By M. Christian
– Mobile phone filers intended to keep children from viewing adult content are inappropriately blocking too many websites, according to a new report distributed by the Open Rights Group.
is a UK-based voice defending freedom of expression, privacy, innovation, creativity and consumer rights on the net.
The report, “Mobile Internet censorship: what's happening and what we can do about it
,” claims widespread over-blocking of political commentaries, personal blogs, restaurants' sites and community websites. ORG calls on mobile operators to give parents an 'active choice' to turn filters on, and to be far more transparent about how their systems work.
“Child protection filters can actually affect many more users than intended and block many more sites than they should,” said Peter Bradwell, author of the report. “These blunt blocks effectively add up to a system of censorship across UK networks.”
Not everyone agrees.
“Even allowing for the ORG missing a few, 60 misclassified websites does not amount to anything that could reasonably be described as ‘censorship,’ particularly when mobile operators are happy to remove the filters when customers show they are over 18 and will re-classify websites when misclassifications are pointed out to them,” Hamish MacLeod, chairman of the Mobile Broadband Group, responded in a comment
on ORG’s webzine. “This is how the small handful of websites that get referred to mobile operators each year are already dealt with.”
The filters arose in 2004 based on a voluntary code of practice adopted by mobile operators who are members of the Mobile Broadband Group. The code suggests mobile operators deliver handsets with the filters activated. Adults may deactivate the filters by contacting their service provider and providing proof of legal age.
Currently, several members of Parliament, led by Conservative Claire Perry, are campaigning for the same filtering system to be instituted for fixed-line broadband services.
ORG opposes the move.
“Default-on blocks can have significant harmful and unintended consequences for everybody's access to information,” Bradwell said.