Why is T-Mobile censoring disability blogs?

imageI regularly read a blog, Blogging Astrid, by an autistic woman in the Netherlands who has been blogging about her life since her teens, but since 2007 it has been about her life in two psychiatric institutions following a breakdown that year. (Besides her autism, she is also blind and believes she could not live independently, even with her husband.) In the last couple of months I have, on about four occasions, tried to access that blog on my phone, which is on the EE (formerly T-Mobile, but which also includes the old Orange UK network) and been presented with their “content lock” page. Initially, to get that removed, I had to supply them with a credit card number to prove I was an adult (as if all adults have credit cards), but you can also do it through the T-Mobile account website (as they assume that the person with access to the account is the adult, and that if the child is the user, he or she does not have access).

Astrid has made occasional references to sexuality, abortion, pregnancy (not hers), and other ‘adult’ matters over the years, but not in a manner that I would consider explicit, let alone pornographic. The last post in which I remember her mentioning sex was a post on teaching autistic teenagers about personal hygiene, which was a few months ago. Most of it is about her dealings with the institution staff, about her outings, her relationship with her family, her various diagnoses over the years, and more recently about recipes. None of it is the sort of stuff most parents would not mind their children reading, if they were old enough to have a mobile phone and if they had any interest in the subject. She has written about self-harm and (non-serious) suicide attempts in the past, but not in a way that, for example, describes how to do it.

The fact that this website keeps getting caught in their net proves that content locks really don’t work, as they result in the censorship of perfectly innocent blogs and other websites, and this has been the experience whenever laws on written “pornography” have been imposed in other places, such as Canada. Parents obviously have a right to make sure their children do not read unsuitable material, but this should be an opt-in feature and they should have the right to decide exactly which types of content they want to screen out. Commercial software exists to do this, so it does not need to be applied as standard by a phone company. However, as an adult I object to having to prove that I’m an adult to the phone company when it’s me that’s paying the bill, something I could not do as a child, and to this erratic system being continually imposed on me without warning. This is obviously a new system as I’ve only been noticing it (particularly as regards to this website) the last couple of months, so perhaps they should get their “teething problems” sorted before rolling it out to everyone.

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