Blocking online porn could be against EU law

© Carlos Barria
Broadband providers who restrict online access to pornography and block ads could be breaking EU guidelines on net neutrality, even if customers opt in, following an update to the regulations.

Current EU rules allow internet service providers (ISPs) to block content for three reasons: to comply with a member state’s laws, to manage levels of traffic across a network, or for security.

The net neutrality rules are intended to prevent broadband operators from favoring specific sources of content such as commercial partners. Blocking porn falls into a gray area, as there is no clear legal framework in UK legislation.

However, a revision to the guidelines issued by EU body Berec says blocked content, whether it is porn or ads, should be implemented by a customer on their device, rather than by the network.

Frode Sorensen, co-chair of the Berec working group on net neutrality, refused to comment to the Guardian on specific cases or countries, but said the updated guidance made it clear there was no legal basis for using customer choice to justify blocking any content.

ISPs Sky, BT and TalkTalk, and mobile operator O2 block access to adult sites following pressure from the government. Mobile operator

Three recently ran an ad-blocking trial that required users to opt in.

A Department for Culture, Media and Sport spokesperson told the newspaper the rules still allowed for internet filters.

“Family-friendly filters are permitted under the EU net neutrality regulation. The regulations give end-users the right to access information and content of their choice, and enabling/disabling filters exercises this choice.”

A spokesperson for BT told the newspaper: “BT offers filtering at both network and device level dependent on the customer’s preferences.

“The Berec guidelines are not binding and it’s for Ofcom to consider in its application and enforcement of EU regulations.”

It a statement, an Ofcom spokesperson said: “Ofcom will monitor compliance with the new rules, and look into any complaints received. We will consider any potential breaches as they arise in accordance with our interpretation of the regulation, and drawing upon the Berec guidelines to inform our approach.”