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 1154.

    Although I agree with the sentiment, this should be the responibility of parents and as many have pointed out there are already plenty of parental controls on existing computers. Though getting to where we are just demonstrates that so many parents do not take responsibility in many areas of education, behavior and morality of their offspring.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1153.

    Oh good, I trust this will be the end of the "I left little Johnny alone on the net and he drowned in a sea of filth" nonsense coming from the unconcerned-yet-concerned parents.

    But somehow I very very much doubt it.

    Also, doesn't this action therefore create a database of people who opt to have porn - thus making it easier for them to be blackmailed?

    Just a thought.

  • Comment number 1152.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1151.
    'I see all the left-handed surfers are getting good ratings today. No change there then.'
    Might be because society has moved on from the Victorian values that some want to impose on the rest of us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1150.

    "so many porno lovers on here, its you we are stopping as your view of women is appalling,as sex objects." "DO YOU UNDERSTAND"

    One thing I do understand is that my wife watches more porn on the internet than I do.

    Men, the way we are just sex objects is appalling.

    Do You Understand? This is not about looking at naked girlies, it's about individual freedom.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1149.

    so, it turns out people in this country need to look up the definition of 'perversion' ; I'm pretty sure being sexually aroused by, say, men if you're a gay man or women if you're straight man for example is normal and part of being human.
    I've seen a lot of porn on the internet and I really don't think the extreme or illegal type is as prevalent or really available as perceived (hyped)

  • rate this

    Comment number 1148.

    That deals with the Internet. Now Dave will deal with all those ladies dressed immodestly in public.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1147.

    @Factchecker515 sorry, you're talking about opting out of an opt-out scheme as a 'way round' the scheme? It's the whole point!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1146.

    "Thin end of the wedge" doesn't even begin to describe what is being proposed here. Every country which has a filter in place uses it to block far more than porn. The UK would not be an exception to this rule however this disastrous legislation is to be framed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1145.

    No body is proposing a ban on porn - just a default setting that your ISP can override at your request..... claims of big brother/censorship are utterly bogus.....

    ....the ONLY reason I can see anyone objecting to this is because deep down they know their porn habit is a PERVERSION & they are therefore embarrassed to admit it to their ISP.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 1144.

    Intelligence, Susan, has nothing to do with viewing pornography. Highly intellectual people view obscenity which demeans viewers & those pictured in it. Porn viewers are as weak morally as any other addict. Rapists & child abusers are often found in possession of pornography. I'm old enough to recall when we had a public censor & pornography was illegal. Rapes & child abuse was very rare then.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1143.

    200. Krautland
    it'll give him the votes of the Daily Mail clientel... Here one of the DM's headlines:
    Net porn block on EVERY home: Victory for the Mail as PM pledges 'opt in' rule for all web users.

    Next to that a fine selection of headlines and pictures like - Kourtney Kardashian shows her body confidence in a daring low cut swimsuit. She knows how to show of her assets.

    Double standards?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1142.

    Well done, David Cakmeron. It's about time that porn was restricted and that people have to show their hand and "sign in" for it. Why should they be allowed to covertly look for porn ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1141.

    1096. Minerve
    There are many responsible parents out there but unfortunately there are some that aren't and parents cannot always be around to monitor child activity.

    Then if you're not around to monitor their internet use they shouldn't be on it. If you think these filters will stop children accessing porn while you're not there, it shows us what a clueless irresponsible parent you are.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1140.

    @ 1109. phinland

    Spot on.

    I am branded immoral if I want to watch possibly the most natural event ALL humans indulge in (consensual adult sex). Yet if I want to train packs of dogs to chase a sentient being for hours until it is exhausted at which point it gets teared limb from limb - then I am an upstanding country gent.

    Consensual adult sex = bad
    Torturing animals to death = culture


  • rate this

    Comment number 1139.

    What about: page 3 censorship - children can see those images; or govt ministers who quote statistics that are not just wrong but are a complete fabrication; or failing to implement Lord Leveson's recommendations for press control (oh - I forgot, a lot of Dave's friends hang out there including Coulson, Brookes et al). Seems our Dave can be very selective when it comes to banning things.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1138.

    I have just realised, that I will have to destroy my copy of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. She gets raped in that doesn't she?

    Chairman Cameron must be obeyed. I've bought my approved picture of HIM to hang above my fireplace as directed. All must obey now. 1984 is coming, 39 years late.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1137.

    Could he please arrange to block the sycophantic royal baby stories ?


    After all, won't this encourage people to have sex?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1136.

    I quite strongly object, yet again, to censorship being applied to everyone in the country, on the basis of helping "families".

    Those of us without children already pay for schooling, free travel for children, and countless other things - and now our access to the internet will be censored unless we "opt in", which probably means being put on some kind of watchlist.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1135.

    How are people so stupid? This will never work! For one any local ban can be bypassed with a proxy. Secondly if parents want to have this block then why not have them opt in?

    But yes lets just impose restrictions on the internet that can be easily subverted. The Pirate Bay taught most kids how to use proxies.

    DC go learn how the internet works before trying to engage in censorship of it.


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