Technology

Family filter bug hits Virgin Media customers

Virgin Media engineer Image copyright Virgin Media
Image caption Network problems forced servers behind the filtering system to crash

Many Virgin Media customers struggled to browse the web this weekend as the firm's filtering system broke down.

Like all big UK ISPs, Virgin uses a filtering system to help children avoid seeing inappropriate content.

However, many people found they could not visit any sites as the server behind the filtering system crashed.

Virgin apologised to customers about the content blocking and said it moved quickly to fix the problem.

Filter failure

The problems emerged on 8 November when many people suddenly found it impossible to visit almost any website.

According to tech news site The Register the cause was traced to a fault on the server behind Virgin's Websafe filtering system. This inspects requests to see websites to work out if access should be granted.

For some reason, far more traffic than normal was being routed to this server which stopped it working and meant many Virgin customers could not reach any site at all.

Many people complained on Twitter about their troubles. Many were annoyed because they had not signed up to use the filtering system at all and did not want it policing their activity.

Web expert Mark Goodwin said: "Dear @virginmedia, please turn off websafe until you know it's not breaking things for everybody. Thanks. A (rather unsatisfied) customer."

Virgin responded to many of the tweets apologising for the "hiccup".

It advised many people to turn their home router off and back on again to help resolve the problem. Virgin said it got the server behind the Websafe system fixed late on Saturday.

In a statement it said: "A small number of our customers were temporarily unable to browse the internet for a couple of hours [on] Saturday evening because of a problem with one of our servers. It was quickly fixed but we apologise for any inconvenience caused."

Filtering systems on the UK's ISPs were brought in at the behest of the government which wanted them offered to all new customers.

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