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 1894.

    this is censorship pure and simple, and the thin edge of the wedge. there are a vast number of programs and steps that parents can take to 'protect' children, including most importantly talking and educating them. successive governments have monitored what we read, type & look at, we are loosing our civil liberties & rights! where will it end? & why aren't we on the streets shouting NO ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1893.

    I think there more to this that Mr Cameron's is saying!
    i can see that this is going to be another way to scam the public to pay to unblock porn if they wish to view

  • rate this

    Comment number 1892.

    I just switched-on our ISP filter to test it.

    It took 20 seconds to access any site that I wished to access.

    Useless idea, Cameron.

    Absolutely useless.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1891.

    This is very ill thought out; it's far too short a distance from blocking porn to blocking "inappropriate content", which is a definition you'll never find consensus on.

    The question of "how we protect children and their innocence" has to be the responsibility of parents. We should equip parents to deal with these issues, not take charge for them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1890.

    And so the digital dictatorship begins. Freedom of expression being removed piece by piece, slowly enough so nobody will notice...

    The real world has dangers on the street, that if you go looking for them you can uncover - But people on the whole don't, but the freedom is there to do so. We wouldn't accept army on the streets guiding us where we are "allowed" to go - do not accept this!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1889.

    Lazy parents win again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1888.

    there is no freedom in this country anymore, and this is just another step towards the ever predictable war of freedom. you cant take the rights away from millions of users. if you are a parent and don't want your child looking at internet porn sites learn how to block them yourself without having to rely on your ISP taking away the rights to millions of users!.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1887.

    Excellent news. It's one small step towards ridding society of the evil of pornography.

    Sex should be for the bedroom, not for magazines and computer screens.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1886.

    "I want to talk about the internet, the impact it is having on the innocence of our children,how online pornography is corroding childhood'".Surely by using the whole think of the children excuse and 'corroding childhood' this is just a pathetic way to add concern to the topic.The amount of parents who are targeted by the choice of words used makes it personal. Should be all up the the individual

  • rate this

    Comment number 1885.

    As a "tech internet savvy", I find this weak ''universal blanket protection'' a poor solution to a massive problem. Target those that create, distribute and buy - concentrate the funds and use them effectively. Parents, be educated on the internet, your ignorance is no excuse for your children's ability to access pornography at an inappropriate age.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1884.

    I welcome this. I can put every block imaginable on the computer in my own home to prevent my children accessing pornography, but I cannot control what every child at their school sees, shares and talks about in the playground. Of course, ideally every parent would prevent their child from accessing porn. They don't, and even with the best intentions, sometimes can't.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1883.

    looks like its back to the bra section of the clothes magazines then ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 1882.

    Irrespective of the motive behind, one should appreciate the Prime Minister's leadership on this, in my view.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1881.

    So to opt in and receive pornography, how much will need to be paid for this service? Just another way of the government taking away something that was free and taxing, as per usual they muck up the country and to cash over the cracks, find some way of generating extra income.
    Also admits that the parenting in this country is the worst in the world as our parents cant be trusted.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1880.

    While I agree that pictures of abuse should definitely be blocked within the UK, I don't believe that our government should, nor have the right, to be blocking an entire genre/section of the internet. The internet is the last place that is truly free from political influence, where everyone can share their opinions regardless of what they are, and I personally would love for it to remain that way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1879.

    @ 1746. British Resident
    Adblock plus works pretty well, someone needs to make a Cameron Block so I can filter out all of his inane bile and ridiculous pandering

  • rate this

    Comment number 1878.

    "Can have my porn back now?"
    "Yes sir, all done"
    The internet feels safer already.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1877.

    Thank you Mr. David Cameron! Well done and well said!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1876.

    Excellent news - Internet Service Providers (IPs) do have a 'Moral Duty' to protect their customers from all disturbing images. Having the choice to receive pornographic images or not from your ISP is our right. If its annouced it will be a massive step in the right direction.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1875.

    I can't believe these censorship fanatics sometimes.

    Children have witnessed sex and violence since the beginning of time. I don't understand what they expect to change by hiding them from it now.


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