Culture, Media and Sport CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by British Sky Broadcasting Limited (‘Sky’)

1. Introduction

1.1 We welcome the Committee’s Inquiry into Online Safety as a further contribution to a topic that Sky has been heavily engaged in.

1.2 In June, we attended the summit chaired by the Secretary Of State for Culture Media and Sport, and have attached a letter we sent to her ahead of this summit as an appendix to this submission.

1.3 Over the last 20 years BSkyB has established itself as a successful and responsible consumer business. Since entering the broadband market in 2006, we have become the second largest provider in the UK with almost 5m broadband customers.

1.4 Our growth has come by providing customers with the products and services they want, and recognising the trust that our customers place in us to act responsibly. Over this time we have created a track record where we have helped families keep their children safe when enjoying the content we provide them on-screen and online.

1.5 The internet has become one of the most important sources of information, education and entertainment. Access to the internet is now an integral and fundamental part of people’s lives, bringing with it a wide range of benefits but also a range of challenges.

1.6 There are many positive aspects to life in the online world, but just as in the offline world, there are services and websites that provide access to material that is not suitable for children. We have taken our philosophy of giving parents market leading tools to protect their families on screen, and applied it to our broadband services.

1.7 As a result, we have developed a range of tools to help parents manage how their families access content on whichever platform they choose to use, and are looking forward to enhancing our offering in the coming months.

1.8 There is a very important distinction to be made between content that is legal but potentially unsuitable for children, and other content which is illegal. It is vital that this distinction is not only understood by policymakers but highlighted at every opportunity to help ensure that there is more clarity in the debate, and in the way in which it is reported.

1.9 Sky’s commitment to provide families with tools to choose how much of the internet gets through to their home, is separate to any legal or regulatory responsibilities we may have. Where content is deemed illegal by legislators or the Courts we will do everything required of us to prevent or restrict access.

2. Protecting Minors from Accessing Adult Content

2.1 As a leading consumer brand, our customers have high expectations of Sky. They expect us to provide effective filtering products, presented clearly in an easily manageable way, which will enable parents to protect their families from legal, but potentially inappropriate content.

2.2 In addition to the work that we are doing to use technology to help parents, we believe that believe that industry, government and educators can work together to provide parents with the necessary information and advice to be able to make the most appropriate choices for their children, and to guide children and young people to make the right choices for themselves.

In home fixed line broadband

2.3 We offer all of our broadband customers free parental controls which are easily installed on customer’s PCs or laptops. We use a category based web filtering package, which can be configured by age.

2.4 The internet is being accessed via an increasing number of connected devices including connected televisions, gaming consoles, tablets and smartphones. As internet use and the number of connected devices in customers’ homes increase, so do the challenges for protecting families. Whilst the existing controls are an important tool for parents, as technology has developed, there is more that we are able to do.

2.5 We are in the process of developing an enhanced parental control product which will protect all the devices in customers’ home. Whilst there remains a role for device manufacturers and operating system providers, we believe it is right for us to take responsibility and empower our customers to protect their families so they have confidence that the internet can be enjoyed in a safe environment.

2.6 Over the past few years, there have been policy questions as to the best way of delivering parental controls. Through our involvement in UK Council for Child Internet Safety we have engaged in Government initiatives such as the Bailey Review and the Department for Education’s 2012 consultation, and the delivery of our new product is consistent with the features described in the Prime Minister’s July speech on online safety.

2.7 Our enhanced parental control product will be free and available to all customers from the autumn. In addition to making the product available we are keen to encourage take up, and we will do this in a number of ways.

Out of home WiFi

2.8 Increasingly connectivity extends beyond the home. Sky’s WiFi service, The Cloud, for example, provides customers with access to over 20,000 WiFi hotspots across Britain’s High Streets, in venues such as Pizza Express and Greggs, and other public spaces like the London Overground railway stations.

2.9 When children are accessing the internet outside of the home, it is far more difficult for parents to monitor their activity, and our research tells us this is of concern to parents.

2.10 The Cloud pioneered offering its commercial customers the opportunity to automatically filter out access to adult websites in public WiFi hotspots, being the first WiFi provider to do so in 2007.

2.11 The increase in children accessing internet outside the home through connected devices, has led to parents seeking greater reassurance. That is why from September 2012, we decided to apply these filters by default, so that sites which contain content only suitable to adults are inaccessible in the public places served by The Cloud. As a leading WiFi provider, we think this is an important contribution to ensuring children are protected when using the internet outside of their homes, providing reassurance for parents.

3. Illegal Content

3.1 Separate from the issue of providing tools to customers to filter legal but potentially inappropriate content is our commitment to meet any obligations imposed on us to restrict access to content as a result of a legal determination.

3.2 Sky, as an ISP, is not in a position to judge the legality of a website or content within a website. Instead, Sky works with the bodies responsible for making such determinations and complies with any obligations it may have.

3.3 Content determined to be illegal tends to fall under one of three categories, namely child abuse imagery, material intended to promote terrorism and content infringing copyright.

Child abuse imagery

3.4 Sky is a member of the Internet Watch Foundation (“IWF”), which is the UK Hotline for reporting online child abuse imagery. Its key role is to get content removed at source. Where content is hosted in the UK, the IWF is typically able to get it removed in under an hour. Where content is hosted overseas, it takes longer to get it removed. However, the IWF provides its members with a list of URLs which contain illegal content. Sky ensures that requests to access such webpages, regardless of where they are hosted, result in a “splashpage” being served that informs the user that they attempted to access a page that contains illegal content.

3.5 Sky is a strong supporter of the IWF. We are currently engaging with the IWF to see how we can increase our support to it, both in terms of supporting the work they do and in terms of our financial support, where we are already part of the “top tier” of financial contributors. In particular, we are keen for the IWF to be proactive in seeking out illegal content rather than rely on public reporting.

3.6 It is worth noting that we have recently changed the splashpage served after requests from government and after consultation with the IWF, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP), and the Lucy Faithfull Foundation (LFF), which is a charity dedicated to reducing the risk of children being sexually abused. The splashpage now is more explicit in highlighting the consequences of viewing child abuse imagery linking to the LFF to provide further information.

Material intended to promote terrorism

3.7 We are keen to play our role in working with other Government departments, such as the Home Office, and its Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit (CTIRU) to ensure that illegal content is removed and/or filtered.

3.8 CTIRU was set up as part of the PREVENT strategy, to ensure unlawful online content is removed from the internet, thereby disrupting and limiting access to extremist material. Since its establishment in 2010, this unit has removed approximately 6,000 pieces of online terrorist content.

3.9 Sky does not provide webpage hosting, and as a result has are not been requested to remove this type of content. However, we are keen to liaise with the government to explore whether there are other opportunities to work together.

Copyright infringement

3.10 Sky is keen to support rightsholders in seeking to restrict access to content that breaches copyright.

3.11 Although Sky is not in a position to determine which sites are making illegal content available, we welcome decisions by the Courts to require blocking of infringing sites, and have built systems to ensure we can comply with blocking requirements of resulting court orders.

3.12 We believe that the established process broadly works and has been accepted by our customers. Indeed, evidence from Ofcom’s research into online copyright infringement suggests a reduction in the people using infringing sites,1 implying that blocking is a proportionate contribution to the fight against piracy.

September 2013

“Thirty-two per cent of those who consumed any content illegally claimed to use “peer-to-peer” (P2P) services…..This was the lowest level seen during the 13 months of tracking (it was 37% in [the last set of research])”

Prepared 18th March 2014