Internet giants secretly urged by ministers to block online porn

online porn
Internet giants secretly urged by ministers to block online porn

Ministers have secretly urged internet giants to pretend they are blocking online porn – so that David Cameron can declare a ‘victory’ on the issue.

A leaked letter from the Department for Education asks the main internet service providers (ISPs) to rebrand their anti-porn filters as being ‘default-on’, giving the impression that adult material is automatically blocked.The letter, from an official at the DfE, and leaked by industry insiders, tells providers: ‘Without changing what you will be offering, the Prime Minister would like to be able to refer to your solutions as “default-on”.‘Would you be able to commit to include “default-on” or similar language, both in the set-up screen and public messaging?’

The extraordinary demand appears to encourage internet firms to exaggerate the level  of protection they are giving families.Shadow Culture Minister Helen Goodman condemned the move, and warned that it could lead parents to assume wrongly that their children were protected from online porn.‘It is disgraceful that instead of trying  to get the ISPs to switch their filters to a default-on position, they are trying to persuade them to just say they are doing it,’ she said.

‘It is a deliberate attempt to mislead parents. That is dangerous because it means that people won’t be taking the precautions they need to be taking.’If people think filters are switched on when they are not there is obviously a risk that they won’t be on their guard in the way they should be.’Internet giants have successfully lobbied ministers against campaigns seeking an automatic block on website filth.Instead they have agreed to introduce a system called ‘active choice plus’, which encourages parents to keep anti-porn filters switched on.

Industry sources said they were unhappy about the political bid to make them misrepresent the safeguards they are offering.‘What this is about is allowing the Government to declare a victory,’ said one.The leaked letter will reinforce concerns that the DfE and Education Secretary Michael Gove are resisting a block on online porn within government.Last year another leaked email said DfE ministers opposed  an automatic block on porn, adding: ‘The only reason they are  consulting on this is because No10 told the Daily Mail that they  would consult and listen to all views.’

A source at the Department  for Culture, Media and Sport, which is now in charge of dealing with the issue, insisted that the email did not represent government policy, adding: ‘The Department for Education is part of the problem.’The latest letter also asks ISPs to fund an unspecified awareness campaign for parents, which will be announced by Mr Cameron.It says: ‘I know that it will be challenging for you to commit to an unknown campaign but please can you indicate what sum you will pledge to this work that the PM can announce.’

Internet giants, which benefit from the lucrative online porn market, insist that an automatic block would not work and would make parents complacent.Campaigners say it is a vital step in protecting children from the harmful effects of material that is freely available.A Downing Street spokesman said: ‘The Government continues to work with ISPs to help keep children safe online.’The DfE declined to comment. – DailyMail