TalkTalk Apologizes for Blocking Lib Dem LGBT Site

Lila Gray

LONDON — U.K. ISP TalkTalk has issued an apology for blocking access to the Liberal Democrat’s official LGBT website.

PinkNews reported yesterday that the site had been filtered by TalkTalk’s recently implemented HomeSafe feature.

“The blocking of our own website shows that the ‘Great Firewall of Britain’ is turning out to be the disaster many of us warned it would be,” said Adrian Trett, the chair of LGBT + Liberal Democrats.

Trett continued, “[If] LGBT resources are targeted disproportionately, then ISPs are probably exposing themselves to legal challenge under the Equality Act too, as well as possible criminal liability for blocking a political web site during an election period.”

A TalkTalk spokesperson thanked PinkNews and offered this response, “…Clearly this website should not have been classified in this way and we have lifted the block. We’ve always been clear that there will be a small number of websites which are filtered in error, as unfortunately no filtering solution can ever be 100 percent perfect, and we’ve a simple one click reporting button that anyone can use to tell us if they think this is the case.”

The rep added that its HomeSafe filter is still evolving and welcomes future feedback.

PinkNews has since reported that ISP BT offers patrons the explicit choice to filter gay and lesbian sites and even a separate option for blocking sexual health sites.

Yesterday Sex & Censorship Founder Jerry Barnett penned an open letter to MP Claire Perry, an ardent supporter of default porn filters, in which he warned of the impending collateral damage that they would cause.

Barnett wrote, “You had been warned that the first experiment in filtering for ‘child protection’ on mobile networks had been a catastrophe. It is simply not possible to classify hundreds of millions of websites as either ‘safe’ or ‘over 18’ without making vast numbers of mistakes. Yes, it’s pretty easy to block most commercial porn (in fact those sites voluntarily self-label as adult content), but in between and there is a near-infinite amount of hard-to-classify content.

“Much of the content and many of the forums on sex education, sex advice, gay and lesbian advice, information on sexual infections, and so on, is aimed at teenagers, and yet has been largely blocked from mobile phones held by under-18s.”

Adult content filtering is now turned on by default for new U.K. customers of three of the four major ISPs — TalkTalk, Sky and BT. Virgin plans to launch its own network-level porn filter before the new year, making it the last big ISP to bow to Prime Minister David Cameron' s demands.

By the end of 2014, all existing U.K. broadband customers will be forced to choose whether or not to install porn filters on their Wi-Fi enabled devices.