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"

Related Stories

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.


More on This Story

Related Stories


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 1354.

    The fear the everybody is a murderer/sexual predator or about to become one is the reason that a generation have no photos of their children in school plays, sportsdays, swimming, ice skating, playing in the park etc. As for recent offenders having pornographic images, I would guess that a very small minority who view porn are or will become offenders, but is porn the cause? Get a grip.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1353.

    The only thing that could come close to making this law acceptable would be an amendment guaranteeing the right to lie about your filtering choices ... including in a court of law while under oath.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1352.

    Child abuse is already illegal as it real rape (not acted). I doubt anyone would object to checks to catch the perpotrators of that. The problem is, this is the thin edge of the wedge. How long till there's no option to override the filters? What's next to be censored?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1351.

    It should be a simple opt-out system not opt-in. This will then make the process alot easier to implement for the government and ISP's and also make it so there isn't a vast list of 'porn watchers' on record. As although its legal(currently) to watch it if you are over 18 the idea of being listed for it is wrong...

  • rate this

    Comment number 1350.

    History tells us that restricting supply is a fool proof way of resolving a problem, you know like with the alcohol prohibition in the USA in the 1920's, nothing bad came of that right? And, of course, we all know how effective global narcotic prohibition has been. Block the porn and kids definitely won't start searching the deep web where all the truly unsavoury content resides.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1349.

    190. Roy5051-"Well done Cameron. There has to be control - every publication in paper form has some controls".-Yeah those controls worked a treat when the Murdoch empire was caught hacking a dead girls phone, and im sure Mr Cameron would like to explain why he is so against controling a press the way he is trying to control the Internet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1348.

    Another brick in what will be The Great British Firewall...

  • rate this

    Comment number 1347.

    This will leave people that opt in for porn, on a "pervert list". Great. The internet is not there to baby sit your child, be a god damn parent, and do some god damn parenting. This is ridiculous. Filters are imperfect, so sex health sites will probably also be blocked, as will any site with the slightest bit of erotica. Glad I don't live in China...

  • rate this

    Comment number 1346.

    Another poorly thought out piece of legislation relating to technology.
    Much like the Cookie laws from the EU (you know the one - insisting a site tells you it uses cookies?), this will be impossible to satisfactorily implement.

    So ignoring the rights/wrongs of blocking content, I don't think it is actually possible in a real world situation.

    Money/time wasted on poorly thought out tech law.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1345.

    The government is turning our once great country into a complete nanny State which seems to be heading towards a dictatorship instead of a democracy, by which I mean we are being told we cannot smoke, cannot view pornography, we must drive slower, we must do this we must do that.

    what ever happened to people making there own choices in life, as long as they do so legally

  • rate this

    Comment number 1344.

    There's a rape scene in Girl with the Dragon Tattoo... is that going to be banned from shops now? :P

  • rate this

    Comment number 1343.

    From the article: 'the prime minister will warn that access to online pornography is "corroding childhood"'

    How about kiss and tell in the rags?

    Over-sexualisation in advertising?

    The silly mind games played on big brother contestants? (they seem to keep one paper full of "news")

    Then there's the fashion industry!

    Lets just curb private freedoms...!

    This is not needed! more will come!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1342.

    1273. Ppuj

    You need to re read the comments. No one here has defended anyones right to view child porn at all, i've no idea where you have got that idea from. Most ISP and search engines ALREADY blocked child pornography and i would say that no one here thinks that isnt a good thong....thing, sorry fruedian slip there!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1341.

    @1273...Ppuj...noone is against blocking child pornography. But I can do that myself...I don't need people like you and Dave doing it for me. Get a grip on reality, Sunshine!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1340.

    When the hardware and software fail to stop the liveware from doing what it's naturally programmed to do, there's always mass medication.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1339.

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


    ...or Clitheroe.

    .... Or Penistone
    ..... Cockermouth

    and.................. canal Street.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1338.

    The last time I checked, there are things in this world called 'parents' and it is their responsibility to guide and teach their children difference between right and wrong, fair and unfair, fantasy and reality.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1337.
    "What's the matter with you all, don't you like admitting to your ISP's that you masturbate in front of your computer."

    I always leave my laptop camera on, just to amuse them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1336.

    This is absolutely absurd, it's bad enough experiencing it on a mobile device when trying to access anything even slightly not PG rated. No I do not want to phone up my ISP and request the ability to view porn, if anything it should be opt in not opt out. Whatever happened to net neutrality, responsible parenting and personal freedom? Also I could get around this and so could children

  • rate this

    Comment number 1335.

    @1156.nursingunicorn123 "I for one firmly believe this is a good strategy as it reduces child pornography"

    It reduces nothing, the content will still be there, behind the "curtain".


Page 28 of 95


More Politics stories



Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.