ISP web filters block Brits from finding love online

Key findings

  • 73% don’t know how to unblock dating websites
  • Majority (60%) say online dating websites shouldn't be blocked by default
  • But many (29%) think dating sites don’t do enough to stop children accessing them
  • And more than half (54%) think dating sites pose a threat to children

 - - - 

Research by broadband comparison site Broadband Genie has revealed more than 73% of people surveyed don’t know how to access online dating websites if they’ve been blocked by their ISP’s content filter. Broadband Genie also revealed last year [1] that up to 46% may have their filters activated, meaning many may struggle to access online dating services. 

As part of David Cameron’s bid to protect children from adult content ISPs are now required to have ‘family-friendly’ web filters automatically enabled. The filters can block a wide array of sites, from online dating to pornography, but there is skepticism about their effectiveness and concern with how they’re classified. 

CEO of the Online Dating Association (ODA) George Kidd said: “Sticking dating in the wrong category alongside very different, worrying and offensive content risks having unintended effects that could undermine this effort to protect household and children in particular. With millions of people registered with dating services – including many single parents – there is the likelihood users will remove the controls when they find they stop access to a dating site; thereby re-exposing others to the drugs, porn and other content the ISPs set out to prevent.”

The public seem to agree with Mr Kidd, with 60% saying they believe online dating websites shouldn’t be included in the ISPs web filters by default. However the public do have concerns about children accessing online dating sites, with over half (54%) believing they’re a risk and 29% saying the current efforts these sites make to protect children aren’t enough.

Mr Kidd responded to these concerns, saying: “There have been few, if any issues to date with children on mainstream dating sites. The sites do not have ‘exciting [or] extreme’ content likely to attract kids. Sites check the profiles users create using industry know-how and software tools. They generally only allow communications between members when those registered members proceed and have become paying subscribed members: payment checks are a significant barrier to the under-aged.
 
“That is not to say our members are complacent about this challenge or that the mechanic is foolproof – or totally child-proof in this case. No system is and it's worth remembering sites are setting 18+ as a matter of shared practice and responsibility.”

Rob Hilborn, Head of Strategy at Broadband Genie, says: “Not only are there questions on the effectiveness of the filters, but the sheer amount of confusion they’re causing is very worrying indeed. The opt out nature of the filters means ISPs now have a much bigger responsibility to provide users with accessible information and simple processes to make a decision on opting out if they should want to.

“It’s incredibly important we put the correct measures in place to protect children online, whether that’s through web blocking tools or better education. However, we shouldn’t be damaging legitimate businesses through poorly executed and confusing blanket filters which ignore how people actually use the internet.” 

For further information please contact
Rob Hilborn on 01223 501 344 or [email protected]
Matt Powell on [email protected]

Notes to editors
Broadband Genie surveyed a total of 1,148 of their users. The research was conducted online on Broadband Genie between the January 25th – February 7th. The full data is available here:
https://www.broadbandgenie.co.uk/blog/20160205-online-dating-survey

[1] Broadband Genie’s research in September 2015 on the ISP filters - https://www.broadbandgenie.co.uk/blog/20150804-isp-filter-survey

About us
Broadband Genie is an independent switching site providing consumers and businesses with practical help, advice and price comparison for home broadband, mobile broadband, phones, TV services and mobile accessories.

Broadband Genie was launched in March 2004 as the first dedicated consumer comparison site for broadband. It is now one of the largest in the UK, attracting more than 200,000 visitors each month.