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 1714.

    1693. newageoracle
    would one of the critics explain why they think child sex abuse (which is of course a crime) should be distributed on the web
    You've answered the question yourself. Its already a serious crime & Operation Ore does a great job catching users (see Mr Glitter). Dave's plan will just it make it harder to log onto Ann Summers website or

  • rate this

    Comment number 1713.

    @1657 Alan Moderated
    "If people cannot use net blocker software, then they should not be let near a computer"

    This sounds a lot more like a nanny state than the proposed filter!

    "As for p@rn between paid actors,willingly doing natural acts, so what"

    You seem to be under the impression that all porn professionals are equally happy with their profession and are all equally free to choose another

  • rate this

    Comment number 1712.

    Not allowed to view. Next freedom of speech to be monitored. George Orwell must be laughing his head off.
    The Revolution is comming.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1711.

    And who has given themselves the authority to decide for other people what is and is not suitable? Who has appointed themselves the designated chooser of suitable viewing. Within the law, as a free moral agent I will retain the right to make my own private moral judgements thank you. And Cameron can get his nose out of our lives.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1710.

    Google "porn blocker" or "web filter".

    There is already (free, mind you) software available to protect our children.

    Any parent applauding this news can only be lazy or ignorant.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1709.

    I remember a fuel stabiliser being mentioned pre eletion a lot. I don't remember this being mentioned anywhere.

    Block access to illegal content (child abuse etc), but leave the rest of the UK alone to view what they want.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1708.

    190. Roy5051
    "all sorts of corrupting influences"

    I accidentally watched some gay porn today, and within seconds had turned homosexual. Fortunately, by immediately watching some straight porn, I was able to turn myself back. Phew!

    Seriously, porn only caters to desires that already exist; it doesn't create those desires. Paedos are already paedos; seeing images won't turn a normal man into one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1707.

    Thanks to the technological incompetence of a few whiny parents, and the Daily Mail, we all have to suffer the indignity of asking if we can have Porn.

    If Parents want to censor their childs Internet, any Windows OS that is Vista or newer can do it out of the box. Learn to use a computer if you're going to get one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1706.

    So, we are allowed to look at branded tobacco products – but not at the naked human form.

    Strange old world isn’t it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1705.

    Going to have difficultly explaining this to my landlady!

    Surely most homes don't have children making an opt-in system more efficient.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1704.

    DC continuing the nanny state culture

  • rate this

    Comment number 1703.

    I'm sure Mary Whitehouse would have been proud

  • rate this

    Comment number 1702.

    Is this the USSR???? Disgusting.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1701.

    1586. CTR_Paul

    So what do you propose with your infinite wisdom? Should we allow rape scenes on breakfast serial packets? Parents when food shopping could exercise their discretion not to buy them. If you think that is a stupid idea, please explain to me why it is any different from allowing free porn on the internet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1700.

    The Prime Minister should be calling on Parents and Guardians to be more vigilant and responsible and acctually monitor what sites children are accessing. This seems like a back door law to give the Government powers over peoples rite to choose, and is away to not appear to be bowing to presure from the media industry to stop illegal download sites.
    I wonder what sort of back hander he's getting

  • rate this

    Comment number 1699.

    So many people looking down their noses at the people who want to access porn are missing the point - this is about taking away the freedom of choice, and there are plenty of laws in the land to convict pedophiles already.

    This just allows yet more things to be censored down the line - foreign news sites, religious sites etc etc. It's a slippery slope, and we are sliding down it very quickly

  • rate this

    Comment number 1698.

    From the article: "He will also call for warning pages to pop up with helpline numbers when people try to search for illegal content"

    How exactly is that going to work? "It looks like you've committed a crime, please call us on 0845 ... ... and arrange to be arrested at your earliest inconvenience".

  • rate this

    Comment number 1697.

    People seem in denial about how bad the situation is. These measures are reasonable, proportionate and necessary. Well done coalition.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1696.

    David "Education is a Privilege not a Right" Cameron. He's just too bloody Conservative.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1695.

    This is a stupid idea. Their idea I bet is that most families will leave the filter on, leaving a smaller number of internet users who have elected to have it off, giving them a smaller number of people to monitor for illegal porn. It will drive criminals deeper into the hidden internet - TOR and VPNs will allow people to have the filter on and still bypass it. It's a flawed plan.


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