Open Rights Group urges mobile censorship rethink


Mobile network providers need to urgently rethink how they block users from accessing adult content online, according to a report by the Open Rights Group (ORG).

In the privacy campaign group's Mobile Internet Censorship report, the "blocking" systems used by mobile operators are lambasted for difficult to opt out of.

"We think there are a number of serious problems with how these systems work...[that] mean people often find content is blocked when it shouldn't be," claimed the report.

Mobile operators should give end users the option to opt in to censorship when they sign up to use their services.

"The result is that filtering systems designed to give parents a way to manage their children's access to mobile internet actually affect many more users than intended."

These blanket blocks could also have dire consequences for UK companies, the report claimed.

"This form of censorship...will damage markets, undermine the free flow of ideas and open communication and make it harder to promote responsible internet governance internationally," insisted the report.

"Over-blocking is a problem in itself [because] it can mean a business is cut off from a slice of its market [and] may stop a prominent political organisation from reaching concerned citizens," it added.

The ORG said mobile operators need to reduce the number of adults who encounter "unintentional or unwanted" parental controls on their accounts to zero.

To achieve this, the group said mobile operators should give end users the option to opt in to censorship when they sign up to use their services.

They should also be given clearer guidance about the type of content that might be blocked, including information about who is providing the filtering technology.

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.