March 02, 2014

Virgin Media turns on its "Family Filter"

I try to keep my politics away from this blog, but the news that Virgin Media has now been forced by the Government to introduce an ill-conceived "family filter" (aka "porn blocker") really winds me up so if you'll permit me, I'm just going to vent a little spleen here.
I have a family, but my daughter is over 20 now and I have no desire whatsoever to curb her civil liberties, nor those of my wife and me. We're all adults in this household.
But we're going to be asked by the Government (and we all trust Cameron and his GCHQ spies) if we want our internet filtered, not just for pornography, but for access to any sites featuring drug use, hate speech, violence, self-harm or suicide. At least, that's today's list. Tomorrow's may filter left-wing news sources or NSA revelations or anything the Daily Mail wants to block.
But more to the point, how many charities or genuine sites are going to get blocked as their coverage of legitimate problems of society are caught up in the over-zealous algorithms and false positives that such clumsy, ill-conceived technology will inevitably use?
Virgin is the last of the big four ISPs to comply to the government-mandated directive - BT, Sky and TalkTalk are already there. All new VM customers will be asked whether they want the filters turned on or off, and we'll all be asked by the end of the year.
Virgin's system works at a network level which means all devices in a house which connect via its router will be subject to the same filtering system. Maybe in time it will be refined, but if it is as clumsy and pathetic as the Torrent sites blocks then I don't think anyone benefits one way or the other.
I won't get into a debate here about the harm (or value) of pornography in today's society - personally, it leaves me pretty cold - but this is an extremely slippery slope we're on now, when state censorship and surveillance is being applied to us all. It is an irresponsible knee jerk reaction to a media-generated moral panic.
Even if you want your family's internet censored, think twice before saying yes to the Government's nanny state controls - other, more effective family filtering solutions are available.
(I've added a poll (top right) to see how the VMHD massive feel about this.)


Tom Chiverton said...

I'm with you, but the poll is misleading - you don't "sign up to the filter" - the government censors your internet and you have to ask to have it fixed.

People could do worse than read : too

Nialli said...

Good point Tom: I should have asked if people will opt out, but I can't edit the title now without junking the votes already in.

Nigel Smith said...

Tom - your link leads to a 404.
Otherwise thanks for the heads-up

Bofrok said...

Link works ok for me Nigel, did you accidentally include the last word 'too' as part of the link?

Tom Chiverton said...

People in Manchester might want to come along to

Richard said...

I worry about enforced censorship takes responsibility from parents in education and monitoring what their kids do. It give a faulse sence of protection and devolves responsibility.
I will be laughing at the government when someone takes the ISP to court over their children having access to stuff that was meant to be filtered.
Like you I believe there are better solutions out there and will also give parents a report of what is being viewed.
I was looking at solutions (in preparation for when my kids are allowed to use the internet unsupervised) that are either router level or device level and there are some very very good solutions out there.
Problem is the people who have the biggest problems are most likely the ones who will be too tight to pay and be least likely to educate the kids.
So I see why the government are doing this but I don't agree with it because of all the reasons you state.
People should opt into the service not opt out.