advice for website owners

This page is only relevant to website owners and managers.

Whilst network filters offer parents a really useful way of managing the content their children can be exposed to, the way an ISP categorises a website is really important because filters are set up based on that categorisation. This means there may be instances where websites are categorised incorrectly and are filtered by mistake. This page gives website owners further advice on this issue.

Filters

of parents of 5-15 year-olds use content filters provided by their ISP ¹

Useful

of parents of 5-15 year-olds that use ISP filters think they’re useful ¹

Effective

of parents of 5-15 year-olds that use ISP filters think they block the right amount of content ¹


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:

  • Pornography
  • 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
  • Dating
  • Games
  • 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 July 2014. However, categories are subject to review by ISPs so may change over time.

Want to know more about filters?

If you are a website owner you should be aware that your site may be in more than one category. This is particularly important to understand if, in addition to your main site, you also run a form of message board or educational games. In this case, your site, or parts of your site, may be filtered by those customers choosing to filter social media or games.

Download factsheet

What action can I take?

If you’re an individual site owner and you would like to check the status of your site across BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media’s network filter settings, you can email us at report@internetmatters.org. Please include the URL of your site, your name and company name, if relevant. If you run forums or social media sites you may want to request a check of these URL’s separately as well as your domain name.

Internet Matters will then liaise with the four ISP’s to establish the status of your site and we will email you with the details of your site’s classification with the four ISPs.

Please note: If the requested information is incomplete, we will be unable to forward your email for further attention. This reporting facility is for individual site owners only. We cannot accept automated requests for multiple sites.

Further resources

Ofcom Report on Internet safety measures

The report sets out the measures put in place by BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media to introduce a family-friendly network level filtering service, which allows the account holder to choose to block web based content that might be inappropriate for children at a network level.

Policy Brief: UK Family Filters

The policy brief sets out the government’s approach to online safety and how it has been working with BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media to achieve targets.