Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2004/07/05/voda_adult_content/

Vodafone's adult filter is go

The world is a safer, cleaner place

By Lucy Sherriff

Posted in Mobile, 5th July 2004 10:41 GMT

Vodafone has implemented its adult content blocker, to rapturous applause from child protection groups, and irritated cries of "Hey, where'd my websites go?" from some of its users.

Adult content is not just porn - the definition includes gambling sites, chat and dating services and content and games classified as violent. The company has implemented a blanket ban on access to such services, requiring users to register as adults, providing proof of age, if they want to opt back in to these sites.

The system has already earned Vodafone a nod from Privacy International (PI). PI has nominated the content filtering system for the "Most Appalling Project" category of its annual Big Brother Awards. Other contenders in this category are the US Safe Harbour Agreement, and the NHS' National Project for IT.

It seems, however, that the implementation of the service has not been trouble free. Register readers have found themselves blocked, not from adult content, but from all their corporate email and data service applications. Registering as an adult user has also proved troublesome for some:

You can't turn it off on your phone - you have to go to a browser and create a 'my voda' account before you can clear it. I was hopeful that this would fix it but unfortunately to prove your age you have to use a credit card. They only accept mastercard or visa, I only have an amex!!

Other Vodafone users say the company's customer services line could only say that there had been a major network problem, and they did not know when it would be fixed.

Vodafone says that any changes to a system that has 14 million users is bound to have some teething problems. A spokesman told El Reg: "We haven't had any complaints over the weekend, so we think the wrinkles have been ironed out."

In January this year, all the major UK network operators; O2, 3, Vodafone, Orange and T-Mobile, agreed a code of practice designed to restrict access to adult content with the aim of protecting children from unsuitable material. They signed up to have their filters in place by the end of this year.

At the moment, Vodafone itself is in charge of deciding what is and what is not adult content on its network, although by the end of the year, an independent body is expected to take over the role of censor for the industry as a whole. This shouldn't mean customers need to re-register, Vodafone says, as it has taken a very conservative approach to rating content. "It is more likely stuff will drop out of the blocked list, rather than being added to it," a spokesman said.

Vodafone said earlier this year that the mobile industry had approached a number of bodies who might fill the role, but that there had been no firm decision as yet. Bodies such as ICSTIS and the Internet Watch Foundation are rumoured to be likely candidates. ®

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