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 1014.

    I think I saw a movie about this type of news...ohh, what was it, Something Report...? Majority Report? I forget.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1013.

    Violence is fine of course, as it is the staple diet of big budget corporate Hollywood.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1012.

    This is the thin end of several wedges. It won't stop ordinary people viewing porn which is a largely harmless pleasure for millions but it will drive violent / underage porn underground where the people who really want to see it will find networks that provide it.

    Anyone who hacks into your computer on behalf of HMG can now say they were just checking ... as if that makes it okay! It isn't!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1011.

    Minimum pricing per alcohol unit: Not enacted despite the number of people killed or damaged by alcohol each year.

    Plain tobacco packaging: Not enacted despite the massive cost to the NHS

    Restrictions on pornography depicting acts between consenting adults: Acceptable due to moral duty

    Mr Cameron is a Victorian era PM in the internet age.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1010.

    Oh the nanny state.... Why don't you look up the etymology of the word 'porn' (if you're talking of getting to root causes) and find out the true source. I'll give you a clue: it's related to 'pernanai' meaning 'to sell'....

  • rate this

    Comment number 1009.

    Of course with their superior computing skills and ability to circumvent these filters, soon kids will be the only ones actually able to see porn on the Internet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1008.

    Good luck having this implemented! The Internet Service Providers would have a better chance of herding cats.
    What happens if little Johnny gets to see some naughty pictures? Lawsuits for everyone!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1007.

    I'm all for this. From my experience, most parents aren't responsible enough to implement age restrictions for their children. As long as they're fed and have the latest gadgets they're happy.

    Anyone who wants to view the stuff, can opt in. What's the big deal with that?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1006.

    typical political action. insufficient intelect posesses by the insitagator, to realise that sex is required to have children, so some parents will not block the porn, because they want to view it, which will mean that their children will still see it.

    it's actually simply a move to reduce the number of people they have to snoop on in case they access something "illegal"

  • rate this

    Comment number 1005.

    881. Jane
    But unfortunately the children DO need protecting, from themselves as well as the nasty people.
    If you think that your kids are not smart enough to turn off the filters as quick as you turn them on, or worse bypass them and go underground, you are sadly mistaken. Parental responsibility, legal clarification, and assertive action against those who break the (clarified) laws. Only way

  • rate this

    Comment number 1004.

    Liberal-left leaning people have a higher IQ (106 ave.) than conservatives (95) 11 point difference.
    Mainland Europe has much higher social mobility than UK or USA, so intelligent people get promoted and listened to
    One reason they're more relaxed about sex, nudity and censorship.
    Here, Cameron can call on his dumbed down right wing press audience.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1003.

    Good news for every teenage girl whose boyfriend has been mean to her because she's not into doing the nasty stuff he sees on the Internet. Hopefully today's kids won't have to deal with that. Britains parents can't bring their boys up right, so I'm glad the Tories are doing it for them. Every girl I know has had to deal with a nasty situation because of porn, hope it stops now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1002.

    Today pornography, tomorrow saying bad (but true) things about the Government.

  • Comment number 1001.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 1000.

    Wait a sec - isn't this a Tory PM? I thought it was just Labour who interfered like this? This is meddling and censorship - what's next? It's a slippery slope....

  • rate this

    Comment number 999.

    I do not need this morally corrupt Government telling me what I can view.. This is just the start of censorship, what next, removing articles that criticize Cameron and his cronies. I am sure that many computer savvy under 18s will be able to find ways around this, just another gimmick trying to fill the void of real policies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 998.

    @881 Jane
    "the children DO need protecting, from themselves as well as the nasty people." By the nanny state doing it for them, parents won't learn to take responsibility. Cameron cut benefits, now cut that interference on what kids should have in their lunch box or watch on TV or internet. Educate, provide the gadgets, but don't control my internet access in a no-children's household.

  • rate this

    Comment number 997.

    Obviously, censorship already doesn't stop at porn.

    Just look at the government and media blackout on the murder of Colin Greenaway by a muslim in Thamesmead. You might find it on a few local newspapers or blogs, but seems all the big media on TV and news, including the BBC somehow conveniently missed it.

    Wonder why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 996.

    They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety. - Benjamin Franklin.

  • rate this

    Comment number 995.

    With any luck, the government's attempts to keep the list of blocked sites secret will fail.

    Thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster for whistleblowers!


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