Households forced to choose: Do you want porn or not?

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"Unavoidable choice" to be made by all households
"Unavoidable choice" to be made by all households

The government has reversed its previous opposition to a default ban on online pornography.

Internet service providers (ISPs) will be made to block access to pornography, forcing those who wish to view adult material to make an "unavoidable choice" to opt-in, David Cameron announced in a speech this morning.

"Following the work we've already done with the service providers, they have now agreed to take a big step," he said.

"By the end of next year, they will have contacted all of their existing customers and presented them with an unavoidable decision about whether or not to install family friendly content filters."


The move, part of the prime minister's efforts against the "corroding" influence of pornography, is a significant reversal of government policy. Last year ministers dismissed an outright block, saying the measure was impractical and unpopular.

A blanket ban on pornographic websites, which would prevent them from being accessible in Britain, was dismissed because it would not be wholly effective, might end up 'over-blocking' and does not address other online problems like cyberbullying and grooming.

But now Cameron made clear the ban is going ahead after all.

"We are not prescribing how the ISPs should contact their customers – it's up to them to find their own technological solutions," he added.

"But however they do it, there will be no escaping this decision, no 'remind me later' and then it never gets done.

"And they will ensure it is an adult making the choice. If adults don't want these filters – that's their decision.

"But for the many parents who would like to be prompted or reminded, they'll get that reminder, and they'll be shown very clearly how to put on family friendly filters."

Cameron said he wanted to "confront" the issue because of "the impact it is having on the innocence of our children".

Some campaigners suggested the reforms were mere sleight of hand, questioning whether the prime minister would actually succeed in establishing a blanket default-on approach.

"What he has done is persuade the tech providers to pretend that the status quo is now 'default on'," activist Jane Fae wrote in a comment piece for Politics.co.uk.

"Whether this means he will come back in a year and ask for the real thing is anyone's guess."

The government is to outlaw all pornography depicting rape, whether online or offline, as part of broader moves to make online videos subject to the same laws as those sold in sex shops.

The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, which has cut images of child abuse hosted in the UK from 18% of the global total in 1996 to under one per cent today, is to be given powers to create a national database of illegal images of children.

And, as trailed in the Sunday newspapers, internet search engines are being told they have until October to create a 'blacklist' of search terms bringing them close to accessing images of child abuse.

"I'm not making this speech because I want to moralise or scare-monger, but because I feel profoundly as a politician, and as a father, that the time for action has come," Cameron added.

"This is, quite simply, about how we protect our children and their innocence."

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