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 1814.

    1711. Morphius Bane
    "... as a free moral agent I will retain the right to make my own private moral judgements thank you."

    Are you free? Are you not in any way subject to the effects of the the outside world? Does marketing have no effect on you?

    ... or is it possible that you *are* affected by what you experience and your view of the world is not simply down to your own private meditations?

  • Comment number 1813.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1812.

    " Sally
    I disagree. Kids walk in on parents all the time"

    I'm sure that happens by accident in SOME homes. In the homes of abusive adults, children are often forced to watch them having sex which is the scenario you painted, not accidental walking into their parents' bedroom at an inopportune moment. It is these children who need protecting.

    Once again, you resort to reductio ad absurdum.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1811.

    1984: You've read the book, now live it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1810.

    I have no interest in internet porn but I will be ensuring I can have unfettered access to the internet.

    This really is the thin end of the wedge but the sheeple of this country will accept what they're told by the Daily Fail et al.

    Bet you don't see the Daily Express or Star come out in favour. Desmond makes money from porn..Asian Babes TV-X etc...look up Northern and Shell while you still can

  • rate this

    Comment number 1809.

    Everyone knows what will happen.

    - Illegal material will be totally unaffected. As will those that create, distribute and consume it.
    - Law abiding people will end up being labelled as perverts following an inevitable leak.
    - School boys will figure out in seconds how to bypass filters.
    - Rapes and child abuse will go on.

    All for a billion quid.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1808.

    I'm absolutely appalled that the Government has taken this step, this is the beginning of a very slippery slope. We criticise govts like Iran and China for blocking access to internet pages, yet here we are doing the exact same thing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1807.

    Dave Chameleon, you forgot to add in 2015 if you elect a Tory Spiv for a second term.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1806.

    Hold on. Broadband access typically serves multiple users, and network addressing is also dynamic, so every time you reset the access device the identification changes, so blanket bans with per user opt-ins wont be possible using the current ISP network. The only other option would be to download the ISPs blocked onto each device but that requires user consent and may be browser specific.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1805.

    1679 Wise Old Bob

    "Cameron to unveil online porn club"

    I thought it said that at first glance as well!

    Well spotted, sir!

    These new rules will put the dampers on the Duke of Edinburgh visiting the Playboy Club. Landing on the roof in his helicopter?

    Hypocricy abounds!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1804.

    This is about shutting up political opponents.

    The mobile phone companies have already been forced to do something very similar and the BNP website is blocked as "adult only".

    The same thing will happen when this goes live and we (The BNP) will be given the run-around when we try to get an explanation as to why our content is "adult only" and try to have to block removed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1803.

    Parents need to monitor what their children do on the web not government and not ISP’s, (Why?) because censorship is not full proof, pirate Bay file sharing website was block years ago, but there are still ways to get to it, censorship will give parents a false sense of security and make then think the problem has been solved when it’s just being made hidden and worse

  • rate this

    Comment number 1802.

    1729. James
    "I have spoken with lads about this"

    When I was a teenager, I was obsessed with werewolves, Nazis and Kung Fu. Did I grow up to become a Kung Fu Nazi werewolf? No. Kids can quite easily distinguish between fantasy and reality, and between wrong and right. Nobody bases their own behaviour on what they've seen in a film.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1801.

    I have yet to read a single post explaining why the “opt out” approach wouldn’t work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1800.

    Cameron showed his true feelings when his Govt cut the funding to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection centre (CEOP) by 10%.

    Money first, people later.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1799.

    When is it pornography? Torture is just violence, surely, even if it accidentally titilates the viewer - so that's ok for loads of you, then. Don't worry, fans of the super-explicit, bizzarre or downright vomit inducing - in a similar way to legal highs, you only need to change one ingredient - and perhaps it's name - for it to be legal all over again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1798.

    1741. deanarabin

    It's not about censoring the internet at all, it's about our democratically elected representatives deciding what needs to be done

    good grief,,,, are you really that naive? its sad that you can actually be so imperceptive and utterly gullible

  • rate this

    Comment number 1797.

    A filter to stop political propaganda and politicians' sound bites would be more use.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1796.

    There is no loss of freedom going on here, it's a simple CHOICE to opt in or opt out. No-one is telling you you can't watch porn, it's a sensible balanced measure to protect children.
    Those that think it's all about them are completely missing the point.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1795.

    I thought this might just provoke more outrage, than the fact that most of our activities over the web etc. are open to US and UK security agencies.

    It seems I was right.

    Don't worry. You're all still allowed to clean your much-coveted cars at the weekend.


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