Pete Hamilton

O2 Blocking Childline, NSPCC under 'Parental Control' Policy?

After playing with O2’s URL checker someone pointed out earlier that they seem to be blocking sites like Childline and the NSPCC under the ‘Parental Control’ filter. I’ve just checked again and it’s still the case.

I (and no doubt many others) think this is pretty awful. Charities dedicated to helping children who might be experiencing abuse are being blocked from those children under the ‘parental control’ policy. What?

I understand these things sometimes slip through unchecked and I may even be completely misunderstanding what the URL checker results really mean, but on the off chance that someone somewhere has messed up and children are being prevented access to sites which are there to help them, I hope this post might help get the sites unblocked.

It seems that you can suggest reclassification of a site so if anyone sees this before O2 update their parental control filters I suggest you put a request in. To do so:

  1. Visit O2’s URL checker
  2. Enter the charity site(s)
  3. Click continue
  4. At the bottom where it says “If you think this website needs a different policy, click here” click continue

Oddly it seems that GOV.UK is also blocked along with pretty much anything else I search for. I’m wondering what logic has been applied to this parental control filter and whether it’s an over zealous list or maybe just blocks everything unless the parent unblocks it? Even if that’s the case, I find the idea that a parent could even opt-in to have an abuse website blocked just as terrible as the fact that O2 seem to have blocked the sites by default. In my personal opinion such sites should be supported fully and be immune from being blocked, even on an opt-in basis.

It seems O2 aren’t the only ones. Earlier this week BT took some flack from the BBC for similar reasons, specifically regarding for their guidelines on porn and sexuality, according to the original BBC article, they were blocking sites including Sexual Health Scotland, Doncaster Domestic Abuse Helpline, Reducing The Risk (a site which tackles domestic abuse) and Edinburgh Women’s Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre.

These new filters which a lot of major UK ISPs are implementing in the coming months/year seem well meaning and will undoubtedly have a few teething problems, but they need to either do a better job of classifying sites in the first place, or have a very clear and easy mechanism by which people can help re-classify wrongly blocked sites. If they don’t I can only see this getting worse.