They Always Suck: UK ISP 'For The Children' Filters Block Disney And Educational Websites

from the it-never-works dept

Website blocking is now all the rage across much of the world. The way such website censorship happens is, however, as varied as the countries in which the censoring occurs. While some nations enact laws for internet filtering on all sorts of grounds -- be it porn, extremist content, or political dissent --, other countries have ISPs that proactively do this kind of filtering for their host countries. In many cases, this results in "parental filters" designed to keep harmful content from finding the eyeballs of children. In reality, when Comcast tried this here in America, it managed to block TorrentFreak for some reason.

But nobody does collateral site-blocking damage like UK ISPs. The stories about "for the children" and "but...terrorists!" ISP website filtering are legion, but recent reports put any focus by ISPs on the well-being of children in heavy doubt, given the amount of purely innocent children's content that is getting blocked by ISP filters.

What really stood out to us is that some sites which are targeted at kids, or at least useful to them, are blocked too.

One prime example is the official UK Disney website, located at disney.co.uk, which is blocked by BT’s Strict filters. That seems a bit cruel. The same is true for disneymoviesanywhere.com, which is not very useful, but certainly doesn’t seem harmful to us either.

Apparently, BT doesn’t want children to visit these Disney sites.

One can only imagine the rampage Mickey Mouse went on when he discovered this travesty. But this collateral damage went far beyond the House of Mouse, and across multiple UK ISPs, too. BT and Virgin Media blocked the website for Internet Safety Day, because apparently kids shouldn't be safe on the internet. Kidsandcode.org is also blocked by BT, while Three and Sky are blocking vikingsword.com, a site dedicate to history education.

None of this should really be a surprise, of course. Large organizations trying to accurately filter out unwanted content for parents, rather than having parents actually policing their children's online activity, is always going to fall prey to mistakes, laziness, and collateral damage. Always, always, always. What should be immediately apparent to witnesses of this is that if ISPs can't get this right, at least to the degree of not blocking Disney, what hope do legislators have in crafting site-blocking legislation that does this any better?


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 May 2018 @ 8:04pm

    To be fair, when a Frozen-themed singalong was planned - free of charge - it was quickly shut down by Disney.

    Perhaps the filter was protecting the children from Disney...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 May 2018 @ 10:30pm

      Re:

      I remember the time when all you heard from Disney wasn't their animated IPs but their live action comedies and dramas. Fucking High School Musical everywhere.

      Of course, Frozen supplanted that role of most annoying earworm some years later, but the overly sanitized, idealized view of adolescent interaction is absolutely poisonous to children.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 May 2018 @ 9:06pm

    It is because of their stars' poor behavior!

    It was totally justifief! I mean have you /seen/ the distgusting behavior Elsa has been up to with Spider-Man!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Zem, 15 May 2018 @ 11:59pm

    Isn't blocking disney "for the children" just the algorithms doing their job, protecting children form gender and racial stereotypes ?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 May 2018 @ 12:08am

    The UK is as bad at thid ad itbis st everything else! As bad ad China and similar countries in stopping the people from doing what yhey want and should be able to do under tgeir rights of living in a free country under supposed democratic rule! However, I'm sure we are all aware that there is now no such thing as democracy or freedom because every government everywhere, including in countrues that say they are democratic and free, is so wrapped up in ensuring it knows everything about everyone, 24/7, while ensuring that no one knows or can prove what lying, cheating, 2 faced, self serving bastars they are that make up the governments, that those things that are supposed to be held most dear, most sacred, aren't now worth a toss! Total control through total surveillance is what matters to them and as far as they are concerned, using 'children' in any way that helps get that control, will be used!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 May 2018 @ 3:11am

    It's worth noting that these filters are not mandatory and are not enabled by default (not made clear in the article).

    I don't know anybody who has these filters enabled.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 16 May 2018 @ 3:52am

      Re:

      They probably don't realise. Usually these kinds of things are offered when you change package or otherwise request a change to your service, or mentioned as a free add-on, then people forget accepting it 2 seconds after ending the phone call, or didn't realise they ticked the "think of the children" box.

      Back when I was doing end-user support for ISPs and retailers, I couldn't keep track of people who were having problems with something they specifically agreed to have during a sales call, then shouted at support staff because it was doing exactly what they asked it to. Look through the account records and suddenly they vaguely admit to agreeing to something but had no idea what it actually was.

