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Has Cameron performed a u-turn on default porn filters?

using a PC

By Nicole Kobie

Posted on 20 Dec 2012 at 09:24

The prime minister has sparked confusion over the government's plans to block online porn, suggesting new computers will come with content filters that are left on by default.

Last week, a Department for Education report revealed the government would not be rolling out a network-level filter, that would require adults to opt-in to see content such as pornography. Instead, ISPs will be asked to "actively encourage" customers to use the parental control software they already offer, and check that it wasn't a child setting it up.

Writing in the Daily Mail - one of the newspapers that has ardently campaigned for a porn block - Cameron said of a network-level filter: "There’s a simple reason why we haven’t done this: all the evidence suggests such a crude system wouldn't work very well in practice."

All the evidence suggests such a crude system wouldn't work very well in practice

However, later in the piece, Cameron states that new computer owners will be forced to make a choice over whether they want to switch on parental controls - with pornography blocked by default if parents blithely click through the options.

"With our system, when people switch on their new computer, a question will pop up asking if there are children in the house," Cameron writes. "If there are, then parents will be automatically prompted to tailor their internet filters."

"To make this doubly safe, if parents just repeatedly click ‘OK’ to get through the filter set-up quickly, then filters against the most obvious threats – like pornography and self-harm sites – will be left on.

"So this is a kind of 'default on' for houses with children; it’s just that it adds much more control for parents about exactly what is restricted."

Cameron later reinforces the point, stating: "With our new system, every parent will be prompted to protect their child online. If they don’t make choices, protection will be automatically on."

Computer or network controls?

It's unclear exactly how such controls will be rolled out on computers, who the "provider" would be, and whether the government has discussed the issue with device manufacturers. We've asked for further clarification from the DfE, but have yet to hear back.

MP Claire Perry, who led the push for a UK-wide network-level filter, will be in charge of overseeing the project.

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User comments

Twitter images

Will any of these Porn Filters stop nasty Twitter images being displayed?

By llcoolj40 on 20 Dec 2012

not going to happen...

So they will install and pre-configure parental control software on every single computer sold in the UK? I really doubt government can pull this off…

In any case, if this doesn't address tablets and other non-Windows devices it will be another completely pointless waste of money…

All they need is a strictly opt-in network level filtering with proper and transparent controls. Until then OpenDNS can do much more that all this nonsense.

By aa111 on 20 Dec 2012

While this is better than an ISP level filter, with this new plan many of the old problems still remain though with additional ones added.

The fact that Ms Perry is in charge doesn't fill me with hope either considering her history.

By tech3475 on 20 Dec 2012

Claire Perry

At least we can rest easy now knowing Ms Perry's track record. Facepalm

By NR5674 on 20 Dec 2012

Mr Cameron

Could PC Pro do an interview with the PM? Its much more likely to lead to some interesting questions than leaving it to the Daily Mail!!

By NR5674 on 20 Dec 2012

Re: clkenton

That is precisely the problem with government filtering, it's really what most of the argument revolves around.

Most of the people who are in favour of government filtering seem to have the bizarre belief that most of us against it are all a bunch of perverts who don't care for children's wellbeing - which is a complete nonsense.

I think the thing that really concerns many of us is that we not only know it will be ineffective, but that it will also give many parents a false sense of security - a feeling they don't have to do anything else as the problem is 'already taken care of'.

A half intelligent kid will get around the filters with 30 seconds of Googling, and with no efforts from some parents who may otherwise have done something, this could actually make the problem worse...

By Mr_John_T on 20 Dec 2012

...and what if your child finds the one self harm site that didn't get blocked and kills themself.

Does that mean the government is then liable / responsible for the childs death?
I wonder how in depth this has been thought through.

By clkenton on 20 Dec 2012

Thanks Mr_John_T, it is becuase of this that when my children are a little older that I will be ensuring that mu kids cannot see this stuff myself. I will not trust a government to do this for me!
My childrens innocence and safety is my responsibility and no-one elses.

By clkenton on 20 Dec 2012

Claire Perry in charge

Like putting the NRA in charge of gun control.

There's no Santa Claire, no tooth fairy and guess what? No magic firewall!! The only way to "protect" children is to protect them. Not leave them unsupervised and hope the BPI spying on their connection to "prevent piracy" spots a problem...

You could pass a law banning all under 16's from using an internet connected device without direct supervision.

Of course, assuming they didn't just swap porn in school via USB stick, or make some of their own with a camera-phone, they could always just shut themselves in a toilet with someone else's PlayBoy collection (as we're not supervising them).

This whole nonsense is based on the absurd premise that kids can ONLY get porn from the internet.

Can't we devise a competency test, that politicians must pass, before they can discuss the internet? Currently the majority would clearly fail.

By cheysuli on 20 Dec 2012

Nice Govt IT contract for someone

Let's not forget every tablet, smartphone, console and net-tv will need this magic, age-verifying pop-up configuration and blocking tool too, although quite how that's going to work only Ms Perry (presumably) knows. I'd love to see how it's going to be implemented on our family Wii, the custom ROM on my phone, the LINUX boot-CD in the laptop...

By timcat2 on 20 Dec 2012

Pornography did not exist before the internet: FACT!

Just wondering where this magical software will be applied? Is it going to be retailers that install it, or will it be left to OS manufacturers? What about OS that are free, will they be outlawed if they don't comply?

This plan has more holes than the PGA tour and it's being run by our favourite technical expert, Claire Perry. Expect abject failure wrapped in the gaudy rhetoric of "hurrah, we saved the children".

By eggjones on 20 Dec 2012

Calm down

I think it reasonable to assume that DC really meant ISP level filtering will be on by default for new accounts.
No one is intending this to stop teenage boys from accessing pornography, even Gordon Brown wasn't that stupid. Again it is reasonable to assume that filtering would be aimed at protecting younger children whose parents can't be bothered to look after them.

By tirons1 on 20 Dec 2012

It seems to me

that the only substance in that article is that Ms Perry is going to have a mandate to lean on PC suppliers to install some content control software on new PCs.

Essentially it's no more meaningful than the three months' free of Norton or McAfee that new PCs are saddled with at the moment. They'll just change the preconfigured settings.

Anybody with half a clue will ignore it but the 'think of the children' lobby gets a 'victory' and Ms Perry has something to keep her busy for a while.

By TBennett on 21 Dec 2012

Another U turn?

This man really is pathetically weak. What a failure.

By Nodule on 21 Dec 2012

Lamer culture... it sucks.

If parents want filtering software it is available for free from various sites. If they don't know how to install this they should learn. Pandering to lamers just causes difficulties for everyone else.

The main concern here is that 'lamer culture' will herald a whole wave of Big Brother additions to new computers. Next we'll see these things burned irremovably into the BIOS, like Computrace.

I would far rather see a campaign to ban all foistware (software preinstalled purely to induce you to buy a third-party product) That would be far more beneficial to the public. A computer should come with an OS and drivers. The rest should be up to the purchaser.

By Anteaus on 21 Dec 2012

Lamer culture... it sucks.

If parents want filtering software it is available for free from various sites. If they don't know how to install this they should learn. Pandering to lamers just causes difficulties for everyone else.

The main concern here is that 'lamer culture' will herald a whole wave of Big Brother additions to new computers. Next we'll see these things burned irremovably into the BIOS, like Computrace.

I would far rather see a campaign to ban all foistware (software preinstalled purely to induce you to buy a third-party product) That would be far more beneficial to the public. A computer should come with an OS and drivers. The rest should be up to the purchaser.

By Anteaus on 21 Dec 2012

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