U.K. ISP Sky Unblocks News Sites After Filtering Snafu

Bob Johnson

LONDON — Bowing to pressure after its porn filters blocked TorrentFreak.com and other legitimate news sources, Sky, one of the U.K.’s major ISPs, has tweaked its filters to unblock the website.

Sky’s filters, rolled out last November, are part of U.K. Prime Minster David Cameron’s mandate to child-protect the Internet with opt-in measures that require users to choose to see porn.

But TorrentFreak and other legitimates sites were also blocked, raising an outcry from the sites and anticensorship supporters.

"The categorization of TorrentFreak.com has now been updated so that the site will no longer be filtered by Sky Broadband Shield," Sky told the BBC. "If at any time a website owner believes they have been unfairly filtered or mis-categorized by Sky Broadband Shield, they can contact Sky and we will look into it as soon as we can."

TorrentFreak editor-in-chief Ernesto van der Dar was angry about the incident and originally told by Sky that the site would remain blocked. He later told the BBC he welcomed the reversal. "The problem with these filters is that they block many sites that are perfectly suitable for all audiences, simply because they are labeled a file-sharing site," van der Dar, said.

One critic of the filters said they block too many legitimate sites. They are also ineffective as they can be easily worked around.

"As soon as I type the filter name into Google it suggests the search term 'bypass.' The second result is a YouTube video of what sounds like a kid explaining how to work around it," Sebastien Lahtinen, founder of broadband news site ThinkBroadband, said.

He added that filters should only act as another tool, and that the onus to protect children should be placed on parents.