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 1694.

    1269. newsman face wrote: My concern is that others will know that I have opted in.


    Thank you for being honest.

    I suspect most who are ranting on and on about censorship are really only worried about others knowing they have opted in.

    If people want to view porn, then they should take responsibility for choosing, not expect others to opt out just so they can hide their choice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1693.

    Let's have a little candour and truth on this forum. Since most posters disagree with this intiative...would one of the critics explain why they think child sex abuse (which is of course a crime) should be distributed on the web and exactly what the loss of freedom would be if it was banned altogether? The "thin end of the wedge" arguments are pretty weak.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1692.

    Its about time someone is doing something about it. Better late than never. Its a shame people complain about such a constructive act. However there are millions of people that are no doubt pleased that Cameron has taken a stand to improve society in this way. Cant understand why people need to view other people/strangers in such a way they do not know or what they get out of it. Clean up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1691.

    Presumably Richard Desmond and others will be able to keep their porn TV channels on satellite TV?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1690.

    this wont stop child pornography it will only drive it more underground if these people want to they can still share it between themselves it the clamping down on the people who make this disgusting vile trading between pedophiles they are going after the wrong people

  • rate this

    Comment number 1689.

    So are Reddit and Tumblr getting blocked? if not children are still going to have very easy access to porn without proxies and easy ways of uploading indecent images of themselves (as that is all these two sites seem to be for is camwhores).

  • rate this

    Comment number 1688.

    Damnation, no extreme pornography in Britain anymore? No torture porn? No Bestiality? Crikey, next nanny will be telling us that we can't watch captives being beheaded live - or recorded executions or getting instructions on how to cook crystal meth from over the counter cold remedies. However, the old fashioned porn industry should be delighted - it's been decimated by redistribution/amateurs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1687.

    Here's a sick joke, Cameron's law means:

    You're allowed to simulate rape, that's fine. In fact, your child can even sit in the room, watch it, clap you on and throw you each a towel at 1/2 time.

    But, if you choose to do it privately and film it, or watch other adults who filmed themselves and made it available online, sensibly without your child in the room, only then are you breaking the law.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1686.

    @1649 Paul

    Can we please make an extra, small 'safe' internet for children, the easily shocked and idiot lazy parents, before they bring destroy democracy with their demands that everything be blocked filtered for everyone?
    This is already easily achieved using 'Positive' filters rather than 'Negative' ones, i.e. kids can only access sites you approved first.

    Most parents are too lazy though!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1685.

    All very noble and laudible: but I expect subtle resistance from the ISPs (as this will be expensive for them to implement) and the complexity of the legal/ policy changes needed to police it will stop it ever getting off the ground.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1684.

    Woman found dead in suitcase:

    What next Dave - a ban on all online luggage sales? "Samsonite" to be added to the list of prohibited words?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1683.

    Well done Cameron. Thank goodness someone has the balls to do this!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1682.

    Am I the only one who couldn't care less about porn? I just don't want this absurd filter getting in the way of my internet use!

    I remember when I was in college, I'd have to go down to IT for a chat almost every day to access something the automated filter didn't approve of (they never lived down the times the Wikipedia articles on feminism and democracy were blocked). Thankfully uni was better.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1681.

    Where does Lynton Crosby fit in to this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1680.

    The whole thing is idiocy (technical) dressed up as a 'think of the children' issue and so won't attract criticism. Unfortunately for DC, the world is more tech savvy than him, and can see the futility of the proposal in curbing serious abuse, whilst raising many questions about censorship and freedom of expression. The EP law has proven that the CPS cannot be trusted with the role of censor.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1679.

    "Cameron to unveil online porn curb"

    Alas my poor old eyes: glancing across at the monitor on my side machine I misread that as

    "Cameron to unveil online porn club"

    and thought "well: there's a thing, now fancy that!"

  • rate this

    Comment number 1678.

    Amazing, how Cameron doesn't wish to revoke these two pieces of censorship legislation.

    Straw passed a bill that prevents Children Still in the care system from publicly speaking abuse.

    Secret Family courts, so if an injustice is done (and there has been many), again no public redress.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1677.

    In Dubai, its not allowed to hold hands in public, even with your wife,
    We in the west would think how dare other people, inflict their views on other people. Yet, here we are at the thin edge of the wedge, about to pass rules on what other people can legally do. Why is it that children can watch violence everywhere, but sex (Oh no not sex - thank you religious leaders for that) is taboo.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1676.

    This is a load of rubbish. The internet is meant to be lawless because parents are meant to restrict this. Cameron will not be able to block anybody that is serious about getting their hands on anything that is in the web.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1675.

    Heavens what a fuss. This just filters automatically for a new customer. You can remove the filter immediately if you wish.

    A child can tap in an innocent search (try doll) and get back some filthy sites. Not a safe environment. Many parents do not know how to set up a computer they have just purchased so how do you expect them to be able to set up filters. Start filtered, remove as you wish.


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