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How the RDI and BBFC developed the ‘Friendly WiFi’ scheme specification

Created on Friday 18th July, 2014.

When we first set out to design and launch the world’s first public WiFi accreditation scheme, we knew our core aims and objectives were to keep children and young people safe from viewing inappropriate material and to make it transparent which venues in the UK had the correct filters in place to do so. However, as we looked into developing a base specification, to set out exactly what type of material should be filtered out and blocked as a minimum standard, it was decided without question that our specification needed to be designed in consultation with classification experts to make sure our scheme was successful in safeguarding children and young people online in the UK.

During meetings with DCMS and the UK’s main Wi-Fi providers who we worked collaboratively with to design the online safety initiative, it was suggested that we contact the BBFC (The British Board of Film Classification). We were introduced to the BBFC’s Assistant Director, David Austin who kindly offered to assist us in the build of our specification for online content filtering. David hosted an initial meeting at the BBFC’s London offices and provided what can only be described as an ‘eye-opening’ view of how the BBFC operates and independently scrutinises films and video to ensure the highest possible level of protection and empowerment.

We learned how the BBFC had been appointed by the Mobile Broadband Group to provide an  independent framework to underpin the Mobile Operators' code of practice that was set up in 2004 for the self-regulation of content on mobiles. The Classification Framework defines content that is unsuitable for customers under the age of 18 and is based on the BBFC’s Classification Guidelines for film and video. The Classification Framework is also used to calibrate the filters used by the Operators to restrict access to internet content via mobile networks by those under 18. This was a major step forward to restrict content accessed via mobile networks and protect children from viewing inappropriate material whilst operating their mobile devices.

Although the specified level of content filtering within the ‘Friendly WiFi’ scheme is below that which underpins the Mobile Operators code of practice, it is important that we were guided by the same technical expertise of the BBFC to support our development and advise us on future updates. The BBFC has contributed specific definitions and guided us in the use of correct and appropriate terms relating to the filtering of pornography. This is to make sure we are able to communicate the terms correctly and have the confidence that our specification is in line with what our Customers, Industry and Public expects.

The level of content filtering agreed by the main WiFi providers for their standard public WiFi offerings is the same level which has been included within the ‘Friendly WiFi’ scheme. The level of filtering as follows:

 1.  The standard public Wi-Fi offering will automatically filter the IWF list and participate in the IWF Self Certification process.

2.  The standard public Wi-Fi offering will also include filters to block pornography and will use generally recognised list providers to filter pornography.

Any UK business wishing to join the ‘Friendly WiFi’ scheme must meet the level of filtering standards described above. Once approved they will be authorised to display the scheme ‘Friendly WiFi’ logo at their venues. At RDI, we will be working on a number of initiatives to support our ‘Friendly WiFi’ customers and the Industry. As part of our service to Licensees of our scheme, we will manage consumer enquiries and deal with issues in relation to content viewed over public WiFi services. These may include reports of over blocking and under blocking. We are delighted that the BBFC have agreed to work with us by offering their support to handle enquiries of this nature. Their independent and technical expertise is essential and we look forward to a strong relationship and us working together to evolve the scheme.