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BT blocks adult websites by default in new filter

British Telecom (BT) has activated its new porn filter, which automatically switches on parental controls for new Internet customers.

BT has had parental controls for some time, but they will now be switched on by default, requiring those who want to access adult content to opt out. These controls also now extend to mobile devices, not just the desktop.

The move does not affect existing customers, though BT said it will be contacting them throughout 2014 "so that they then have to make a decision on whether or not to set up the controls."

The move is part of a plan announced by Prime Minister David Cameron back in July, which called on ISPs to block Internet porn by default for all UK citizens by the year's end. The move is intended to stamp out illegal pornographic images on the Internet, as well as limit the ability of web surfers under the age of 18 to access legal pornographic images, Cameron said at the time.

TalkTalk, Virgin, and Sky are also scheduled to implement adult filtering.

BT, meanwhile, will have three filter levels – strict, moderate and light. Parents can also add certain websites to a list of blocked or allowed sites. The filter can be turned on or off during specific times, like homework time, when kids should not be wasting time on Facebook or YouTube, for example.

Changes can only be made by an authorised user; the account holder's credentials are required to set up and change any of the settings. That account holder also gets an email any time a change is made to the filters.

BT stressed, however, that while filters are helpful, education is key. BT has joined forces with other ISPs for a marketing campaign, dubbed Internet Matters: Learn about it. Talk about it. Deal with it. BT is committing £1.5 million to the effort, as well as £7.8 million for its own marketing activity and development next year.

It's a step forward, especially when we consider that in September it was discovered that over half of the UK's free Wi-Fi hotspots allowed access to adult material.