January 18, 2013

For your “protection”, some new smartphones are configured to hide “mature” content

Filed under: Britain, Business, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:52

Willard Foxton discusses some eye-raising configurations on new smartphones in the UK:

When you get a new phone, there’s a very good chance it comes with automatic filters enabled. For example, it’s very common for you have to explicitly request the ability to call premium-rate phone lines. This is long established, but now, a sinister new trend has started, whereby phone providers are automatically blocking access to certain websites for “mature content”, rather than “adult content”.

Mobile provider 3UK is blocking access to political satire as “mature content”; Orange is preventing access to feminist articles as “mature content” through its automatically applied Orange Safeguard service; several providers are blocking perfectly legitimate sites like Pink News because they deal with gay issues, or Channel 4’s excellent Embarrassing Bodies website, because of the graphic discussion of body parts and sexuality.

This was bad enough when these services were blocking porn (I for one wholeheartedly support the right of teenagers to watch smut on their iPhones), but now it seems overzealous providers are blocking access to anything a Catholic Bishop might consider for adults only. This carries not only the problem of “overblocking” caused by lazy filter design — notably, it’s hard to get your website read if it refers to Middlesex or Scunthorpe — but also as these filters are automatically applied, most people don’t even realise they are losing access to certain parts of the web.

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