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AOL has accused Which? of unfair tactics over a damning survey into Web filters for children released earlier this week. AOL's Parental Controls v5 filter, one of the seven filters tested by the industry watchdog, has various settings depending on the age of the children using it. Which? chose to set the controls on AOL's filter for 16 to 17-year-olds, which the ISP claims was unfair in a survey evaluating how safe filters were for children. It says Which? should have used the Kids Only setting, which is aimed at the under-12s. "It is absolutely not a fair test of AOL parental controls – they're comparing apples and oranges," said Matt Peacock, AOL's director of corporate communications. "They should have used the kids setting, but instead went for the young adults setting. Parents would not expect 16 or 17-year-olds to have the same kind of restricted access to sites as young children. "It’s very irritating and not an accurate comparison," he said. Which? denied the survey was unfair, saying it had chosen the 16 to 17-year-olds-setting because it thought AOL's Kids Only blocked out too much information. "The under 12 setting appeared to be so restrictive and blocked most of the sites we looked at," said Tessa Russell, senior researcher at Which? She claimed the survey was aimed at parents with teenagers, saying: "We thought the average users would have to be over 12 if they were to use the net unsupervised." Russell said AOL was one of the better performers of the filters tested, but that its 16 to 17-year-old setting still let through sites on bomb making and porn.

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