Online pornography to be blocked by default, PM announces


David Cameron: "In the balance between freedom and responsibility we have neglected our responsibility to children"

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Most households in the UK will have pornography blocked by their internet provider unless they choose to receive it, David Cameron has announced.

In addition, the prime minister said possessing online pornography depicting rape would become illegal in England and Wales - in line with Scotland.

Mr Cameron warned in a speech that access to online pornography was "corroding childhood".

The new measures will apply to both existing and new customers.


Seven years ago David Cameron told a Google conference that politicians should encourage companies to change, not over-regulate them.

Today, he announced he had reached agreement with the four biggest ISPs on pornography filters, after some behind the scenes tussling.

But he hinted that if search engines like Google didn't agree to a blacklist of search terms, he would legislate.

From Downing St, he can supplement the art of persuasion with the smack of firm government.

Back in his opposition days, Cameron made waves presenting himself as a man on the side of parents against firms that sold chocolates at checkouts and children's bikinis.

If he can mould a similar image in Downing St, as a PM doing battle with big business on behalf of fellow parents, he will be more than happy.

Mr Cameron also called for some "horrific" internet search terms to be "blacklisted", meaning they would automatically bring up no results on websites such as Google or Bing.

He told the BBC he expected a "row" with service providers who, he said in his speech, were "not doing enough to take responsibility" despite having a "moral duty" to do so.

He also warned he could have to "force action" by changing the law and that, if there were "technical obstacles", firms should use their "greatest brains" to overcome them.


In his speech, Mr Cameron said family-friendly filters would be automatically selected for all new customers by the end of the year - although they could choose to switch them off.

And millions of existing computer users would be contacted by their internet providers and told they must decide whether to use or not use "family-friendly filters" to restrict adult material.

The filters would apply to all devices linked to the affected home Wi-Fi network and across the public Wi-Fi network "wherever children are likely to be present".

Customers who do not click on either option - accepting or declining - will have filters activated by default, Tory MP Claire Perry, Mr Cameron's adviser on the sexualisation and commercialisation of childhood, told the BBC.

The UK's biggest internet service providers have agreed to the filters scheme meaning it should cover 95% of homes.

Other measures announced by the prime minister included:

  • New laws so videos streamed online in the UK will be subject to the same restrictions as those sold in shops
  • Search engines having until October to introduce further measures to block illegal content
  • Experts from the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre being given more powers to examine secretive file-sharing networks
  • A secure database of banned child pornography images gathered by police across the country will be used to trace illegal content and the paedophiles viewing it

Mr Cameron also called for warning pages to pop up with helpline numbers when people try to search for illegal content.

He said: "I want to talk about the internet, the impact it is having on the innocence of our children, how online pornography is corroding childhood.

"And how, in the darkest corners of the internet, there are things going on that are a direct danger to our children, and that must be stamped out.

Claire Perry MP: "We have asked companies to help families install family friendly filters"

"I'm not making this speech because I want to moralise or scaremonger, but because I feel profoundly as a politician, and as a father, that the time for action has come. This is, quite simply, about how we protect our children and their innocence."

But former Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre boss Jim Gamble told BBC Radio 4's Today programme it was important to "get to the root cause" of illegal pornography, by catching those responsible for creating it.

He added: "You need a real deterrent, not a pop-up that paedophiles will laugh at."

But Ms Perry argued filters would make a difference, saying that the killers of schoolgirls April Jones and Tia Sharp had accessed legal pornography before moving on to images of child abuse.

She added: "It's impossible to buy this material in a sex shop... but it's possible to have it served up on a computer every day."

In his speech, Mr Cameron said possession of online pornography depicting rape would be made illegal.

Start Quote

The coalition government has pledged to prevent abuse of women and girls, so tackling a culture that glorifies abuse is critical for achieving this”

End Quote Holly Dustin Director, End Violence Against Women Coalition

Existing legislation only covers publication of pornographic portrayals of rape, as opposed to possession.

"Possession of such material is already an offence in Scotland but because of a loophole in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, it is not an offence south of the border," Mr Cameron said.

"Well I can tell you today we are changing that. We are closing the loophole - making it a criminal offence to possess internet pornography that depicts rape."

The move has been welcomed by women's groups and academics who had campaigned to have "rape porn" banned.

Holly Dustin, director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said the group was "delighted".

"The coalition government has pledged to prevent abuse of women and girls, so tackling a culture that glorifies abuse is critical for achieving this," she said.

"The next step is working with experts to ensure careful drafting of the law and proper resourcing to ensure the law is enforced fully."

'No safe place'

Mr Cameron, who has faced criticism from Labour over cuts to Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre's funding, insisted the centre's experts and police would be given the powers needed to keep pace with technological changes on the internet.

