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 1194.

    This will be an interesting conversation to be had in all young professional house shares, either with friends or total strangers when you or someone else moves in.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1193.

    The timing of this announcement and the duchess going into labour is not a coincidence. A great time to announce some unpopular news.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1192.

    At least it makes a change from them shouting "TERRORISM!" to justify their snooping on me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1191.

    If two adults consent to a fake rape scene and film it, and another chooses to watch it, that harms no one.

    I was exposed to depictions of rape as a child when reading the bible. My parents taught me early on that rape, or porn, is not making love.

    You're against porn, but you're against controlling your neighbours, and your pro-parental responsibility. Your kids are lucky.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1190.

    1074. Wolfman
    One has to wonder why this issue has been pushed up the political agenda when there are far more pressing matters to be dealt with.
    DC seems to be having his strings pulled, but by whom?
    Last week they couldn’t even agree on ciggie advertising laws to protect children?
    ...& we thought the last lot were bad with their Nanny State.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1189.

    The time for the internet to be fully regulated has arrived. It has now been taken over by perverts, terrorists, fraudsters, tricksters, and greedy corporations for their own good.

    What started out as a wonderful free tool for all has turned very nasty indeed. Tim Berners-Lee must be spinning in his grave

  • Comment number 1188.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 1187.

    It makes me laugh to see the reaction of these so many porno users who are going to have their lives restricted by this. So many users, who are addicted to porn because they cant even give it up for the likes of April,all i see is excuses,excuses,excuses

  • rate this

    Comment number 1186.

    Yet another erosion of our liberties to choose how we live our lives and another opt-out for bad parenting and lack of discipline in raising children in the modern society. Well done.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1185.

    @1087: "Porn filters? If you live in Scunthorpe you're in trouble - you'll never see your town on-line again :)"


    ...or Clitheroe.

  • Comment number 1184.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 1183.

    1141. colinwe

    Thanks Colin for the advice but I guess by your response you don't have your own kids and/or you live in a little bubble. My daughter has seen hardcore porn via another child's Blackberry during a school trip. I myself am extremely responsible, unfortunately others aren't. Children do not view porn like adults, there is no reference as to what is a reasonable sexual relationship.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1182.

    I really really really hope that the daily mail's online stories about 'leggy' 13 year old girls 'showing off their figures' get caught by this filter but somehow I doubt it.
    That kind of article/commentary is far more dangerous than 2 consenting adults having a good time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1181.

    Dont worry Cameron will drop this policy once the Kleenex lobbyists have a word with him....

  • rate this

    Comment number 1180.

    Glad to see the majority of people here are displaying common sense and have a clear idea of what this is REALLY about (welcome to Big Brother UK 2013). Perhaps those in favour of this proposal should have a mass debate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1179.

    If you own Good Morning Vietnam, you'll need to destroy that, too. (Naked kids playing in water at the start of the movie.)

    American Beauty. (Thora Birch was 17 when she exposed her breasts in that movie.)

    And Alien 3. (Newt's nipples [on the 3D model] are briefly visible during the autopsy, and Newt was 12.)

  • rate this

    Comment number 1178.

    Google etc alread block any and all illegal meterial when they find it. Anything further is overkill. What is being done is introducing overly draconian, technologically inept measures that treat adults like children, and legislating to replace abdicted parental responsibility to pander to the tabloid headline "think of the children" curtain-twitchers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1177.

    The debate is over what impressionable young minds are allowed to see. Children should be nurtured properly so that they become mature, responsible citizens. The wrong input can easily damage their whole perspectives to life. Education and upbringing play key roles in shaping young minds. Healthy attitudes toward sex are so very important with parents, teachers, media as exemplary role models.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1176.

    I think this is a good move by Cameron....Whilst there are always ways around all this, by making it more difficult will at least deter casual viewers. Porn on the net is undoubtedly a bane on society and has corrupted our youth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1175.

    @ 1145. Little_Old_Me

    Out of interest have you ever explored how sexual repression manifests?

    Often it starts out as ranting, repetitive, morally indignant, sermon-esque, judgemental posts on web sites and the needless use of CAPITAL LETTERS - the internet equivalent of fingers-in-the-ears shouting.


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