This morning, amongst the baby news, is coverage of David Cameron’s latest big scheme – to make UK ISPs implement mandatory opt-out pornography filters on their services. Another great example of politicians not understanding the fallibility of technology.

My mobile provider, Orange, currently provides such a service. It’s one I’ve disabled, not because I’m a consumer of photos of the flesh, but because every so often (usually when trying to browse sites that talked about the Android operating system, bizarrely) I’d find pages being blocked. There appeared to be no rhyme or reason to when the filter would be triggered.

It’s something I’ve encountered a few times over the years: an email to a chap who used to work at Northcliffe newspaper group that got blocked because of my use of the standard abbreviation of the maths term cumulative (cum.) is another that springs to mind.

Back in the early days of online information systems, the residents of Lincolnshire town Scunthorpe used to have a lot of problems too: if you can’t work out why, just look at how they spell their hometown name (letters 2 to 5, to be specific).

Porn filters have a problem: either they are blacklists of sites in which case they only ever filter out the known world of porn and are easily circumvented; or they are heuristic, spotting for signs that sites might be pornographic – in which case they inevitably will lead to false-positives.

That’s fine if you are using one by choice; what concerns me the implications of keeping lists of households that have decided to opt out. I have a young family; if I have decided to not have the ISP filters enabled does that count as a black mark against my parenting at some point in the future?

One thought on “The Scunthorpe issue

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