Claire Lilley, NSPCC: "In every single child abuse image there is a victim, a child who has been abused"

"Let me be clear to any offender who might think otherwise: there is no such thing as a safe place on the internet to access child abuse material," he said.

A spokesman for Google said: "We have a zero tolerance attitude to child sexual abuse imagery. Whenever we discover it, we respond quickly to remove and report it.

"We recently donated $5m (£3.3m) to help combat this problem and are committed to continuing the dialogue with the government on these issues."

According to some experts, "default on" can create a dangerous sense of complacency, says BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones.

He says internet service providers would dispute Mr Cameron's interpretation of the new measures, insisting they did not want to be seen as censors.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    What a stupid solution.

    This is a bit like the increasing the price of alcahol for all to prevent abuse by alcaholics argument that has just been dropped by the gov't

    If the internet companies can stop all porn I am sure they can stop different types of porn.

    This strikes me as intelligence gathering by the gov't along the same lines why they don't allow phone tap evidence in court.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    All major search engine have their own filters anyway?? this government always has an announcement to hide something, this I guess is to hide the vile lobbying of the Tobacco industry, by MP Lynton Crosby, a very Evil government indeed

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    Parents should be responsible for what their children get up to on the internet and elsewhere in life not the government .Also some ISPs offer filters already .This will not stop those wanting to get images of child abuse from doing so it would be better putting the money in to doing that more effectively.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    He said "There are lots of illegal things on the internet that are illegal and we need to stop, LET'S START WITH THE 1ST CATEGORY, PORNOGRAPHY, CHILD PORNOGRAPHY"................... OK, Mr Cameron, what comes next then, file sharing? or what other things do you fancy banning? Thin of the wedge I am afraid..........

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    To you who thinks this is about porn.

    You, my friend, are part of the problem.

    The ' establishment ' is your enemy.

    Always has been.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    Surely the responsibility to protect children from pornography lies with the parents?

    Why not just introduce a simple opt-OUT system?

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    Is it possible to opt out of listening to the continued rubbish coming from the mouths of our invaluable 'representatives' and their agents inside the Westminster bubble?

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    More reasons to never vote Conservative.

    We NEED change.

    Conservative: averse to change and holds to traditional values and attitudes, typically in politics.


  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    How are they going to define it? Will, for example, erotic story websites get blocked or will it only be visual porn?

    This while thing is such an invasion of privacy. Certainly support and fund good porn filters and make them available for free to parents, but making porn opt in is very meddling, very nanny state.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    Hahahahahaha! Oh, here we go again. I'll believe this when I see it. I'm not the least interested in it myself - went through a phase of it years ago - but I am fed up with this wretched nanny state curbing this, censoring that, banning stuff. Give parents the responsibility. You cannot blame internet providers for parents buying all this gadgetry for their kids & allowing their use unsupervised.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    Not a tory or a squib-dem

    But this is a good move

    All those who are screaming its a bad thing - what dark secrets have you got to hide?
    You can still get all the degrading stuff you want - you just have to ask for it - the rest of us don't want this kind of access, thank you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    Smoke and mirrors again. Divert Joe Public away from all the nasty things they are doing in the background, cuts, cuts and more cuts except for the poor old rich bankers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    Cameron and his cronies, or shall we say most politicians, are so clueless that a little over six months ago, they claimed (ignorantly as usual) the following.

    15th December 2012 BBC NEWS

    "Ministers have rejected plans to automatically block internet access to pornography on all computers, saying the move is not widely supported"

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    Internet search engines such as google family friendly filter are already enabled as a default setting. Yahoo already bock certain words that "may" deam offensive on their search. This is nothing new.
    David Cameron is just trying to claim credit what internet providers and search engines had already put in place.

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    Just the first step to a fully censored internet, bye bye freedom.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    Making porn more or less illegal will only increase youngsters interest in it. It's a very stupid, draconian piece of legislation by a very stupid, draconian politician.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    Camoron is not to be trusted. He is doing this so the government can spy on you even more than they already do, using child porn as an excuse.

    He is effectively legitimising the NSA/GCHQ spying on a mass scale.

    The Internet should NEVER have any government interference.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    It is the year 2020. On changing my ISP, I will be asked if I wish to unblock Porn, Articles critical to the Government, Al Jazeera (and Fox news), UKIP and EDL websites. People would be better served if they asked if I wished to unblock Spam.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    "I'm not making this speech because I want to moralise or scaremonger, but because I feel profoundly as a politician..."

    He means he wants to get re-elected by appealing to English middle class family values.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    "This is, quite simply, about how we protect our children and their innocence."

    Yes David, because living in poverty as a result of your idealogical cuts won't corrupt or damage them will it?

    Whilst I broadly support the notion of encouraging people not to look at this horrible material I am deeply distrustful of anything that Cameron utters or involves himself in.


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