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 1174.

    Of course many many people do not want porn on their computers, but I don't feel that that is the real issue... my problem / question is, WHO DEFINES THESE FILTERS AND ON WHAT TERMS??

  • rate this

    Comment number 1173.

    Square peg, round hole.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1172.

    The internet is the biggest threat to elite power structures ever created...the powers that be will do anything they can to rein it in....controlling web content is all they care about here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1171.

    Pathetic, pandering to the Daily Mail/Reality TV/EDL mindset type people. Monitor, filter your home internet if you don't want the kids to see this stuff (normal porn, not child porn which is totally wrong). Oh, and for all the idiots out there, don't buy or allow your under 18 year old child to have a smarthpone - in fact, smartphones should be banned for under 18's for their safety too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1170.

    Every time measures like these are introduced, I can't help feeling more and more like I'm living in China.

    Without going into the moral implications of censoring the internet, people will find ways to get around this block. Besides, paedophiles existed and sexual attacks on children happened before the internet; has anybody definitively proved that watching porn increases the number of attacks?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1169.

    Of course if the likes of Google paid their fair share of taxes the money could be used to invest in more policing' of the internet to catch the real sex-criminals who prey on children. As a guy on the BBC news recently stated; most of the really serious porn is obtained via the 'dark' web (P2P), which the likes Google will not be able to stop. Another grab by the Govt. to control our lives.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1168.

    Online pornography depicting simulated rape will be illegal. That is just ridiculas. If two consenting ACTORS do this how how can this be illegal.

    Are they going to make holywood movies with rape scenes illegal in the UK as well?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1167.

    Am I alone in finding it rather ironic that this all comes from a government that is constantly banging on about leaving individuals and families to make their own life choices rather than subjecting them to the over-weaning attention of the ‘nanny state’? Apparently this freedom only extends to those areas where David Cameron believes that people can be trusted to do as he wishes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1166.
    'I see all the left-handed surfers are getting good ratings today. No change there then.'
    I'm a right-handed surfer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1165.

    Politics 1.01
    How to control the populace.
    Fear, threats and suggestion.

    Porn is corruption and we should be terrified.

    We will fine the ISP;s ( someone tell Cameron how the Web works) Shut down this, shut down that, censor this, censor that.

    Suggestion, or reality, we know what's in your home, where you are, what you buy and what you view.

    The Virtual Panopticon is almost complete.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1164.

    What has happened to our liberalist dream first the bailing out of the banks now this !!

  • Comment number 1163.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 1162.

    This wont stop curious teens and kids from accessing porn. It may make it slightly harder but back before the days of the internet, VHS tapes were routinely passed around by classmates. The same material will be duly passed around even after this ban is in place and it will solve nothing. Just the politicians being seen to be doing something is all this is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1161.

    So once again, we adults have our lives restricted because parents are incapable of taking responsibility for their children.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1160.

    It's the weird 'quasi-normal' Daily Mail nuts and MP's that end up being sex pests anyway, it smacks of hypocrisy...

  • rate this

    Comment number 1159.

    A far better solution would be to simply keep children off the internet. They don't really need to copy and paste their homework from Wikipedia, it would reduce the chances of their being "groomed" and the rest of us can have an internet that isn't full of text speech, you and are would return to being 3 letter words and we wouldn't have to face constant insults everywhere we turn. It's win-win.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1158.

    all the people down voting certain posts, would you be this vociferous in public? I doubt it

  • rate this

    Comment number 1157.

    I disagree greatly with this, because porn for some teenagers is a discreet way of letting out stress, and no teenager wants to tell there mum or dad about how they'd like to have porn on their internet browser?
    and most likely this will cause more people to have sex as they do not have anything to Masturbate over therefore leaving them rather stressed and sexually frustrated. So don't ban porn.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1156.

    I for one firmly believe this is a good strategy as it reduces child pornography but i firmly believe they will find other ways of getting it around it as technology continues to develop

  • rate this

    Comment number 1155.

    I guess no-one seems to care that this is someone (someone who left his own daughter in a pub and is trying to lecture us about parenting) trying to tell people what they can and can't do?
    Also, it's not just porn if it's a "family-friendly" filter. I'm 18 and live at home, and what if I want to watch videos from an 18+ game? I'll have to have a discussion with my mum about unblocking "porn"


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