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 1794.

    If they want to do something useful on the net then fine, scrap this useless idea and concentrate on those sketchy child modeling sites that full of very disturbing images and highly sexual and inappropriate poses of children that have no idea what's going on. Sort that out first then move on to censoring regulated/legal porn.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1793.

    "David Cameron faces fresh questions about his election strategist Lynton Crosby after it emerged his lobbying firm advised private health companies at the time of NHS reforms."

    What can I do Lynton - Just release a non starter Dave, preferably something that provokes an emotional response, that'll keep the plebs busy while we get on with the important stuff.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1792.

    This is not about porn. This is about censorship. Murdoch & his mates are worried sick about loosing influence and the ability to manipulate people though their propaganda, hence they are using porn as an excuse to reign in the internet.

    World wars were fought to ensure the freedoms we have today. Don't let this obsession with sex blind us into losing these hard won freedoms

  • rate this

    Comment number 1791.

    How's about a BBC news article illustrating HOW ANNOYED most people are by all this ?

    The BBC could promote their own "Have Your Say" feature... Before the government bans it that is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1790.

    They never had interwebs when I was a lad, that didn't prevent me being exposed to pornography. Mags and videos existed before the internet.

    Yet more interference by the nanny government. Parents should be responsible for policing the internet for their children. I have filters set up in our house to prevent my son having access to things like violence, gambling, porn and even social networks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1789.

    In other news, "Woman takes horse into McDonalds"

    Ironic, as usually after ordering a burger for takeaway, you take horse out of McDonalds......

  • rate this

    Comment number 1788.

    I have to say i dont think porn is the issue.. it is more with the generally acceptable media publications.. newspapers, tv and so on.. where young people are dressing in the most ridiculous ways.. and parents let them! i have seen girls who must be under 16 walking down the city centre in crop tops and hot pants because miley cyrus has done it or whatever.. parents allowing that should be ashamed

  • rate this

    Comment number 1787.

    At least I won't have to see gay porn by accident on Google web searches.

    So...benefits capped and porn access monitored. The young, single, unemployed male is not voting Conservative anytime soon, while the blue rinse brigade are dying out on a daily basis.

    Strategic error Mr Cameron...unless you plan to boost the economy by legalising brothels, and giving the unemployed some vouchers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1786.

    This proposal isn't far removed from a "virtual potential sex offenders register".

  • rate this

    Comment number 1785.

    @1274. waynezilla

    The day they start to censor the internet will be the day that the revolution starts.


    Ha ha ha, don't be soft. If people can't be bothered to click on a box to enable porn on their internet connection I doubt if they can be bothered to get out from behind their anonymous virtual life and do something for real.

    Apathy rules UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1784.

    This is a good thing. Hardcore porn shows a skewed version of sex that has little to do with normal consensual sex in a relationship - but it's the primary source of sex education for many young people who see only what is on the screen with no indication of the enemas, health checks, injury waivers, and industrial quantities of lubricant required before the cameras roll.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1783.

    1750. Unfortunately the media seem to be colluding in this, giving the misinformation that child porn is really easy to find, and paedophiles and child murderers only committed their crimes because they came across child porn by accident on the web.
    They can't blame everything on Commies anymore so we're offered up a menu of terrorists and paedophiles to obsess over, as our rights are removed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1782.

    'I'm frankly staggered by people who think this is a bad idea. Internet porn IS a corroding influence on young people.'
    So are music videos, airbrushing in fashion magazines the clothes that are being sold to young girls that r inapropriate for their age. Shouldn't the goverment to to ban all these things as well. It's the Parents responsibility to monitor the kids internet activity

  • rate this

    Comment number 1781.

    1512. voiceofreason

    "there is no place for rape and child abuse in an enlightened society"

    Nor is there a place for censorship.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1780.

    As there are already built in content filters to all browsers I fail to see how this is going to change anything. most kids can sneak their parents credit card to supply a number in fact I also know 3 under 18's that have their own credit cards (backed by a rich parent). you are pitting policy idea's against the combined hormonal urges of every teenager in the country... good luck

  • rate this

    Comment number 1779.

    "The "thin end of the wedge" arguments are pretty weak."

    History would suggest otherwise...

  • rate this

    Comment number 1778.

    1687.Sally the contrarian

    Your comment is the true sickness. It is vile & purely twisted perverted logic & the fact that it has a couple of positive ratings & not hundreds of minus ratings is evident of the twisted illogical minds that frequent this HYS site, which I have always been suspect is the case.

    Your lack of reasoned common sense logic & so many others on HYS is truely frightening

  • rate this

    Comment number 1777.

    1720.Total Mass Retain
    I disagree. Kids walk in on parents all the time.

    Paedophilia is a crime, as is murder and cannibalism. If you're going to ban images of 1 crime, you must do it for all. So, if you see a Syrian cannibal on YouTube, you're also guilty by this logic.

    Seeing an image of a crime harms no one. Only the parties who committed the crime portrayed are guilty.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1776.

    I think Claire Perry should be knighted for the hard work she's done to protect children from naughty images. Thanks to her, my children will now be able to use the internet unsupervised.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1775.

    Its not about restricting adult material and freedom of what can or cannot be viewed online its simply creating a wall between children and unsuitable content. If you want to view this material all you need to do is contact you service provider, it simply makes it harder for children to view which cannot be a bad thing. Parents still have a responsibility to educate at home, this is a good thing!


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