Kids' mobiles porn loopholeKid's can access porn sites on mobiles

02 February 2006

A Which? investigation has found a loophole in safeguards to stop youngsters using mobile phones to access adult images.

Using an O2 mobile phone bought by and registered to a 15-year-old girl, we managed to get access codes and view eight pornographic websites. This is despite Britain's mobile phone companies signing up to a code of practice pledging to shield youngsters from all adult content.

Whenever someone under the age of 18 buys a mobile phone, an automatic block should filter out all material rated for over-18s. This content control system should stop youngsters viewing explicit sexual imagery on their phones. But although O2's filter system blocked adult material being sent to the phone, it let through access codes for internet sites showing hundreds of hardcore sex films.

Paying by premium-rate texts

The last few years have seen the emergence of internet porn sites that generate revenue by getting customers to pay via premium-rate texts rather than by credit card. In the past we've raised concerns with the premium-rate watchdog Icstis about these services but were assured that any attempts by people aged under 18 to access the sites via text message should be blocked by the phone company.

To test it, we arranged for 15-year-old Beth Fritz to buy the O2 pay-as-you-talk mobile phone from The Carphone Warehouse in Croydon. She gave her details, including her age, and the phone was registered to her.

Once Beth had handed over the phone to us, we were able to access a pay-per-view porn site, paid for by sending a GBP 1.50 text. When the site received our text, with a code to identify our computer, it began streaming a film to it.

Access to thousands of clips

Several other sites operate subscription services costing GBP 1.50 a day. By texting a number advertised on a website, we were sent a code word which gave us 24-hour access to thousands of clips. All these sites boasted that, because payment was by text message, users could remain anonymous.

When we contacted O2, it admitted there was a loophole for adult sites using texts for payment. 'Whilst it is the responsibility of those websites to provide protection to prevent under-18s from viewing the content on a computer, we are looking at the process whereby payment is collected by mobile to see if there are additional safeguards we can introduce,' the company told us.

O2 is also investigating sites which tried to send pornography to the phone itself, something which does breach the existing guidelines.