Author: Renee Israel
What do online gambling and pornography have in common? No, this isn't the
opening to a bad joke. In fact, there is nothing remotely funny about the
government's directives to Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that they need to
set up new porn filters.
It's not that we have anything against protecting innocent viewers from adult
content. In fact filters - those purely to block access to pornography by minors
- may be a good thing. However, we draw the line when it comes to clumping
online gambling under the same umbrella of sites that will be filtered.
Online gambling should NOT be linked to pornography. Nor does it belong side
by side with what the government terms violent content and radically charged
Thankfully, not all ISPs are introducing mandatory filters, with some
companies such as British Telecom and Virgin Media are seeing the logic in
allowing adults to choose the type of content they wish to view.
PM Targets Online Porn Sites
In 2013, Prime Minister David Cameron announced that if viewers
wanted to access adult themed content sites, they would need to contact the ISP
directly and request that mandatory filters on such sites be removed. Some ISPs
have now moved in that direction, much to the dismay of online gamblers. We can
argue about the right of government to demand that adults move beyond their
discretion zone in order to request the right to watch porn. But that's not the
The problem is that, by introducing mandatory filters, companies
such as TalkTalk and Sky will also be blocking internet gambling sites by
default. To play at these sites, players would need to contact these ISPs and
request the block be removed.
The government may argue that these filters prevent minors from
accessing online gambling sites, but when we consider that the vast majority of
UK online bookies, casinos and poker sites have very strict identification
software in place, these filters are simply unnecessary.
They are also, of course, bad for business.
We find it hugely ironic that TalkTalk has done a complete
turnabout on its January 2014 policy when it stated: "We do not believe that it
is for ISPs to decide what content adults should access. It is really important
that there is either a proper legal framework when it comes to blocking access
to sites just like with copyright infringement, or that it is down to customer
Not Only Bad for Online Gambling
It is not only online gambling sites that will be affected by ISPs that
introduce mandatory filters. A group called the Open Rights Group claimed that
over 50 registered charities in the UK were blocked by filters in 2013.
More absurdly, sites that mentioned the word Essex or Sussex also sometimes
found themselves blocked because they mentioned the word s-e-x.
While we support the government's right to take certain measures to "protect
the innocence of our children", we believe that there has to be some logic
involved, and these measures should not come at the expense of consenting adults
seeking online betting entertainment from the comfort of their own homes.
Posted by Renee Israel at 10:37 on 2 February 2015