A new report from Open Rights Group and LSE Media Policy Project reveals widespread over-blocking on mobile networks, helping to demonstrate why we shouldn’t accept default-on adult Internet filtering
The ORG report contains mystery shopper examples to see how various phone companies handle complaints about false blocking:
Re 3 Mobile Phone Company
We reported to 3 that the site melonfarmers.wordpress.com – a conspiracy theory discussion site – was blocked. The customer services representative asked what message we received when trying to access the site. We told them we were shown a blocking screen telling us over-18 blocking was enabled. We were advised that ‘adult sites’ were automatically blocked on all pay-as-you- go 3 mobile phones.
However, we were not asked what site we were attempting to access, despite our insistence that it contained no adult material. We were then asked if we were having issues accessing other sites like Google or the BBC, and replied no. Again, the representative concluded that the content filter was working correctly and that the site we were trying to access must have some sort of adult material on it, hence its blocking. When we asked 3 how the company classifies blocked websites, the representative told us that 3 does not make the rules, and that the government’ does. We were also informed that no record is made of sites which are reported as incorrectly blocked and our phone would be unblocked once we provided age verification.
Even allowing for the ORG missing a few, 60 misclassified websites does not amount to anything that could reasonably be described as ‘censorship’, particularly when mobile operators are happy to remove the filters when customers show they are over 18 and will re-classify websites when misclassifications are pointed out to them.
This is how the small handful of websites that get referred to mobile operators each year are already dealt with.
Perhaps a small handful of websites because operators are told to willfully ignore such requests