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 834.

    "353. SGR
    If you agree that internet providers should automatically block child porm, violent porn, rape porn, gay porn, then rate this positively.....

    If you disagree then rate this negatively....."

    I'm sorry SGR, but how did 'gay porn' get into your list of violent and abusive content? I am all for illegal violent images being blocked, but why should gay porn be included?

  • rate this

    Comment number 833.

    For certain fetishists - this looks like the thin end of the wedgie.

  • rate this

    Comment number 832.

    I understand that existing ISP customers will get a pop up screen so they can choose whether porn should be blocked or not.
    In most families the children use the web more than the adults and certainly earlier in the day so it will be they who get this pop up screen and they who decide whether porn is blocked or not.
    Its crazy. Write to the bill payer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 831.

    I'd have hoped that news of secret services snooping on our international traffic would have alerted people to the consequences of systems put in place to intercept network communications and pass or fail them depending on a government-written list of censored material, but it seems they think it's as simple as people no longer receiving grot unless they want it without any further consequences.

  • rate this

    Comment number 830.

    This explains the state of the countrys ITC education however.

    Why would the government invest in educating people in technology, when those same people will simply turn round and point out that they're idiots and elect people who actually know what they're doing.

    If there were such a group, which there isn't...why are we cloning politicians again?

  • rate this

    Comment number 829.

    820. roleypoley
    We'll have the sex police next, making sure nobody is using handcuffs in the bedroom!
    and if you are will they handcuff you when they arrest you..... ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 828.

    Government meddling where it shouldn't. Accept this and you accept full blown censorship as done by China, Stalin, Stazi. Hitler and all the other dictators. 'It is for your own good', 'nothing to hide nothing to fear', 'protection of children' are all 'good' reasons given, but it is always the same - control of the stupid masses by the rich

  • rate this

    Comment number 827.

    If Mr Cameron is serious about protecting the innocence of children, perhaps he could do us all a favour and just dispose of the absolute tripe that is Heat magazine.

  • rate this

    Comment number 826.

    "Pornography is going to blocked at the ISP, if you use a proxy it will still be blocked."

    But HOW is it going to be blocked? URL's? They can be changed in the blink of an eye. IP addresses? They can be changed in the blink of an eye.
    Um...what else? Nothing really... unless you go down the incredibly stupid route of blocking on keywords or files containing data that might represent a skin tone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 825.

    Are you kidding? "The killers of schoolgirls April Jones and Tia Sharp had accessed legal pornography before moving on to images of child abuse.". What a harmful and misleading quote to include in a article. This falls into the same ridiculous category as video games making kids into school shooters. Pornography is not a moral issue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 824.

    Where do you stop with thought control?
    What about all the hip hop/ R&B / Rap music videos "corroding childhood".
    Parents need to teach their children values and respect not isolate them from everything that challenges them.
    Eventually they will leave the bubble we create and then where will they be if we have abdicated responsibility for their value system.

  • rate this

    Comment number 823.

    As a totalitarian at heart, I'm intrigued by this proposal. Hard state control has been out of fashion for some time and I didn't have Cameron down as the type to bring it back. Perhaps there's hope for him yet!

  • rate this

    Comment number 822.

    Im pretty sure that there is a thing called parental lock

    and being a responsible parent

    these rule out the "think of the children" excuse

    His block on simulated sexual assult pornography will also fall flat on its face as theres a country called America and they will continue to make it accessable

  • rate this

    Comment number 821.

    Whilst restrictions and controls are being proposed under the prevention of child explotition the real reason is much more sinister. It's all about control and making sure the government know at all times what the populus are up to.

    I wonder if all partys realise what a vote loser anything to do with restricting the use of the internet is?

  • rate this

    Comment number 820.

    Who decides what is morally right or wrong?

    We'll have the sex police next, making sure nobody is using handcuffs in the bedroom!

  • rate this

    Comment number 819.

    The conservative minded have ave. IQ of 95 while Liberal-left people score 106.
    Low IQs can't diifferentiate, eg. young teen nudes from real child porn.
    Or, can't let kids see nudity, but bombing schools OK. (abroad)
    Or, just blame all porn for everything. Gets votes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 818.

    First point: Boo to internet censorship.
    Second point: This may be paranoia right now, but I am concerned that sites containing user generated/shared content like Reddit or 4chan may be blocked.
    Third point: I don't want to have to [paranoid] add my name to a list held by my ISP (even if the information isn't shared) alongside fellow internet users who people will undoubtedly brand as perverts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 817.

    The problem here is that it creates a list of people who do opt-in (and there will be a list), and due to the contentious nature of the list, how could it affect the people on it? What if that list gets out? Effect on job interviews/looking for a house etc. It creates a defacto morality state. It attaches stigma for doing something that is perfectly legal.

  • rate this

    Comment number 816.

    For goodness sake! Young children should not be left on the internet unsupervised, it is the job of the parent to look after their child, not the government. This is the nanny state. And if it's so easy to turn off, then who do you think is going to be stopped by it? If parents aren't taking care of this by themselves, then that doesn't mean the government should attack the freedom of others

  • rate this

    Comment number 815.

    Oh, no need for proxies or Tor, by the way.

    Opera Browser + Turbo Mode enabled = Block bypassed.


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