EU prevents network-level blocking of adult content – despite exposure risk to children

(Image Credit: iStockPhoto/aradaphotography)

The European Union has decided that network-level blocking of content such as pornography is a breach of BEREC rules; despite potential exposure to young eyes. 

Opt-out content filtering – implemented by ISPs such as Sky and BT in the UK to prevent underage children being exposed to adult material – is to be blocked under EU rules which are sure to cause outrage from parents who use it to easily protect their children from unacceptable content. Due to being network-level; no extra software is required, it works across devices, and isn't so easily disabled as content filtering applications. 

Exceptions to the EU's rules include network-blocking for the purposes of security, compliance with national laws, or managing traffic. Due to there being “no clear legal framework in UK legislation,” none of the exceptions apply in this case, the EU argues. 

Although the obvious adult content to filter is pornographic material; it's well-documented that groups like Daesh use the internet for spreading violent propaganda for recruitment. ISPs could argue for adult content filtering on this basis is for security purposes.

End-users may independently choose to apply equivalent features

The network-level blocking rules extend to advertising; where ad-blocking technology being trialled by providers such as mobile network Three is not permitted under the rules. This is more understandable, considering  how much is spent on the advertising industry and how important it can be in generating business for some companies. 

Users will still be able to install client-side ad blocking software but it cannot be offered by network providers themselves. On this subject, BEREC says: “End-users may independently choose to apply equivalent features, for example via their terminal equipment or more generally on the applications running at the terminal equipment, but BEREC considers that management of such features at the network level would not be consistent with the regulation.” 

It will be up to national regulators to implement the rules, in the UK's case, it will be Ofcom. Speaking to The Guardian, the regulator said: “Ofcom will monitor compliance with the new rules, and look into any complaints received. We will consider any potential breaches as they arise in accordance with our interpretation of the regulation, and drawing upon the BEREC guidelines to inform our approach.” 

With the UK set to leave the EU following its referendum vote in July, it's likely the country will not have to follow the EU's rules for much longer. 

Do you think EU rules on network-level content blocking are fair? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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