Industry Blog

Porn Free

In light of the UK’s recently-announced war against porn and the introduction of stricter filtering, many people are wondering how mobile operators can tackle this sensitive issue, without alienating their customer base?

Recently, Prime Minster David Cameron raised the stakes in his war against online adult content and is now tackling it through internet providers directly. There are many reasons behind the UK push towards stricter content laws, and child safety is just one of them. Cameron’s vision, which also included stricter regulations on search engines such as Google, is that British households will have to opt-in to access to adult material on their home networks.

Filtering options
The new measures would initially be automatically applied to new customers, then expanded to existing subscribers through providers actively contacting their customer base regarding filtering options. The UK’s biggest internet providers have all agreed to Cameron’s filter scheme, meaning that 95 per cent of UK homes will be filtered by the end of the year. However, with nearly two thirds of the UK’s 12-15 year olds owning smartphones, filtering only home networks will not fully shield them.

The reality is that very few parents know what their children and teenagers browse on their mobile phones, with the majority of youngsters knowing far more about the device’s capabilities than the parents footing the bill.

Many parents are vigilant with their children’s laptop use, limiting it to “public areas” such as lounges where screens can be easily glanced at, but unfortunately mobiles are often neglected. It’s nearly impossible to know what teenagers are viewing on their small touch-screen devices without assistance.

If the UK puts the responsibility of content-filtering onto mobile operators too, they will be forced to figure out a comprehensive, cost-effective, solution that doesn’t aggravate their customers. Content-filtering solutions will need to incorporate URL categorization; content blocking; captive portal with end-user sign-up (by default adult content is blocked, and access has to be requested); and a user repository, to keep track of who signed up and user age.

A simple way for operators to filter adult content would be to do it automatically, through their price plans. By enabling automatic parental-controls and content-filtering on shared and family plans, for example, operators could discreetly protect younger users, without parents having the additional task or responsibility of setting it up. Using the UK approach of needing to opt-out of the filters would ensure comprehensive protection for those who need it.

Shared plans
Although such shared plans are relatively new in the UK market, with EE having just released its “Shared 4GEE” plan last month, this would immediately work well in the US market, where shared plans are more established. However, in the UK market where it is common place for parent to set up individual plans for their children and teens, offering a ‘Young Adult’ plan, with automatic filtering, would be an easy and simple way for UK operators to protect younger users.

The UK is not alone in its movement in filtering adult content over the internet. N. American mobile operators are currently looking at ways to contain explicit content when browsing on devices. Although the operators are concerned about protecting vulnerable users, there is also an element of business ROI behind the move. It is estimated that the traffic from adult content currently accounts for 10-15 percent of the total traffic on mobile networks in the US. By reducing this type of content, more network capacity will be available, so providing operators with another effective tool to manage network congestion.

As child safety on the internet is becoming more of a priority for governments, as well as parents, mobile operators need to proactively begin addressing this issue now. Offering price plans that automatically filter inappropriate content will not only provide an additional level of care that operators can offer their subscribers, it will also help differentiate their price plans in a competitive market with family-friendly options. Acting on the issue now will enable operators to revolutionise price plans and help them stay ahead of the curve, demonstrating a willingness to take ownership of child-protection. This is especially vital when so many parents are unaware that such protection exists in the mobile internet world.

This blog was published by MobileMarketing on Oct 01