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 774.

    Presumably they will also announce an incredible breakthrough in artificial intelligence that means computers can now tell when an image is pornographic just by looking at it.

    Otherwise this is completely impossible to implement.

  • rate this

    Comment number 773.

    Seems to be a lot of the sentiment that "its up to the parents (to control what their kids do), and if they're not up to it then they shouldn't be in charge of raising their kids"

    ... It's all very well saying 'should be this way or that' but given that in some cases it isn't, why should these children be left solely at the mercy of such incompetent parents. Government/society can play a role.

  • rate this

    Comment number 772.

    "If you have ten thousand regulations you destroy all respect for the law."

    Winston Churchill.

  • rate this

    Comment number 771.

    I have not used, nor will use any filters with my children. I always encourage them to find things out themselves via the internet, knowing what they may find. I'm sure they have viewed 'things' that would offend a man like Cameron, from a shielded, privileged playground. They appear though, far more centred and balanced than he ever has.

  • rate this

    Comment number 770.

    Here is a good test.

    Find evidence of a single, credible technology expert that believes this is achievable without very severe limitations. Right or wrong (it is wrong) it is a waste of time and money. It can't be enforced.

    And no, posters 'claiming' to be IT experts doesn't count as 'credible'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 769.

    Some people just don't understand how it works!?
    Proxy's route the information about the address from the persons computer, to another computer. Pornography is going to blocked at the ISP, if you use a proxy it will still be blocked.

  • rate this

    Comment number 768.

    Wouldn't it be easier and cheaper to simply not give all of our children laptops, tablets and smart phones before we sit down and have an adult conversation with them. This seems the easy way out of an obvious problem, that parents don't want to/can't be bothered to educate/ warn their children.

    I'm pretty sure that Google Chrome has an adult filter option thats free.

  • rate this

    Comment number 767.

    The Government should impose a similar rule for online gambling and also impose stricter guidelines for advertising. The fact it is considered mainstream is worrying.

  • rate this

    Comment number 766.

    This is yet another thing that will effect me if it happens, yet I have no kids, why should this effect me and every other single person who has taken the life choice not to procreate and be forced to tell their ISP 'Hey guys, I'm a pervert because I like a bit of nudity!'.

    What about Page 3 and the Sun and the soft end of the spectrum? How far reaching will this be?

  • rate this

    Comment number 765.

    The shame of this for British politics is that it will likely go through because one of the two main opposition parties is in coalition and both lack the principles and gumption needed to actually oppose things even where it arouses the ire of the right wing tabloids.

    Come on Ed and Nick it's time to engage the electorate in intelligent argument, not pander to the ill informed scaremongering.

  • rate this

    Comment number 764.

    680. DJSupertel
    All those complaining that this is just a step toward total government control and censorship of the net are spot on!

    Racism, homophobia are all censored, there's always been censorship and always will. Why are there libel and slander laws?

  • rate this

    Comment number 763.

    If any of you want to see how all this censorship is slowly strangling the life out of the Internet you need to see the news stories posted on Torrentfreak and techdirt, sites where the BBC also gets a lot of it's technology news from. This censorship has been going on for ages but now it's starting to register with the general public through this particular story. Say goodbye to the free web!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 762.

    Apparently pornography is 'corroding childhood'...

    I tell you what is more corroding to not only childhood: not being able to make our minds up for ourselves as to what to view and what not to.

    Censorship, nothing more than that. Welcome to the slow degradation of your freedoms, one by one.

    Thank goodness I'm out of here in September.

  • rate this

    Comment number 761.

    In order to protect freedoms, perhaps it's time to introduce some laws to ensure the protection and impartiality of ISPs so they cannot be tampered with at the will of whichever government is in power at the time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 760.

    716. Tim Putnam
    He's aware this won't stop peer to peer file sharing which is what Paedophiles use ( because its already illegal to download these images).
    This is a cynical move to block all pornography by trying to enforce the same laws that apply to retail outlets which are the most repressive in the western world.
    Like prohibition it won't work because there are easy ways round it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 759.

    Today, it's porn to protect the children.

    Then it will be hate speech to guard against the terrorists.

    Then it will be any interpertation of dissent to protect against what could become terrorist threats.

    Then it will simply become anything the Party doesn't approved of. And once we've let that's game over freedom.

  • rate this

    Comment number 758.

    I'm no expert as regards the Internet yet I can think of several ways around all this waffle. Mirror sites, innocent sounding sites. Other countries have no interest in implementing our laws despite the garbage of Moral Duty. If all my ISP has to do as a current customer is ask me whether to implement a block and I say no, then Simples! Self serving political nonsense. Dave? Game over!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 757.

    Purely the responsibility of parents to filter out of a childs upbringing that which is evil. Helps very much when both mum and dad are there to do it. We have a lack of morality and integrity and care in our society now, breakdown of marriage and the family unit all contribute to this problem. Evil and depraved men have always been part of the so called human race, long before WWW Cameron=control

  • rate this

    Comment number 756.

    hmmm.... sexualisation and commercialisation of childhood. Maybe the honorable PM should look at banning supermarkets and fashion brands from selling provocative clothing to young girls as well. To be honest that seems like more of a threat. whilst your at it why don't you ban parents from caking their young girls faces with make up as well??

  • rate this

    Comment number 755.

    Blimey, that's the free entertainment gone on a Saturday night, have to watch second hand DVD's.
    Shame ordinary Television is so dire !


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