Written By Carla Harris
Online poker players and other gamers will soon be required to jump through an extra hoop — and they have a new policy spearheaded by Prime Minister David Cameron to thank for it.
Cameron has been lobbying the U.K.'s largest Internet service providers to install automatic browsing filters in an effort to protect minors from violent, racist and adult material.
Customers must manually opt out of such filters by making a request to their ISP.
The U.K.'s four largest ISPs have responded to the lobbying in different ways. Sky and TalkTalk have agreed to require opt-out filtering, but Virgin Media and BT, the country's two other major ISPs, have yet to introduce opt-out filters. Both are under pressure to do so, though, and BT now uses an opt-in filter.
While the filters are primarily designed to prevent minors from accessing violent or adult material, online gaming sites are also affected. Some ISPs attempt to filter all gaming sites, while others only filter gaming sites with adult content.
That could be a significant problem for some online gaming fans, who may not be able to opt in to the filtering system without blocking their favourite gaming sites.
Some critics have assailed this "broad brush" approach, claiming that too much content is being inadvertently restricted. Some businesses and even charities have complained that their sites have been unwittingly placed off limits because of software mix-ups. There's also considerable confusion on the consumer side, as the filtering policies of ISPs are not uniform.
There's also a question as to whether gaming is being unfairly lumped in with adult or objectionable content.
While the value of opt-out filtering can certainly be debated, one thing seems beyond question — poker and other games have nothing in common with violent or adult content.
To lump them together is poor policy — and a unnecessary headache for British gaming fans.