would quickly circumvent that kind of lock...)

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FAIL

It all makes me laugh...

on 3... they block access to b3ta... but in doing so, they push you to the landing page for their own adult content... so in looking for b3ta, one gets pushed towards the porn. Well done. Even when you have the filter allegedly switched off, it still pushes you to their own porn...

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Silver badge
Childcatcher

We don't "filter" our road network from Children - they can happily step in front of a car, bus or truck on most roads and most parents don't give a second thought when they walk out the door in the morning. That is part of life. We teach them how to cross the road safely, and trust them to do it.

IF we are going to "filter" the Internet by default then we MUST also filter many other aspects of our existing life to "protect the children". Shops will need to have 18 only sections where any "dubious" items are displayed - not just jazz mags, but "dangerous" items such as bleach, alcohol, candles matches and lighters, scissors and knives, etc, should not even be shown to kids (I know there are rules covering sale, but it is not just the sale, but the display that is the issue).

Is this REALLY where we are heading?

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Meh

What, like shops having to hide Cigarettes away

The theory goes that if the kiddies can't see them then they wont be tempted to try smoking.

I remember when I started smoking all those years ago, I didnt see the brightly coloured packets and think "oh, I must try those", I saw my dad, my brother and my mates smoking and thought "I must try those" (I know, what a sheep!)

Anyway, 20 years later and I've broken the addiction but I really dont think hiding stuff away makes things less appealing to youngsters, take drugs (as an example, that wasnt a subliminal message!)

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Unless they effectively ...

... block out the filth from wikipedia the filters are useless.

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Virgin Mobile fail

On a new Virgin Mobile PAYG phone I found this block when trying to find the lottery numbers!

The resulting "you're blocked" page contained an advert for "sexy lady wallpapers", provided by Virgin themselves (or at least branded by them), which wasn't affected by the block. Hmm...

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WTF?

Cart. Horse.

What's the use of efficient ways for a website operator to 'opt out' or to check whether blocked, when (s)he probably has no reason to suppose there's anything to opt out of or to check in the first place?

Someone operating an 'adult' website or a website specifically for children might be aware of such filters and the risk of being blocked. Though having said that, when I was webmaster for a site aimed at high schools back in 1998, it certainly wasn't on my agenda to check block lists in my own country, let alone in every country (and language) participating in the project!

Someone whose subject is completely neutral - from a hobby site about railways/coffee/football/my-town right up to a household name like tesco, john lewis or even google - typically has no reason to check, or even to know there was anything to be checked!

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Vodafone also blocks daft sites

I turned mine off on holiday a couple of years ago when it wouldn't let me look up the menu for a restaurant on my phone. Highly frustrating!

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Pint

Re: Vodafone also blocks daft sites

Same here, they blocked "Wine by the Case" on me - and just when I needed a quick gallon before going to the pub!

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Paris Hilton

Also puzzled by 3's filter.

When I got the wife a mobile on 3 a year or so ago and tried out the browser I was rather bemused to find that several innocuous non-porn sites were blocked and would be replaced on the screen with a series of links to various categories of porn. So that's a porn filter is it?

My mind could not have boggled more.

I just changed the APN to the one 3 use for My-Fi though and it all worked fine; enabling me to browse non-porn without being pushed to porn.

Did I mention the boggling of the mind this caused? Yes? good.

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Re "At present the filtering systems are too blunt an instrument "

They always will be.

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FAIL

Vodafone blocked a supplier of engineering plastics and a automation systems supplier we use amongst others, and no-one at customer support was even able to tell me who administered the block list/who to send complaints to. They claimed they used a third party blocklist, but the supplier of the block list claimed vodafone was not a user of their list, and confirmed none of the sites I had issue with were on their blacklist. All vodafone did when challenged with this was offer reapeatedly to enable adult content for us - something we do not want on our business accounts for understandable reasons!

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Silver badge
Unhappy

They block e-mails too

Since I own the domain for my business, it's simple for me to use my Affordable Leather Products address for e-mails because that way it all comes into one Inbox and I can then filter messages into appropriate folders according to which version of the address the sender uses. Similarly I send out e-mails from the business mail server using the same domain.

Recently, however, I had a friend complain that they hadn't had a message from me about an event and only found out about it later when someone else did a "reply to all".

It turns out that, although there was no adult or explicit content in the message, it was being blocked because my *website* is listed as an adult site meaning that I now have to send messages to this friend from a backup e-mail address just to make sure they get them.

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Pint

Age of majority

And what's the point of the annoying confirm/pretend that you're of booze-purchasing age in the country you're in before a drink-related website will let you in?

More on-topic:

Why do these filters cut out drink-related sites? You can drink in the UK when you're 5 years old. Also, you have to get past the confirm/pretend your age page anyway!

Why do they cut out the lottery (as mentioned above)? You can do the lottery at age 16.

I can understand an optional hard pron and jihadi murder filter (if it was possible to make it work, which I doubt), but you should be able to pick which vices are included.

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Report of the blindingly obvious.

Good the report is out there, but it is hardly news. It is the argument most have been making about bring this kind of filtering to ISP's, since the idea was first touted.

I always ask for the filters on all my connections to be removed, not because I want to look at dirty pictures, but because I just want to be able to access the internet, like wiki pages on standard biology etc. Or the web sites of cities like Scunthorpe.....

If any children use my connections, I make sure they have filters in place locally that actually work. It's not rocket science. I wonder if parents will be able to get the government to take over other parts of their parental responsibilities, because doing it themselves is 'a bit tricky'. Maybe David Cameron can come round to peoples houses and make their children go to bed at a decent time.....

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Bronze badge
WTF?

In an ideal world...

ISPs, mobile or otherwise, would be *prohibited* from applying any kind of filtering; it should be entirely the end user's decision if and what to filter. Sadly, with certain uninformed MPs seeing a "think of the children" bandwagon to jump on, we seem to be heading exactly the opposite direction now...

If they're already free to block innocuous sites without fallout, how long before O2 start blocking Vodafone's pages, or Vodafone decide they've had enough of the Guardian baiting UKuncut and block them?

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Thumb Down

It's not just mobes . . .

I teach basic - very basic - computing in my local library and occasionally use one of their computers for my own purposes.

During a recent period of failure by my ISP, think broadband = 56K dial-up, I tried to access a well known computing forum - bleepingcomputer - and was denied access on grounds of 'unsuitable content'. I really must get round to telling BC that they are a hotbed of pornographic terrorist activity.

Chris Cosgrove

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This post has been deleted by its author

Anonymous Coward

Plausible deniability...

Years ago in the days of dialup I once visited an internet cafe and bought one of the payment credits-cards for the sole purpose of downloading a couple of megabyte installer (possibly for Netscape Navigator) which would have taken ages at home. The installer was hosted in a repository at Imperial College. As soon as I tried to download it, the internet cafe's Cyber Patrol software blocked the download. I protested to the staff, but they wouldn't lift the block, nor refund my money. I've hated such software ever since.

You don't have to go many hours on a "under-18 filtered" connection before you find yourself stumped with perfectly tame forums and information sources. Thus as far as I am concerned, all content filters on my connections have to be removed.

Of course, this truth conveniently provides plausible deniability...

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