      The silver lining is that if they are indeed causing an increase in support calls because they're blocking things that are clearly acceptable, those costs will get management to rethink the implementation more than a thousand tech staff telling them how stupid it is.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 May 2018 @ 6:52am

      Re:

      on 3 various blocking of alleged adult content is enabled by default, you have to request the blocks are removed.
      .. I know this having used 3. It was not publicized - I only found out when I site I followed via a Google link was blocked (over zealous censorship as site was about prostate issues, so some mention of "male parts" there but in a medical context)
      It may well be the case that other UK ISPs have the on by default approach.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 16 May 2018 @ 7:09am

        Re: Re:

        Sounds about right - some people are afraid that the minority of the population who are children without effective parenting might see a penis, they'll justify a system that blocks the ~50% of the population who actually own one from accessing medical information about it.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 16 May 2018 @ 3:24am

    I wonder if blocking Disney isn't actually the right thing considering how much harm they have already done to the Public Domain which affects children's present and future. Just a thought.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    PaulT (profile), 16 May 2018 @ 3:54am

    As ever, a tale as old as the mainstream being on the internet itself:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scunthorpe_problem

    Bottom line - you can't get machines to legislate morality, and when you try getting them to they will get it wrong a lot of the time. The answer, as always - parents need to be involved and caring, and that's a societal problem when it's not happening, not a technological one.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 May 2018 @ 5:06am

    All these overly protective 'parents' are stupid. I was always told "Oh you will understand when YOU have a kid!" well guess what I got a kid now. I still don't understand why you want to stunt their mental growth by preventing them from being exposed to ideas.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 16 May 2018 @ 5:32am

      Re:

      The protectiveness, I can get, especially when dealing with things that might be fundamentally different to when you were a child yourself, or that you realise scarred you and don't wish that upon your own.

      What idiotic is the idea that the child will never find something out or see it so long as a parent or authority figure blocks them from seeing it. Don't they actually remember being children?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Ninja (profile), 16 May 2018 @ 5:53am

        Re: Re:

        That's what bugs me. We should be speaking more openly to our children and instructing them to behave safely on the net. We should also not let them access some tech without supervision simply because they aren't mature enough to make good, balanced decisions.

        As a cautionary tale, my friend lets her kid play around with a phone/tablet but only supervised (the kid is almost 8 years old). These days she was telling me that some internet pedo/weirdo realized he was talking to a kid and started spewing a whole load of filthy crap through the chat of the game. Luckily (and out of a sense or responsible parenting), she caught when the guy started saying weird stuff, took the phone from her daughter and kept the conversation going for a while. In the end she threatened to call the police and blocked the moron.

        No amount of filtering is going to protect a kid whose parents couldn't care less about parenting.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 May 2018 @ 7:52am

    How is blocking done?

    I can imagine several different ways, but what are they using?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    spikerman87, 16 May 2018 @ 9:40am

    My parents put a "adult filter" on our computer at home when I was young, and it blocked virtually everything. It said if I thought something was being blocked in error to visit the website where the adult blocking software was made. When I tired to visit the website...guess what? The filter blocked it's own website.

    That was in 1995. It's never worked.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    John85851 (profile), 16 May 2018 @ 10:26am

    Maybe the filters are working correctly

    ... after all, if no one can get to the Disney Movies website, then people can't illegally download them, which means people can't illegally share them.
    So there you go- the piracy issue is solved!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Bruce C., 16 May 2018 @ 6:58pm

      Re: Maybe the filters are working correctly

      Nah, it isn't copyright enforcement, it's that Disney programs are really just ads for toys, themeparks, movies, etc. They're blocked to limit childrens' exposure to ads.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 17 May 2018 @ 1:36am

      Re: Maybe the filters are working correctly

      You jest, but the reality is potentially the opposite - they'll be blocking the *legal* way to download movies so if the filter lets through any illegal sources then it's making people pirate more.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 May 2018 @ 12:46pm

    Not surprised, the English are very authoritarian boot-shiners, their country is one of the most actively monitored and censored in the world. They practically live in a Big Brother TV show, only without the chance to get rich or become stars.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 May 2018 @ 4:53pm

    Have you guys heard of a £10 porn pass in the UK?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 May 2018 @ 7:27pm

    disney.co.uk - I guess that's sort of close to "cock" at the end? Or maybe it found the letters d-i-c-k in order, ignoring the letters between it?
    disneymoviesanywhere.com - This one was a bit tougher. I can't find anything offensive in the title. Then it hit me: "movies anywhere". Clearly a pirate site!

    Good try, filter! But you're going to have to up your game to fool me with the reason why you blocked a site.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 17 May 2018 @ 1:37am

      Re:

      "disney.co.uk - I guess that's sort of close to "cock" at the end? "

      That would be extra hilarious if true, because not only is it utterly moronic, it would mean that the filter for UK ISPs is by default blocking all businesses with a standard UK domain.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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