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Sky to censor customers’ broadband by default

Internet censorship cranked up a notch as Sky switches on content filters by default

Sky will censor the internet connections of its 5.3 million broadband customers, unless they specifically choose to switch off the company’s Broadband Shield. The company, like all of Britain’s major broadband providers, has been offering the network-level content filters as an optional extra to customers since last year.

Now, in what amounts to de facto censorship of the internet by the country’s second biggest broadband provider, the company will switch those filters on unless customers specifically opt out. “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,” says Lyssa McGowan, brand director for communications products at Sky, in a blog post.

Customers will be emailed over the coming month, asking whether they want to switch on the broadband filters or not. If they fail to respond either way, Sky will automatically switch on the filters. “Once Sky Broadband Shield is active, users cannot access a filtered site unless they choose to log in and alter their settings,” McGowan explains. “However they can browse away from the filtering page to visit freely any site suitable for the 13 age rating, without any interruptions.”

Sky says its customers can choose to switch off the filters at any time and they won’t be pestered thereafter. “It’s better for people to make their own choice, but until they do, we believe this process to be the safest one,” says McGowan “Meanwhile we can ensure that they’re protected from phishing, malware and sites unsuitable for young children.”

“We’re happy to act in the interest of customer security and online safety. Knowing our customers and the internet as we do, we believe this is the right and simplest solution to a problem we all know is out there.”

The default 13 age rating will block sites concerned with dating, file-sharing, violence, drugs and “criminal skills”, suicide and self-harm, pornography and more. It will also protect customers against phishing and malware attacks.

Research published last week by Ofcom claimed that only 21% of parents were using the parental controls provided by the broadband companies. A quarter of the parents surveyed said they believed their children could bypass the filters if they wanted to.

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