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 1854.

    How can creating a wall between children and adult/disturbing online content be a bad thing? This has nothing to do with restricting access to the web as you can simply call your ISP to change settings! Id be interested to know how many of the people posting comments are parents! Parents still have a job to educate children at home on all aspects of life and this does not take away from this!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1853.

    how enlightening to find out the PM has an adviser on the sexualisation and commercialisation of childhood, i would have thought the appropriate moral stance was quite the opposite

  • rate this

    Comment number 1852.

    Alternatively, we could get parents to take some responsibility for what their children are doing online.
    Seriously, this isn't 1996. The internet is not some mysterious new thing that parents are clueless about. Today's parents grew up with internet, and know perfectly well what it contains (and believe me, it's better now than it was).
    Protecting children is the job of parents', not legislation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1851.

    Couldnt we just block anything (pornographic) which is either illegal or showing acts which are illegal.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1850.

    I think the PM is right. I don't believe this is the thin end of the wedge to general Internet curbs- DC is a believer in press freedom but this is a special case. I do hope it's the beginning of a proper drive against people who create and post child pornography.
    Look at the reaction of the NSPCC and women's protection groups- delight that someone is doing something. Well done David Cameron.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1849.

    waynezilla - the british government started censoring the internet a year or so ago when the courts ordered ISPs to block The Pirate Bay!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1848.

    "1274. waynezilla
    It's not about porn. Never was.
    What next, foreign news sites? Political forums? Social media ?
    The day they start to censor the internet will be the day that the revolution starts."

    What total rubbish! You currently have the choice of opting in or opting out. The current default is opting in. In future it will be opting out. Hardly the stuff of revolutions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1847.

    Wouldn't this page itself be banned from search engines? It's got every loaded phrase going because of the subject matter. Unless they manually include or exclude individual URLs, but then it would be like any system we have already. One would assume this to be visibly taking a hardline stance regardless of whether a solution is ultimately implemented.

  • Comment number 1846.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 1845.

    Should not this 'policy' be subject to the same scrutiny as those recently abandoned by the gov. in relation to tobacco and alcohol? Is the PM, or any of his advisors, going to benefit financially from it?

    I remember Orborne ludicrously claiming that he personally would not benefit from the removal of the 50% tax rate.

    Who in this government have investments in VPN software?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1844.

    I've got to be honest......I'm surprised the government didn't want to tax it rather than ban it......they've missed an opportunity there.......

  • rate this

    Comment number 1843.

    It won't work. Full stop. It is a practical impossibility to remove all distasteful/extreme/illegal material from the web or block access to it. I can filter the word "breast" from searches and analyse what images are returned from that search automatically - and block it. Not much use to someone searching for breast implants is it? Simplified - yes. But that is the core issue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1842.

    O2 and other mobile phone companies already do this and fail big time. I can still get on to google and look for images. How when they block the sites do you get to see images well they cant block the search engine. You can see but not get onto the site. I still don't know how ISP's are going to tackle Child Abuse as most of these perverts use secured servers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1841.

    The question is - what else will be blocked, either accidentally, or deliberately?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1840.

    Cannot believe the liberal backlash on this forum. This approach is utterly discredited - look around at its proud legacy of abortion, divorce and shattered lives in this country.

    You want the freedom? Fine. But don't expect everyone to be exposed for the sake of your freedom. By this argument heroin, porn etc should be openly on sale at newsagents. Civilised society needs controls. Get over it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1839.


    "..there is everything to gain and nothing to lose from this law."

    In 2002 we were told ISPs had to keep logs to fight terrorism - those logs were later handed over to lawyers to chase file sharers, RIPA was misused by local councils to track school eligibility, Cleanfeed (designed to protect against child porn) has been used to block access to the Pirate Bay.
    Google the word 'naive'

  • rate this

    Comment number 1838.

    "Well it's a fine old English tradition isn't it? Once you're too miserable and decrepit to enjoy doing it, you start a big campaign to stop everyone else from doing it too!".- Alan Bs'tard

    Seriously, what I choose to enjoy online is my business as long as no-one is harmed. Funny how contenting people cannot publish what they like online, but the disgusting acts of the Sun are protected.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1837.

    And maybe we can get ahead of the States by banning TVs too Mr Cameron - think of the children!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1836.

    We all knew this day would come; the age of Internet Censorship has begun. This has changed from tackling the original issue of child abuse images to censoring all legal pornography online. What’s next: Blocking all anti-EU websites, anti-government websites or prosecuting every individual if they dare have a different opinion to that of the political elite?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1835.

    is there anyone in britain that's actually dumb enough to think this will stop any children seeing any porn, other than camoron and his voters. come on get real.

    a political sop to religious prudes that's all it is, and one that normal rational people have to suffer the consequences yet again


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