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Plenty of sex please, we’re British

porn filter

via Flickr © Hypnotica Studios Infinite (CC BY 2.0)

Despite the now general availability of Internet porn filters in the UK  (following a government edict) it turns out that most Brits don’t fall over themselves to click the thing on, although many may (for obvious reasons) be reluctant to be seen to take a functioning filter off if it’s already  doing its thing.

That’s according Ofcom stats kindly distributed to journalists struggling with the pre-Christmas news void. These show that only 6 per cent of BT subscribers have activated their filters while twice as many Virgin (insert own joke) Media subscribers have ticked the “no porn please’ box at 12.4 percent. The numbers vary from ISP to ISP  but on average the UK household filterers are down around the 10 per cent mark.

This might be considered somewhat strange given the apparent moral panic that kicked off the filtering requirement in the first place resulting, as I remember it, from some ‘Internet to blame’ kerfuffle and the UK government deciding it needed to get decisive and do something about all the online porn flooding into UK households, corrupting children and frightening the horses.

Its first impulse, back in 2013,  was to be hairy-chested and to float the idea of blocking access to online pornography by default by means of an ‘opt-in’ system for customers wanting to watch it.

That was deemed inappropriate from a variety of angles - too heavy-handed from a censorship point of view; liable to screen out sex educational content, and so on - so in the end it was the draconian element that was filtered out and what was left was a slightly more apologetic option. Customers were asked whether they wanted to have a filter applied so that children could be protected. In other words, ISP customers had to opt in to activate the filter, rather than opt-in to get access to the porn.

The result has been a very low level of filtering. And it’s not as if the UK population is unaware that the filtering is available. General Ignorance, at least on this occasion, has not reported for duty, since well over half of all parents of 5 to 15 year-olds are aware that the filters exist (just as they are aware that ad blockers exist) but it’s clear that most of them don’t feel motivated to turn them on for a whole variety of stated reasons.

Interestingly the stand-out number -  and the exception that proves the rule - is the stat Ofcom has returned for Sky’s Internet filter. Somewhere between 30 and 40 per cent of them have their content filters turned on.

Why? Perhaps because Sky has reportedly been offering its customers a choice. If an active decision isn’t made, then Sky turns the filter on anyway and the account holder has to turn it off. That should do it.

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