British Prime Minister David Cameron has announced a raft of measures aimed at eliminating explicit sexual content and pornography from the Internet, starting in his own country.
In the most sweeping change, Mr. Cameron plans to created nationwide filters to ban pornographic sites at the network node level in co-operation with the United Kingdom's largest Internet Service Providers. All new Internet subscribers will encounter a default "porn-off" setting, but will still be able to access the content if they choose to opt in.
In his speech Monday, Mr. Cameron said the existing 19 million Internet account-holders in Britain will also be prodded to find out if they wish to continue accessing pornography, possibly by year's end.
"I feel profoundly as a politician, and as a father, that the time for action has come," Mr. Cameron said in his speech. He said that the "cultural" damage to childhood wrought by Internet porn was a problem that needed tackling.
"Many children are viewing online pornography and other damaging material at a very young age," Mr. Cameron said. "The nature of that pornography is so extreme, it is distorting their view of sex and relationships."
Mr. Cameron also announced the closure of a loophole that allowed for the possession of so-called "extreme" pornography (which depicts rape or simulated rape), even while the publication of such material was already illegal.
The Conservative politician began laying the groundwork for his party's tough new approach over the weekend in an interview with the BBC that largely focused on stringent new measures aimed at the trafficking of images of child sexual abuse.
Mr. Cameron challenged Internet search engine providers Google, Yahoo and Bing on Sunday to block images of child abuse, using blacklisted keywords to stop Internet users accessing illegal images.
"I have a very clear message for Google, Bing, Yahoo and the rest. You have a duty to act on this – and it is a moral duty," Cameron was due to say in a speech on Monday, according to an advance text, demanding that the companies report back to him in October on their progress.
Cameron also said the government was ready to introduce new laws if search engine providers did not offer enough co-operation.
In June, Google Inc. donated around $4.6-million to combat the problem, including 1 million pounds to the Internet Watch Foundation, a group committed to ridding the Internet of child pornography.
"We have a zero tolerance attitude to child sexual abuse imagery. Whenever we discover it, we respond quickly to remove and report it," a Google spokesperson said.
Bing, owned by Microsoft Corp., said it would support education and deterrence campaigns and that it was working with the British government to determine the best industry-wide approach to tackle illegal content.
Yahoo Inc. was not immediately available for comment.
With files from Reuters