Basic fact-checking

In her address to the Westminster eForum on Child Online Protection yesterday, Claire Perry, MP, is reported as stating that her her website had never been blocked.

This, i fear, is not quite correct.

According to PCPro, Ms Perry told her audience: “When these filters came out there was anecdotal evidence – some of it completely, completely fanciful – that sites were being overblocked. Including mine, which is ridiculous, because it wasn’t”.**

This is possibly reference to a story that appeared in Forbes Magazine, itself based on a report in the Independent, that stated:

“The opt-in filters also deny access to the Parliament and Government websites and the sites of politicians, including Claire Perry, the MP who has campaigned prominently for the introduction of filters.”

Now, reading that entire piece carefully, it IS just a touch confused.

It opens by referring to “the telecoms company O2” being “forced to amend its so-called “porn filter” after it inadvertently blocked access to charity sites including ChildLine, the NSPCC and the Samaritans”.

It then goes on to talk about how the filters “have been introduced by major internet service providers (ISPs)”.

Er, quite. As anyone who understands the industry will spot straight away, O2 is not in this respect acting as an ISP: it is a mobile broadband provider. And while ISP blocks were indeed brought in recently, mobile filtering has been a thing since 2004.

Let’s be more precise: mobile companies mostly operate an either/or adult content filter. Either material is suitable for under 18’s, or it isn’t.

Two companies – EE and O2 – offer a further optional level of block, which aims to provide an environment suitable for the under-12’s. The O2 parental control environment is possibly the most draconian regime on the net, since it is based on a whitelist. If a site is not on the whitelist, you can’t access it: and this, as the Indie correctly identifies, is an opt-in system.

To summarise, and as confirmed with O2 in the last hour, Ms Perry is not and never has been filtered or blocked by O2’s adult content system. She was, and continues to be, blocked by their parental filtering system.

Arguably, that is no great loss: the average 10-year-old is probably not greatly interested in viewing any MP’s political site. (I know my own 9-year old is mostly obsessed with mindcract and similar).

However, it is equally untrue to state that she has never been blocked. If the O2 parental controls are on, you may not currently access Perry’s website.

Although hopefully that will soon change. Public-minded citizen that i am, i have asked O2 to review this block. They are currently do so and, it is to be hoped, those under 12 will soon be as able to read about her campaigning activities as the rest of us!


** Note: the more observant reader will notice that in my intro i mentioned “blocking”, but in the line quoted here, Ms Perry refers to never being “overblocked”. That raises two possibilities. In the PCPro piece, the context suggests that overblocking is being used here to refute claims that she has been blocked. Certainly the wider press has never said “overblocked” in respect of her site.

Alternatively, she may be aware that she has been blocked, but feels that a political site is not appropriate viewing for those aged under 12. I have asked her office to confirm this one way or t’other.

Edits: as has been pointed out to me, O2 is also an ISP by virtue of its Be brand. However, unless someone wishes to provide any evidence to the contrary here, as far as i know all debate about parental filtering was in this case with respect to its mobile filtering activities.

Re-edit: And now i am told the Be brand was sold to BSkyB, so O2 don’t own it anymore!


About janefae

On my way from here to there
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2 Responses to Basic fact-checking

  1. O₂ provides access to the Internet via its Be brand *and* via its own mobile network – so it is an ISP. The technology used to access the Internet doesn’t really matter. You could argue that [Mobile Internet], [Broadband Fixed Line] and [Narrowband Fixed Line] are sub-sets of the group of ISPs.

    The argument that Mobile Internet users had to suffer censorship was that of access – parents would buy children a mobile and might not realise it came with access to the Net over 3G. Initially, blocks were only applied to PAYG mobiles, as these were thought to be the type of phone that parents would buy kids. This has now changed to include a blanket censorship regime that you have to opt-out of.

    Have politicians been emboldened by the lack of fuss over Mobile Internet blocks to extend that to fixed-line?

    • janefae says:

      We-ell, you score half a mark for that, because i wasn’t aware of the Be Unlimited connection. However, according to wikipedia (I know, i know), O2 sold Be to BSkyB in March of last year.

      Apologies for linking to that…only doing so cause its a one-stop source for that info, which i did get about an hour or so from O2 themselves. I do check these things, you know!


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