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.

Analysis

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.

'Innocence'

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
    +2

    Comment number 174.

    Do I want to have some software on my computer which I don't understand but could easily be one of those interfering things which give the impression the computer isn't working properly? Since I have never encountered any of this disgusting pornography in the past my instinct is to keep going as things are and to turn down the software.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 173.

    The important thing is you will be able to access toy guns for your boy child so he can pretend what it is like to shoot someone. Then we can see it on the news when someone grows up & does it for real. And of course we'll be able to access video where bombs & rockets exploding on faceless people on our behalf. I am so relieved politicians have got our moral priorities in the right order.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 172.

    Another smoke screen policy with hidden agendas. You might as well give up on the role of parents altogether...Nanny State will do it all for you.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 171.

    I'm not a parent yet but am soon to become one. When my daughter is old enough to use the internet 'I' will put the filters and blockers on our computer to stop her accessing unsuitable material. Why can't responsible parents do the same? It really isn't that hard.

    All this does is clamp down on our freedom of the internet. Soon we'll be confirming everything with our ISPs. Such a joke.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 170.

    Looks like the freedom of the Internet is scaring the Establishment and Corporate liars that feed us endless drivel. Who would have thought that eh!

    Answer: Find an emotive subject, bring in censorship, expand censorship over time to other areas.

    Every day our freedoms seem to be decreasing in this country.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 169.

    This reminds me of the whole 'video nasty' debacle.

    So 'depicting rape', thats extremely broad and vague, does this mean it will be illegal to watch or own digital copies of Deliverance, or Evil Dead or Clockwork Orange or Pulp Fiction online ?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 168.

    David Cameron – the consummate politician.

    He has now got a soap-box to stand on; he is introducing more government control; he will be cheered to the rafters by those who don’t understand the problem and yet you can’t argue against this initiative otherwise you’ll be labelled as being in favour of child porn.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 167.

    It is my understanding that most fire walls provided by companies block that which is currently illegal ? There are also programs via passwords that block unauthorised usage by kids. In the event a parent whishes' to see what their offspring have been watching, hit a dedicated, with password history button.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 166.

    Sorry, but who said that the government could tell me what I can and cannot look at on the Internet. Why is this government trying to make Britain like the Middle East and Asia when it comes to the Internet?
    Is this the first step of sharia law coming in?

  • Comment number 165.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 164.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 163.

    its all about censership cloaked in the veil of pornography .. this goverment wants the Orwells 1982 britian ..

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 162.

    @92 "No self respected person will opt out of this, taking away peoples right to view perfectly innocent material discretely"

    I will, I'll phone my ISP and strongly object to having filters applied to my connection. My motives are purely based on the principle of it......

  • rate this
    -43

    Comment number 161.

    FINALLY, parents are getting some help with this! As a mother of a 2 and 4 year old, I totally agree with this policy and only wish it hadn't taken yet another child being attacked to spark the full debate. An opt-in system really is the safest way to help keep children safe from unsuitable imagery on the internet ... You're all grown adults, opt-in if you want to!

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 160.

    This sounds great and will appeal to Daily mail reading Brain dead Tories.
    However just like blocks of The Pirate Bay it wont work!
    Parents MUST take responsibility for PC's in their house and install/use their own blocking software or monitor childrens internet use.
    Blocking software has been available free or low cost for over 15 years now.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 159.

    The "child abuse" theme is merely a smoke-screen acting as the thin end of the wedge to subject the British to the type of censorship we are meant to loathe in places like China. The rest of Europe must be laughing their socks off at us!

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 158.

    How will the definition of 'porn' be decided?
    Is the BBC news 'porn? we see deaths and suffering there.......

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 157.

    There are bad things happening in the dark corners of the net?? Honestly, Cameron is sounding more and more like George Bush. Soon we will be told that an axis of evil is fuelling the dark side and we must censor web content from other countries...

  • rate this
    -33

    Comment number 156.

    Lots of parents have no idea what their kids look at; they're completely technology illiterate. I don't think it's at all made Britain more of a 'nanny state' - the choice is still there, it's just now made more intentional which I think can only be a good thing.

    This is not about censorship at all, it's about choice and protecting young uns' minds before they should be exposed to that stuff.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 155.

    Most people drink sensibly and drive sensibly and view porn sensibly
    while Underage porn must be banned viewing porn does not lead to non consentual behavior. most adults fantasise in a consentual envioroment
    and these consentual roleplay harm nobody.

 

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