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Porn blocking: WiFi providers sign agreement, but filter content already

22 Jul 2013
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The majority of public WiFi providers have reached an agreement with the government to filter adult content from networks that could be accessed by children. The news, however, announced with much fanfare by prime minister David Cameron, seems to be inconsequential, with the providers in question already offering their own filtering services.

Cameron said in a speech this afternoon that he had managed to make agreements with WiFi providers O2, Virgin Media, Sky, Nomad, BT and Arqiva – which provide 90 percent of the UK's hotspots – to ensure that "family-friendly filters are to be applied across the public WiFi network wherever children are likely to be present".

The Cabinet Office told V3 that the companies had signed a joint agreement to filter adult and illegal content, but each will go about it in their own way and won't have one central repository of websites to block. They could not specify whether the agreement went any further than the basic adult and illegal content clause.

Sky was quick to make it clear that 20,000 of its WiFi networks have been filtering adult content since September last year, with the agreement apparently not making any difference to this policy.

BT also joined the chorus of supporters when Cameron first hinted at these suggestions back in April and BT’s today hailed “constructive” talks between the industry and the government, but said they would not have to make a change to their filters.

Nomad, which provides WiFi on trains and aircraft, also told V3 that adult content filtering came with its services as standard. Virgin Media, which provides WiFi on the London Underground, also already has adult content filtering built into its networks.

The same applies to public WiFi provider Arqiva, which says it won’t need to make any changes to its filters.

As well as adding adult content filters to WiFi that is publicly accessible to potentially unsupervised children, Cameron also pointed his intention to create branded hotspots. "We are keen to introduce a 'Family Friendly WiFi' symbol, which retailers, hotels and transport companies can use to show their customers that their public WiFi is filtered."

None of the WiFi providers V3 contacted said they had any plans to take up this suggestion, however.

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Michael Passingham
About

Michael Passingham joined V3 as a reporter in June 2013. Prior to working at V3, Michael spent time at computing magazine PC Pro. Michael covers IT skills, social media, tech startups and also produces V3's video content.

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