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

20 Dec 2012
using a PC

Prime minister suggests computers will come with adult content filters switched on by default

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.

Read more

News