Last week Sky Broadband became the first major ISP to announce that it would block adult content as a default unless users opt in to access it. Designed to filter out content deemed to be unsuitable for children aged under 13, Sky's Broadband Shield has been offered as default to new customers for a year but this will now be rolled out to all 5.3 million existing customers.
Most of the UK’s ISPs all offer filtering software for parents concerned about the potentially harmful material their children may be able to access online, but few have offered this as a default.
Sky's brand director, explained the change: "What we're doing now is simply making sure that the automatic position of Sky Broadband Shield is the safest one for all - that's 'on', unless customers choose otherwise.”
Starting this week, the company will email its customers about the blocker. If households ignore the email, and a subsequent reminder, pornography and other websites considered to be harmful to children will be blocked automatically. Sky’s brand director said: “It’s better for people to make their own choice, but until they do, we believe this process will be the safest one.”
It is to be hoped that Sky’s brave move will put pressure on other major internet providers such as BT – which has twice as many broadband customers as Sky – and Virgin Media to adopt the same ‘family-friendly’ approach.
Anti-censorship groups have been quick to voice their opposition to the move and their assertions that filters do not block all unsavoury material are correct. Filters can never be a substitute for monitoring children’s internet use and talking about other dangers beyond content, however they are a vital tool for parents and an important first line of defence. As such Sky’s decision is to be applauded and, we hope, emulated across the industry.