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 1454.

    Oh the irony.Tories do nothing about morally corrupting cheap alcohol, tax avoidance/evasion by their sponsors in business + cigarette packaging.Might this be because many Tory MPs have directoships/act as consultants for these parties? Internet management is perceived as a no lose tactic. Wonder how many Tory MPs condemn porn publicly but privately use porn and wouln't be prepared to opt in ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1453.

    Y'know the irony of this? I just checked the Daily Mail web site, and the comments section for their article on this story is more vehemently anti than this BBC News page..!!

    Okay, you'd naturally expect a few opponents to gravitate towards the DM forums, but the comments are so heavily against that I'm tempted to assume even DM regulars don't like the idea of state enforced filters.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1452.

    We shouldnt hide our children away from the sick side of society we should teach them about it. Any child has the potential to bring about positive change to society. An unprepared child will only become an unprepared young adult who will be curious enough to search out what they have been told is forbidden with no guidance from any1. Humans are curious creatures it in our nature.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1451.

    Mother Superior Cameron, will you now stop allowing MP’s to claim the cost of hiring a porn DVD by MP’s & their husbands as a legitimate Parliamentary expenses claim ?

    One of the revelations in the expenses scandal, along with the duck house etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1450.

    ##Mr Cameron will say that possession of online pornography depicting rape will be made illegal.##

    Better tell every art gallery then! The rape of Europa, a common subject and many other classical depictions. There is nothing wrong in depicting things that happen even if they are bad things, nor watching them. Many BBC detective dramas depict it. Selection and definition is impossible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1449.

    The answer could be very simple: block access to violence and obscenity before 9pm. The internet porn industry, however, doesn't have the clout of TV broadcasters. The Wireless Telegraphy Acts prohibit private (Amateur) and business users from transmitting obscenity under penalty of fines and equipment siezure. Doesn't apply to TV broadcasters who transmit excrement into most households every day.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1448.

    1369. Sally the contrarian

    I have a friend is one of the top psychologists in the UK, outside of London. He works for The Priory. I learn a lot from him.

    If you watch murder, rape, indeed any act, you will to some extent become habituated. The more 'real' the seen the more habituated you will become. People in Syria think nothing of a beheading anymore, they are habituated.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1447.

    I think we need a referendum on this one.
    The overwhelming majority would agree with Mr. Cameron.
    case closed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1446.

    This is a shockingly foolish proposal. Smart kids will EASILY find their way around these 'blocks', meaning all this achieves is making parents dangerously complacent about letting their kids online unmonitored. As this becomes evident I would not be surprised this isn't used as an excuse to make the filtering smarter and smarter, until it can be used to (actually effectively) block other material

  • rate this

    Comment number 1445.

    This is a job for parents, not government. And what are they going to ban next?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1444.

    I see that the dirty mac brigade are out in force, complaining about what? The arduous task of having to opt-in to see porn on their computers, even as they berate others for supposedly being computer illiterate?
    Where is this fantastic internet of which they write? The internet I use is partly full of lies and falsehoods, just as part of life itself is, so just when did it become trustworthy?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1443.

    Clueless politicians who won't listen to experts and the ISP's who tell them this will be waste of time, so easy to find a way around any filtering put in place and most kids will probably figure it out more quickly than their parents. Daily Mail readers as usual forcing Govt to knee jerk reactions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1442.

    Who needs the Taliban, we have Cameron.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1441.

    Arms sales - good. Tobacco advertising - good. Cheap booze - good.
    Death by drone - good. Privatisation of the NHS - good.

    The internet - bad.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1440.

    If this is forced on us (which I doubt, like so many other initiatives coming from the Downing Street kitchen table) I guess the up side is that the Daily Mail might find itself blocked due to its sidebar of shame, with paparazzi photos of teenage girls "looking all grown up".

  • rate this

    Comment number 1439.

    Try quorn as a substitute.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1438.

    I work in network security. I know the types of filters they are talking about. They are horribly floored and produce a massive amount of falls positives that need constant updating. Large amount of my work is whitelisting sites that have been incorrectly categorised

    I am afraid to say this represents a shocking lack of understanding about the technology required by the government

  • rate this

    Comment number 1437.

    I guess we don't get to opt out of the ludicrous, overarching, unparliamentary and likely illegal 'surveillance' that sees GCHQ collect and potentially peruse every aspect of our online behaviour without a warrant. This filter is a smokescreen for that other, immensely illiberal, depraved and perverted project: China and Singapore lead the way for our spineless politicians and our dying democracy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1436.

    there was a news story not that long ago where a lifelong Lego enthusiast was refused entry to Legoland because he was a man unaccompanied by a child for the 'safety of children'. this is a ridiculous situation where every man is a paedophile or rapist that basically hasn't been caught yet. not everything equasl or leads to pedophilia or child porn - we've become the brasseye parody

  • rate this

    Comment number 1435.

    'As a father'...

    Cameron's usage of such a term is utterly shallow - adults with families vote for their own interests, yet those without are expected to vote altruistically for the benefit of society. Much abuse and paedophilic material is produced within families. This is like saying the government will prevent wet weather by building a giant clear dome over the country.


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