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 1214.

    As always with any digital/internet related government initiative, this proposal for "filters" is very vague. How does it intend to stop people accessing adult material through sites that wouldn't technically fall into the pornography category? Will Tumblr be blocked for example? How about Twitter even? Both fairly innocent looking social media platforms but both also filled with adult content.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1213.

    "This is, quite simply, about how we protect our children and their innocence."

    Wow, is it really? Why not educate children instead of treating them like idiots and dancing around the issue? It's also extremely unjust to categorise standard pornography alongside abusive material. This will alienate an enormous number of adults that have done absolutely nothing wrong.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1212.

    As soon as you make any form of entertainment/art illegal e.g. music, painting, movies or even porn, you become one step closer to a dictatorship, there is less physical and financial harm in pornography than there is financial and physical harm in the breadline families that the Tories leave in the dust so they can line their own pockets.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1211.

    I doubt online porn is a corrosive to childhood as the actions of Michael Gove.

    Parents need to manage their children's online experience, the governement does not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1210.

    What worries me most is this the thin edge of the wedge, with some future government banning more and more of what I can access.

    Plus most child porn is not got by normal website and search engines, but in VPNs

  • rate this

    Comment number 1209.

    IF there's one thing the efforts to block TPB showed, it's that trying to control traffic into the UK fails. Sorry but this ain't gonna stop people who want child (or rape) porn. They've been good enough at avoiding detection so far with the police supposedly on their trail, what's really going to change? This is nothing more than an unenforceable manoeuvre for public face.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1208.

    Ah! Perhaps there exists some embarrassing footage out there that he has specific reason to want to keep out of sight! No other explanation makes sense.

    Perhaps he could add party political material, as too offensive to be viewed too, like his party manifesto, policies, and this madcap scheme.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1207.

    So you intend to impose a blanket ban to counter child porn? Where's the filter to stop kids from watching beheadings? What a reactionary policy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1206.

    @1144. fingalful

    I so hope you were being satirical.

    Just in case you weren't: unfortunately rape and child abuse were not rare in the good 'ol days of heavy censorship -- they just went unreported. And those that did get reported, were largely ignored. (Did the Saville scandal teach you nothing..?!?)

  • rate this

    Comment number 1205.

    David Cameron faces fresh questions about his election strategist Lynton Crosby.

    NHS reforms. Plans for plain cigarette packs aborted. Fracking. Online porn.

    We can clearly see who makes the policy decisions in this government and it isn't David Cameron or his cabinet. Censorship must remain an individual choice and not decided by unelected neo-liberal advisors or lobbyists.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1204.

    Welcome to the new China.

    Freedom of the internet, is no longer. Everything is being policed and controlled.

    Blocking porn off the internet is NOT going to get rid of the illegal filth, that is already hidden and underground.
    This is just the starts of a fully controlled internet, like China.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1203.

    Whilst the effects would be seemingly negligible to mature minded adults as a youth leader I get approached all the time by young people that say they are simply 'addicted' to online porn and want to stop because of the damage its doing to their relationships and the way they see people.

    Curbing can only be good thing for those not ready to understand it. Only takes a call to turn off anyway.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1202.

    Honestly this is just ridiculous. In a time of austerity, they force ISP to make these ridiculously long-winded censorship schemes just to do a job parents are supposed to be doing anyway? This is just going to cost ISP more, and force broadband prices up, have the any idea how ridiculously ambitious a task it is to block all porn from the internet?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1201.

    One wonders what will happen when volatile people with poor social skills loose access to the quick satisfaction of pornography and are left with unquenched fantasy...

    I think a certain crime statistic is about to spike sharply...

    Anyone considered that such a block might actually increase sexual violence? Dave? Did the 8 year olds you consulted for the technical details here bring that up?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1200.

    Actually most of the Pornographers are American, so this is a blow against the Americanisation of Britain !
    Lets ban the Simpsons too, from day time telly as dey are corrupting da yuff whilst hanging in da crib yaall.
    Legalise prostitution that would help reduce the abuse of women streetworkers!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1199.


    Unfortunately what you see is activist bias. Yes, people -are- waking up, but they make disproportionate amount of noise. Most people still trust the system or are naive enough to believe it's working for their benefit - they think they're 'part of the winning team'. The biggest majority are just ignorant and don't care provided that big brother gives them food + facebook.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1198.

    Jimmy Saville should have been kept well clear of the internet, back in the day.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1197.

    There is a difference between rape porn and pornography. The first is violent, the second is erotica. Why these are mixed, it is beyond me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1196.

    @shirliewatson 1103 "so many porno lovers on here. yes its you we are stopping as your view of women is appalling,...."

    Er, women like sex and porn too! I know many women who love role-play/porn/bondage etc. It's fun and as adults why shouldn't they watch/do what they want? We don't need prudes telling us what we can and cannot do! Wake up and get a life!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1195.

    The other day I saw a BBC news feature with somebody typing "children" into google and clicking images - as though this is how child porn is distributed. I found this over simplification of the issue to be very troubling, child porn is not readily available on google, so why pretend is is? No internet 'filter' will stop abuse of children.


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