Why is O2 blocking websites on your phone?March 3rd, 2011 • 52 Comments
If you’ve tried browsing on your mobile in the past day, you may have encountered a problem; O2 has started blocking specific websites in mobile browsers. We’ve now seen three different examples customers on two different service providers, which no doubt means it’s an issue affecting many more.
Avid Bitterwallet Dave has been in touch to ask exactly what O2 are playing at. He’s a customer of O2, and more importantly he’s an adult. Yesterday, however, Dave found he couldn’t access Jalopnik, a Gawker-owned site about… cars. Instead, O2 has blocked the site and requires Dave to verify his age through themselves or a third party company:
According to their account on Twitter, O2 have started blocking a long list of websites and are demanding age verification, seemingly without any warning to the customer. From their Twitter updates:
This is solely to ensure that children are protected from inappropriate content when using the internet on their phones. That’s why we require customers to prove they are over 18 before they can use these sites.
That’s all very noble, but O2 have seemingly introduced the policy without talking to their customers. More importantly, O2 seems to be blocking sites that couldn’t realistically be deemed inappropriate, meaning the action they’re taking is ineffective anyway.
Dave isn’t the only one; Bitterwallet reader Paul reported his mobile browsing is now the subject of ‘Content Control’ by Vodafone, after attempting to visit The Whisky Exchange, a legitimate site for purchasing… well, whisky:
According to Vodafone’s website, “Vodafone uses Content Control as we wish to protect minors from accessing inappropriate content and services that may be available over the Vodafone networks.” But Vodafone doesn’t even classify alcohol-related sites as requiring Content Control, and besides that’s missing the point. Paul doesn’t have children, has never registered for Content Control, and Vodafone has his date of birth and countless other details besides.
One way round is to use a browser like Opera, but again that’s not the issue; why are ISPs deliberately restricting accounts in this way? As Paul points out, if an ISP like BT did it customers would be furious.
O2 are pointing the finger of blame at the IMCB, but all this activity has only kicked off in the past day. Have you had any issues with your service provider today? Let us know.
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