Should online porn be blocked by default?

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“In the balance between freedom and responsibility we have neglected our responsibility to children.”

That’s the damning verdict of British Prime Minister David Cameron, who in a speech about cracking down on online pornography, called for action to make the internet safer for children.

Warning that online pornography access is “corroding childhood”, Cameron announced plans for internet providers to block x-rated content by default, unless they choose to otherwise.

Treading into a territory society often finds hard to confront, Cameron questioned the special status the internet enjoys, claiming nothing is above the law.

“The internet can sometimes be given a special status in debate in fact it can be seen as beyond debate that to raise concerns about how people should access the internet or what should be on it is somehow naïve or backward-looking,” he said.

“The internet is not just where we buy, sell and socialise it is where crimes happen and where people can get hurt and it is where children and young people learn about the world, each other, and themselves.

“The fact is that the growth of the internet as an unregulated space has thrown up two major challenges when it comes to protecting our children.”

New filters

Acknowledging that a “row” with service providers was not far away, the Prime Minister said filters would be installed automatically for any new customer, a plan which he hopes will take place across the UK before 2014.

For users already with devices, internet providers are expected to make contact asking whether they would like to implement the adult material restrictions.

Failing to accept or decline either option will result in automatic activation of the filers on search websites such as Google and Bing.

While acknowledging that the online space has transformed “our lives for the better”, Cameron spoke about problems regarding illegal material, and the other legal material that is being viewed by those who are underage.

“Both these challenges have something in common,” he said. “They are about how our collective lack of action on the internet has led to harmful – and in some cases truly dreadful – consequences for children.

“Of course, a free and open internet is vital.

“But in no other market – and with no other industry – do we have such an extraordinarily light touch when it comes to protecting our children.

“Children can’t go into the shops or the cinema and buy things meant for adults or have adult experiences – we rightly regulate to protect them.”

Claiming that the internet is real life, Cameron called on governments, parents and internet providers to become more responsible for what happens online.

“People feel they are being told the following ‘an unruly, un-ruled internet is just a fact of modern life, any fall-out from that is just collateral damage, you can as easily legislate what happens on the internet as you can legislate the tides.’

“Against this mind-set, people – and most often parents’ – very real concerns are dismissed; they’re told “the internet is too big to mess with, too big to change” but to me, the questions around the internet and the impact it has are too big to ignore.

“[But] 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.”

Google, Bing, Yahoo and the rest…

Cameron said the government will introduce new laws to ensure videos streamed online will adhere to the same restrictions as those sold in shops, while search engines will be given an October deadline to implement illegal content blockades.

Warning pop-up pages with helpline numbers will also show up whenever illegal content is searched for, but critics have already questioned such a method – claiming paedophiles will simply laugh at the deterrent.

At start it is however, with Cameron singling out internet providers on the issue, bringing the once taboo topic of internet prowess to the table is certainly a step in the right direction.

“So I have a very clear message for Google, Bing, Yahoo and the rest,” Cameron said.

“You have a duty to act on this – and it is a moral duty.

“I simply don’t accept the argument that some of these companies have used to say that these searches should be allowed because of freedom of speech.”

Finishing his speech by referring to the common goal of many, Cameron offered an insight into our desired online society: “Protecting the most vulnerable in our society; protecting innocence; protecting childhood itself.”

Should internet providers step up to the plate? Has enough been done to block illegal material online? Is this a strong step forward or a token gesture? Tell us your thoughts below

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