UK Mobile Operator 3UK Filtering New Class Of 'Mature Content', Including Political Satire

from the mature-content dept

Smartphones have some big advantages: they offer considerable computing power in a highly-portable form, and are available at prices that allow a broad spectrum of users to get online easily. But as we reported last year, there’s a big downside, too, one that’s all-the-more dangerous for being invisible to most people: overblocking of sites caused by opt-out “child protection filters” applied by some mobile operators to their Internet feed.

Here’s yet another worrying example of that problem, this time involving the UK operator 3UK, pointed out by Nick Rothwell. Pride’s Purge is a Web site described by its creator Tom Pride as “an irreverent look at UK politics”. As he recently discovered, it’s also blocked by 3UK’s child protection filter. He contacted the company on Twitter, pointing out that Pride’s Purge was not a porn site or anything similar, and this is what it replied:

We don’t just block adult websites, websites with mature content may also be censored.

So it now seems that there is a category of material called “mature content” that is distinct from “adult content”, and that is also blocked by child protection filters, at least on 3UK’s network. Worryingly, political satire seems to be regarded as an example of “mature content”, and therefore unsuitable for children under 18. In fact, the censorship is even worse, as Pride explains:

it’s not blocked for just the under-18s. It’s blocked for anyone who hasn’t proven to [3UK] they are over 18 — and that means you will have to give your full identity to 3UK before they allow you to enter this site.

Which means 3UK now officially regard political satire as porn — and are censoring it in exactly the same way.

This very broad, default censorship is disturbing for at least two reasons. First, because many people will be unaware that this kind of “mature content” censorship is taking place at all, and therefore won’t ask for it to be stopped. And secondly, even if they are aware, the fact that asking for the filter to be lifted could be seen as tantamount to wanting to access porn — something that many will understandably be reluctant to have noted down on their Internet access record — means that they will simply put up with a limited feed. And so the creeping, silent censorship of the mobile Internet not only continues, but probably gets worse in the absence of any significant pushback against it.

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Companies: 3uk

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Comments on “UK Mobile Operator 3UK Filtering New Class Of 'Mature Content', Including Political Satire”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

IT’s a legal requirement, rather than a 3UK-only issue. The requirement is a bank card PLUS photographic proof of identity (Passport, Driver’s license, Proof-of-age card).

It was initially designed to reduce the likelihood of younger people getting access to porn. And I gotta say, it’s harder to get around, seeing as it’s SIM-based, rather than phone-based.

Tim Myles (profile) says:

The problem with all of these systems is that someone, somewhere has to decide what is “mature” content, vs. what is not.

One of our (terrible in my opinion) newspapers here in the UK, The Daily Mail, is now apparently the top news site in the world –

If I go to the home page today, under the terrible story of the helicopter crash, is a picture story called “Tamara parades her killer bikini body in photoshoot”, which will not surprise anyone who’s visited the Mail website before. How does that not get classed as “Mature”?

Or how about the story “Let’s just hope they used protection! Steamy footage of couple romping at Exeter University Safer Sex Ball spreads across campus”?

On the other hand, I have had to unlock my mobile as I wasn’t allowed to look at the review of a pub online.

These systems are always only as good as the gatekeepers. Which makes them intrinsically flawed and open for abuse. It encourages over-censorship for fear of letting something “dangerous” through.

We know the argument – better training of children is far more effective than censorship, unfortunately, that doesn’t go down well as a political argument, so until someone challenges them, we’ll continue to see this trend towards locking down services.

JarHead says:

Re: Re:

Nope, the “protect children” is still the same and hasn’t turn/becoming anything else. Let’s see:

  • Adults voicing dissent/questions will lead to the ruling power to browbeating them, hence they’ll lose all energy/resources to do anything else other than fight a losing battle. Who’s the victim here? The children of course, either for lack funding to education, emotional distress, etc.
  • If it is indeed children (for whatever legal definition thereof) who voice dissent/questions, well, the ruling power must protect them from their (the ruling power’s) own abuse.

So you see, it’s all “for the children”.

Ninja (profile) says:

Shall we stop treating children like retards in the first place? (no offense meant)

So this is basically saying kids should leave politics to adults and not meddle in what they can’t understand? You see, this is one of the main problems of the “for the children” chorus nowadays. They simply exile children from getting in touch, understanding and develop anything they believe to be too mature. NEWSFLASH if you don’t get in touch with an issue you will not develop maturity to handle with it.

What this creates is a horde of alienated, immature adults once these kids grow up. I will make sure my kids will not be rendered complete retards once they grow up by some collective moralist hysteria. And hopefully they can fight it and spread awareness too.

Anonymous Coward says:

Censorship in bad – mmmkay?

I doubt the implied good intentions here, looks more like a heaping steaming pile. Corporations do not do things for the benefit of their customers, they do things for the benefit of the bottom line. More likely this is another move on their part towards a walled garden in which the customer is “guided” to used their services rather than those of the competition.

Anonymous Coward says:

good old UK. if you cant bring it in directly, bring it in covertly. the guy needs to contact his MP and see what he has to say, although he may be one of the subjects on the site. what i find so annoying is the fact that a company can just do something like this without telling or asking their customers and when the sites are not breaking the law. just because someone at 3Uk doesn’t like something shouldn’t give them the right to impose their dislike on to anyone else!

Fuxy says:

This happens to me all the time

Oh it’s worse then you think. I have T-Mobile company phone and i run into that damn filter at least once a month while reading Hacker News( and it’s not like i could ask my boss to remove that crap.

So they’re not just blocking political content they are blocking just about anything that can be considered objectionable by a small subset of the population.

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