War On Porn In The UK: Does David Cameron's Plan To Battle Child Pornography Go Too Far? [VIDEO]

 @ryanWneal
on July 22 2013 11:20 AM
Cameron
David Cameron proposed a new plan to battle child pornography. Reuters

UK Prime Minister David Cameron announced on Monday a new plan to battle child pornography online. Internet service providers will start blocking access to all porn, and users will be required to opt in if they want to access adult content. Cameron also proposed a blacklist of certain terms and made the possession of violent porn, even if it’s staged, illegal.

The goal, according to Cameron, is to pursue purveyors of child pornography and “drain the market” of access to sexual content featuring children.

By the end of the year, anyone in the UK creating a new broadband account or switching ISPs will have to actively disable filters to access porn. Similarly, all new computers sold will have porn filters switched on by default. Cameron said that by the end of 2014 all Internet users in the UK will be given an “unavoidable choice” by their ISP on whether to use the porn filters, according to the Guardian.

“We have to stop the people putting up the images, stop those accessing it and ask the Internet companies to do better in stopping access to them,” Cameron said in a speech to the National Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, or NSPCC.

Cameron told companies like Google and Yahoo that they have a “moral duty” to help restrict access to this content. The UK government worked with the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, or CEOP, to compile a blacklist of terms that search engines should filter.

Cameron gave the companies an October deadline to comply with the demands to filter the terms. He said that if the government is not satisfied with the progress it is prepared to take legislative action.

“Look, I believe in free speech, but free speech doesn’t mean you have the right to incite murder; it doesn’t mean you have the right to incite child abuse,” Cameron said, alluding to the murders of Tia Sharp and April Jones. In both cases, it was discovered that the murderers accessed child and violent pornography.  

In addition to the blacklist, Cameron made it a crime in the UK to possess pornography containing simulated rape scenes. A similar law already existed in Scotland but now applies to England and Wales. Cameron also said that videos streamed online will be subject to the same rules as porn videos sold in stores.

Some fear that this new definition of “illegal content” allows the UK government to venture too far down the path of censorship. For example, a scholar or journalist investigating child pornography may find it much more difficult to access information. A recent move by Tumblr to eliminate porn from its microblogs also made it more difficult for LBGT users to access websites relevant to their community

TorrentFreak notes how filters against file-sharing sites also block sites like TorrentFreak that write articles about file-sharing. They also worry about the ability of the government to censor other information it deems dangerous, such as political dissent websites.

There is also a question as to how families with multiple devices can navigate the filters. It isn’t clear if parents will be able to access adult content on one device while blocking porn on devices used by children.

Last week, a man in the U.S. sued Apple for not including a default “safe mode” that prevented him from accessing porn. Chris Sevier said his MacBook led him to a serious porn addiction that resulted in depression and his family leaving him. While many initially mocked the case, the UK is now asking tech companies to do exactly what Sevier asked for, showing how serious lawmakers around the world are taking the issue of online pornography.  

Follow Ryan W. Neal on Twitter.

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