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U.K. Cracking Down On Porn, Blocking It Unless Users Opt In

Posted: July 22, 2013

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The British prime minister says a plan to outlaw "violent" porn and block certain search terms is designed to protect children. Will a crackdown result in less child abuse?

British Prime Minister David Cameron has announced plans to block Internet porn by default on all British computers.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has announced plans to block Internet porn by default on all British computers.

Every home in the United Kingdom will be blocked from accessing pornography through Internet connections, under new measures announced by British Prime Minister David Cameron. When these go into effect later this year, Internet users who want to access porn will have to opt in with their Internet providers.

By the end of next year, it will be against British law to have "violent" or "extreme" porn, which involves simulated rape. Searching for certain images will also be banned; an organization called the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre will come up with a set of search terms in relation to child abuse/child porn that will then be blocked.

Cameron said he's taking these measures to limit the country's pornography consumption and protect the public.

"I'm not making this speech because I want to moralize or scaremonger, but because I feel profoundly as a politician, and as a father, that the time for action has come. This is, quite simply, about how we protect our children and their innocence," Cameron said.

Critics are calling the move censorship, and Cameron told the BBC that he expects a "row" with Internet service providers. In a new analysis, BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones wrote, "Civil liberties campaigners fear that blocking certain searches in one country could set a precedent elsewhere, making other governments more confident in applying censorship."

There's also the question of this regulation's effectiveness. Will banning porn result in less child abuse and better treatment of women? The Atlantic Wire looked into it:

"If you look at countries that ban porn (and ones that don't), you'll notice that at best, there's no clear relationship between banning porn and that country's treatment of women and children. At worst, a ban on porn is perhaps harmful. For example, take a look at India, where the distribution of porn is illegal. That country has recently become notorious for an epidemic of brutal rapes, some of them against children. Meanwhile, in the United States the incidence of rape declined 85 percent over a period of 25 years while access to pornography has increased, The New York Times reported. The U.K. is probably closer to the U.S. in that stark in comparison, and is regularly rated as one [of] the top countries in the world for women. That's not to say that porn is good for gender relations, only that any relationship between banning porn and positive outcomes is unclear."

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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