Belfast Telegraph

Cameron sets down an internet marker

Editor's Viewpoint

Arguably the development of the internet is one of man's greatest achievements. For someone with even the most basic technological know-how or skills, it is a vast resource of knowledge and entertainment putting all sorts of information at our disposal with a few clicks of a mouse.

Sadly, this information superhighway is marked by the corrupting stain of pornography. While it accounts for far fewer sites or searches than is often imagined, its impact is, as David Cameron said yesterday, corrosive.

Politicians can often be accused of pandering to public opinion or introducing measures which gain a favourable response but make little difference to daily life. While the Prime Minister's call for a block on the vilest forms of pornography – including sick attacks on children – may be difficult to fully implement, he is setting down a marker with internet providers to take whatever action they can to move against these corrupting images.

Even his suggestion for family-friendly filters to be the default setting on all new broadband accounts is a move forward. That means that parents will have an inbuilt control over what people who use their computer can view. Critics will argue that such filters can be overcome easily and that those who want to view porn will still be able to do so. But there are other reforms in the pipeline and the sharing of certain images will be regarded as a criminal offence in England and Wales.

What Mr Cameron has done is open a debate on what society feels about pornography and what it wants done to control it. For too long the attitude has been simply to prosecute those who download images but little pressure was put on the internet providers to control what customers can access.

It is encouraging that Northern Ireland is to share in the increased levels of protection suggested by the Prime Minister. This should only be viewed as the opening salvo in the war against pornography, but at least it shows a determination at government level to take action.

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