UK Porn Filters, are users slow on the uptake?

Way back when in 2013, the UK government decided that parents couldn’t be trusted to install parental blockers/filters on their home computers or to supervise their children on the internet, or to use mechanisms already provided by their ISPs to filter internet content coming into their home. They instead decided that ALL new internet customers needed to be presented with an option to turn the filters off. Yes you read that right, the filters are on for new customers by default (but you can turn them off).

Now you might say “BUT THINK OF THE CHILDREN” and you would be right. Children should be protected from bad things. However, having these filters on by default is not the way to do it. For one, do you really trust that your ISP can filter traffic (<sarcasm>they’re doing a stunning job of filtering torrenting sites after all… </sarcasm>)? For another, parents should not believe that these filters can replace teaching children about online safety.

It’s been two(ish) years now since ISPs started turning these things on and the uptake has been… slow. A year after Sky turned their filters on, only 3% of customers had opted to switch it on. To try and encourage existing customers to utilise the filter, Sky decided to email customers informing them that they had the filter available to them. If they did nothing, ┬áthe filter turned on.

You read that right, if customers ignored the email (and let’s face it, who actually reads emails your ISP sends you), you got the filter turned on. Not surprisingly, uptake on the filter has jumped from a measly 3% to a whopping 35%. Now while this could be that more customers are deciding to make use of the filters, what seems more likely is that customers are ignoring the email (because that’s what you do) and the filters are turning on by default.

The User Experience (UX) of this is backwards. Users shouldn’t have to tell you they want to continue getting the service they are receiving. Turning a filter on is something they should opt-in to, not opt-out of.

Sky now have double the number of people using their filter than their rival companies (ish) who don’t make decisions for their customers.

BT are similarly advertising their filters to their customers. However, they’re just displaying messages to users until they make a decision.

In line with recommendations from the Mothers Union’s Reg Bailey, we don’t switch parental controls on or off ourselves. We believe this is more effective when it comes to keeping children safe – BT spokesperson

Good on you BT. An informed user is a smarter, safer, and better user.