That sounds like a good idea!



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11 October 2011 | 0

Blocking pornography sounds like a good idea, and indeed, in principle, it is a good thing. Opting in consciously to receiving such material, whether on a mobile device or via a home broadband link, is a far more sensible option than not.

However, in the rush to provide such services, as is being report of UK broadband providers, BT, Virgin, Sky and Talk Talk, one must avoid the Helen Lovejoy reaction and actually do it sensibly.

Unlike some of the Irish mobile operators, who, in response to the fact that children with smart phones had more or less unfettered access to all the smut that the Interweb could punt, brought in a blocking service that required age verification via the operator itself.




Now, with this service, one operator, who shall remain nameless, did not go for the belt and braces approach, rather, they went for the huggy-jacket that fastens up the back approach. Not only did it bring in a blanket application of the service, it did not even bother looking at the site content that would be blocked.

After running into the message that content was being blocked because my age was not verified on more than one occasion of late, I called up the support line for the operator and asked why I was seeing this message when going to a certain forum site, with a .ie TLD where all things of a propelled two wheeled nature are discussed. I was told by the support bod that because the operator could not judge the content of the site, it was blocked.

Now, some might cry ‘of course’, that’s because everyone knows that bikers are lairy sorts who may well be associated with less than Sunday School level material. Well, that may be true but it is an awfully wide brush with which to paint. This is especially so when one considers that as a bill pay customer, my date of birth and ten odd years of history as a customer, was available to the operator when it applied the blanket ban. One would have thought that in these days of interconnectedness, joined up data and general "big data" trends, a simple logic test would have been applied. What type of content is this customer trying to access? Is it definitely pornography or merely suspect content that might not be suitable for minors (you know the sort: violence, medical imagery, people making twits of themselves, global economic reports-the general stuff of nightmares)? If pornography, block until explicit access request is received after age verification. If merely unverified content, check customer’s date of birth in database. If over 18, allow access.

There now, that wasn’t so hard was it?

When this kind of logic and sophistication can be applied to punting us advertising, why can it not be applied to something that actually benefits the customers?

So, after experiencing this rather cack-handed implementation of what sounds like a good idea, I have a reaction similar to Reverend Lovejoy when answering a thorny theological question, should we have pornography blocking? "Yes with an ‘if’, no with a ‘but’".

While blocking pornography is a good idea in general, if it is done badly it can annoy the very people who should support such a measure. If you do so repeatedly, you risk alienating the support necessary to make such things work at all. So while I welcome initiative by the UK connectivity suppliers, I do hope that all connectivity providers go about it sensibly, dedicating sufficient resources and intelligence to the problem instead of thinking that while everyone is doing a Helen Lovejoy, they will overlook the collateral damage.


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