British internet service provider BT is offering parents the option to remove access to LGBTI and sexual health websites.
Their parental controls blocking software offers parents the option to prevent their children from accessing sex education, including advice on health and LGBTI issues.
According to the options set out on their site, there are some 17 different categories of material that parents may choose to block, including pornography, gambling and drugs. Also up for blocking is a category titled ‘sex education’.
Parents who opt to block material in this category ‘will block sites where the main purpose is to provide information on subjects such as respect for a partner, abortion, gay and lesbian lifestyle, contraceptives, sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy’.
This came to light after concerns some filtering packages might be ‘mistakenly’ filtering LGBTI sites.
Twitter user Andrew Emmerson, who did some further investigating, discovered the description of BT’s parental controls on the website and promptly made this fact public.
Several were shocked by the discovery, pointing out many young people live in homophobic households and are often the ones who are most in need of advice.
Equalities educator Alice Hoyle, who blogs at Sex Edukation and whose specialisms include HIV education, tackling sexual bullying, and LGBT school issues, described it as ‘shocking’.
She said: ‘Young people have a right to access such information on the internet, and good parents would never try to block them from doing so.’
This sentiment was echoed by Jane Carnall, who manages the community website for LGBT.co.uk.
She told Gay Star News: ‘Responsible parents will not want their children denied access to information that can protect their health.
‘BT Care’s policy of allowing parents to filter out sex education sites would block young adults from accessing essential information to protect themselves and their partners, including information available on NHS sites.’
In a statement to Gay Star News, BT said: ‘There has been an accidental mis-description of the way our parental controls operate.
‘Some parents of very young children may wish to block sex education material. One of our optional filters does just that. It does not discriminate between heterosexual and LGBT content.
‘We apologise for any confusion that has been caused. We shall revise the way we describe the optional sex education filters available for parents of very young children.
‘The filters in question are not turned on by default, but are activated only if chosen by parents.’