What do I need to know?
BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media all provide network filtering on home broadband connections. They each market them under different product names:
The four internet service providers (ISPs) use a number of different third-party technology companies to categorise web content, either by the type of content (e.g. pornography, violence) or by the type of website (e.g. social media, dating). Customers can then choose to filter these categories and in some cases individual websites, deciding what content comes into their home via their broadband connection.
The technology applies to all web pages that use standard HTTP web protocols. Whilst this covers the majority of web pages, and all devices connected to the home broadband router, it will not necessarily cover apps which use different technology.
What content can be filtered?
The network filters all work slightly differently but in the main can filter on the type of content shown such as:
- Drugs, alcohol and tobacco
- Crime, violence and hate
- File sharing and hacking
- Suicide and self-harm
- Nudity and sex education (BT only)
BT, Sky and TalkTalk also have the ability to filter websites depending on the type of site they are (their form). This might include:
- Social media
- Gambling (TalkTalk and BT only)
So a filter applied to the “Games“ category would block access to all games and not just games which are only suitable for 18+ players.
A detailed breakdown of the categories each ISP blocks can be found on pages 5 and 6 in the Ofcom Report on Internet Safety Measures published in July 2014. However, categories are subject to review by ISPs so may change over time.