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 1734.

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

    If DC gets this through the word "balls" will be filtered out and your comment removed by ISPs.

    Can't you see this is the beginning of a very slippery slope?

    (How long before 'slippery' gets filtered?)

  • rate this

    Comment number 1733.

    The comments against this are coming in to fast for me to keep up with... will DC listen to the people? I doubt it.

    But then again he probably suspects he wont win the next election so better sell, sell, sell now while he can.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1732.

    The things that are "corrupting" children’s innocence is not online porn, it is a combination of media and bad schooling set by the last government. For example you can't watch TV or films without seeing violence and sex. The bad schooling is where we subject 7 year olds or younger to over the top sex education when they are far too young. We might as well ban all forms of media and politicians.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1731.

    @1633.spam spam spam spam
    WOW, just WOW.

    This is impossible to implement. For argument sake, let say you could program the ISP gateway to block such sites. You have to KNOW which sites contain porn, you have to create a program in EVERY programming language to block it and you have to TRACK the IP's that access the sites. Then within 24 hours a mirror is set up and you are back to square 1.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1730.

    I'm not saying I agree or disagree with Cameron but what is illegal to read/watch in this country by normal means should also be illegal to read/watch on the web. Maybe we should change WWW to UKW.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1729.

    I'm frankly staggered by people who think this is a bad idea. Internet porn IS a corroding influence on young people. I have spoken with lads about this and they talk about the most awful disgusting, violent, shocking filth as if it were normal. If you are over 18 and want to watch that stuff then fine, but I honestly think younger people DO need protecting. I say well done to Mr Cameron.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1728.

    Good luck with that, Dave. You blocked all the torrent sites and yet everyone can still access them by a number of other means. This will only hinder the most computer illiterate of people. Do the government actually understand how the internet works?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1727.

    The overwhelming majority of internet comments, both here and elsewhere, seem to be against this bill because, naturally, those who habitually use the internet are the most vehemently opposed to it being restricted.

    I just hope the people who complain here have the dedication to write to their MPs, start petitions, or campaign on the street, if need be, to ensure their voice is heard.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1726.

    This will never work.

    Internet content doesn't just have a label saying "I'm Porn!" that can be easily blocked, it has to be found before it can be blocked.

    Is it seriously expected that the governments database will keep up? I foresee a tonne of legit content being blocked unnecessarily, while "problem" content still slips through the cracks. Who decides what is porn anyway?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1725.

    I agree that child porn should be stopped but people will find ways round it. P2P file sharing sites were blocked by the ISP's but within days there were sites available to allow you to access them as if you were outside the UK. So the same will happen when this block is introduced.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1724.

    They were talking this new online porn kerb on the radio -will it be like a virtual red light district for motorists?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1723.

    Today many kids are tuning up at school hungry because they live in household that have been savagely attacked through cuts. Today many kids will not eat a nutritious meal for the same reason. Daily mail, Daily express, David Cameron, Nick Clegg are pornography when it comes to creating child poverty. Yet we have kids being born into extreme wealth. That is obscene.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1722.

    1675. Button

    "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. "

    If you can't do it yourself then, as with most other services, you pay a professional to do it for you

  • rate this

    Comment number 1721.

    @ 1448 Minerve

    The plural of anecdote is not wisdom. If seeing murders caused murderers there would be a lot more murderers than there are as murder is a key feature of TV drama. Like most people I have seen thousands of murders. They've all been faked by skilled actors of course. Look at today's schedule for ITV3 - Murder She Wrote, Poirot, Miss Marple. Haven't gone a killing spree yet though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1720.

    "Sally the contrarian
    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."

    Actually, that's not ok. Any child suspected to have been watching their parents do this would be taken into care. The problem is getting evidence of them doing so.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1719.

    I'm reminded of a quote from Men in Black.

    "No, a person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals and you know it." -K

  • rate this

    Comment number 1718.

    This is just Cameron deflecting the news away from the much more interesting news story about his adviser Crosby

  • rate this

    Comment number 1717.

    "DC: if you are so worried why did you authorise a cut in CEOP budget?
    This is mission creep: first child porn, now all porn (even legal stuff) what next... any criticism of govt?"
    Comment number 20 is an Editors' Pick
    "And given past experience the foolish apathetic British public are very most likely to fall for it, hook, line and sinker!"

    Ain't that the truth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1716.

    Why such a decision without the proper consultations with psychologists? In my opinion, online pornography plays an important role to release many British man’s libido (sex drive), which can in fact cut down the sex crimes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1715.

    This is a back door route to a more widespread form of censorship. While most people would agree with the principle of blocking porn - and this is what the government are relying on - the whole idea makes it easier to establish a precedent for censorship of other things such as websites that may be deemed to have a "terrorist" or a "racist" undertone. Who will be making the decisions?


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