While America's elected officials have whiled their days away bickering about budgets, the prime minister of the U.K. has had his hands full—with a war on pornography. Unfortunately, some of the country's sex ed, porn addiction and domestic abuse resources are collateral damage.
Because of course a giant porn filter wasn't going to work.
David Cameron's campaign against adult content comes on the heels of a major national scandal about BBC personality Jimmy Savile, who allegedly abused hundreds of children over the years. Cameron has stepped up efforts to block child pornography and got explicit content blocked on public Wifi networks.
But Cameron has also strong-armed the country's major Internet service providers into creating filters requiring any adult who wants to see pornography to opt in. TalkTalk, Sky and BT all have filters up and running, while Virgin plans to launch its own next year.
BBC's Newsnight took the filters for a spin, however, and found they're blocking more than pornography. TalkTalk blocked sites including BishUK.com, an award-winning sex ed site, as well as the Edinburgh Women's Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre. On top of that, it failed to block 7 percent of the 68 sites Newsnight tried. Sky's filter blocked 99 percent of pornographic results — but also six porn-addition sites.
BT blocked Sexual Health Scotland and two sites dedicated to domestic abuse support. What keywords are they even using here?
"It's really frustrating because I'm trying to provide a sex education site for young people and it's hard enough directing young people to good quality information on the internet," said BishUK.com's Justin Hancock. Now, now, Justin, we can't have teens getting their info from anywhere but whispered locker-room conversations.
Spokespeople for all three ISPs basically said "whoops!" TalkTalk used the old "there is no silver bullet" excuse, Sky said it's "quick and easy" to unblock "misclassified sites" and BT says it'll "investigate any concerns." Because that's what a tween wants to do while trying to get accurate sex ed info without an awkward chat with mom—call their ISP.
In short, there's probably no way to build these filters so they actually work worth a damn, and the whole idea is essentially a Monty Python skit. Can't wait to see what gets blocked when the U.K. government adds "extremist sites" to the to-do list.
Image via Shutterstock