updated 01:58 pm EST, Fri January 31, 2014
Complaints of blocking legitimate websites answered with whitelist
The government of the United Kingdom is working to create a whitelist of websites mistakenly blocked by the country's new adult content filtering system. After complaints about the filter's flagging of sites relating to health, sex education, and drug issues, the whitelist is hoped to allow access to legitimate websites operated by charities and health organizations in the near future.
The filters were introduced in December, after Prime Minister David Cameron requested for technology companies and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to do more to protect children, with additional legislation used as a threat. Though this asked for search companies and social networks to monitor search queries and user content, blocking users or redirecting them to sites offering assistance instead of unsavory content, ISPs were ordered to filter content by default on broadband connections in the country, with subscribers given the option to deactivate the filters.
Investigations discovered the filters were a combination of ineffectual and over-effective, with some adult sites failing to be blocked by some filters, while sites for helping with porn addiction were also being mistakenly blocked. The BBC reports a working group under the UK Council for Child Internet Safety has created the list, with chairman David Miles playing down the complaints, claiming "Research suggests the amount of inadvertent blocking is low. However, if you are a charity and you deal with teenagers in distress that 1 or 10 matters to you." Miles claims the working group is "building a master list of sites" and are "actively testing" it now, with ISPs set to receive the list to their network-level filters in the future.
Despite the creation of the whitelist, Miles is still concerned over the potential for overblocking. "At the ISP level, on public Wi-Fi, and via mobile operators, the UK will be subject to a substantial amount of network-level filtering all of a sudden," said Miles, suggesting a standardized system could be implemented in the future to help sites check if they are blocked by filters, and for sites to inform ISPs of filtering failures.