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Rory Cellan-Jones

Can we block child abuse sites?

  • Rory Cellan-Jones
  • 23 Feb 09, 10:05 GMT

Children's charities are accusing the government and the internet service providers of a failure to ensure that all domestic broadband users cannot get access to sites showing child abuse images. This is a battle over the merits of self-regulation versus legislation.

Cables going into a computerBut it's also another row over the Internet Watch Foundation, the charity which has been acting as a self-appointed - if widely supported - policeman of child abuse sites for many years. Last December the IWF was widely criticised for blocking a Wikipedia page about the 1976 Scorpions' album Virgin Killer because it featured a naked young girl. The IWF quickly reversed that decision - but web libertarians saw the incident as evidence of internet "regulation creep".

The big ISPs all use the IWF's list of banned sites, which is updated twice a day after the charity's staff examine questionable sites reported to them by members of the public. The process, as we discovered during the Wikipedia row, is automatic. Once the ISPs have signed up to the list, then whenever their users click on any link, that URL is checked against their list, and customers get a "website not found" error message if there is a match.

But why has a minority decided to opt out - or rather not opt in? The Internet Service Providers Association told me that cost was an issue - the system was potentially probitively expensive for smaller ISPs to implement, in particular those that mainly served business customers with just a few domestic users. I'm still not clear why that should be the case and indeed the one company I've spoken to which doesn't use the list cites completely different reasons.

That company was Zen Internet, a small Rochdale-based ISP with a reputation for great customer service (in the interests of full disclosure, I'm a customer). They provided me with this statement: "Zen Internet has not yet implemented IWF's recommended system because we have concerns over its effectiveness. Our Managing Director, Richard Tang, is going to meet Peter Robbins the Chief Executive of the IWF to discuss these concerns."

I was also pointed towards the work of Dr Richard Clayton, a Cambridge computer scientist who has been a long-term critic of aspect of the Internet Watch Foundation's work. He has written at length about technical aspects of the blocking system - but his overall conclusion is that the blacklist is just a waste of time. Why? Because most of this material is held abroad and the IWF is ineffective about getting it removed.

He told me that, if the aim was to stop people coming across these images by accident, then the system was a failure because that didn't happen anyway: "This material tends to be held on paid-for sites or is held by people who don't publish it to the world because they don't want to get arrested."

Dr Clayton's view is that the big ISPs use the system because they've been pressured to adopt it, but smaller firms are perfectly justified in opting out. "Everybody thinks they've done something by blocking this stuff but in practice it makes very little difference to who sees it and it's quite expensive."

For its part, the Internet Watch Foundation says it has neither the powers nor the resources to act as a global policeman. The charity says the only real solution is to remove the offending material at its source - but it insists that its list is part of a "layered approach" which can disrupt the activities of the child pornography merchants and protect innocent users.

The charities want the government to get heavy with the 5% of ISPs who are refusing to adopt the Internet Watch Foundation list. "The idea that blocking child pornography is an optional extra we do not accept," one charity official told me. "It is technically possible and should be counted as the cost of doing business in the United Kingdom." But Richard Clayton suspects that a mood of realism has infected ministers, who will be satisfied with 95% compliance by the broadband providers: "The government has seen sense," he told me, "and has decided that legislation is inappropriate."

It would be hard to find anyone who thinks that blocking access to images of child abuse is a bad idea. But getting agreement on how to set about that task is a whole lot harder.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    The IWF approach is flawed as the Wikipedia and recent Demon Internet errors demonstrate. By using a proxy server anyone can bypass the IWF list in any case so to mandate the cost and complexity on ISPs would be wrong, and ineffective.

    I lost count of the use of the word "charity" above - is this supposed to confer some sense of authority or independence ?

  • Comment number 2.

    The IWF blocklist will block only a small percentage of undesirable images accessible via the HTTP protocol. If the images are hosted on a secure HTTPS server it will not block them. If they are hosted via a p2p client it will catch them. There are a multitude of ways to transfer files over the Internet. The hardened child pornographers can easily get around the blocking listed if they wish. The IWF blocklist is only effective at stopping the average user.

    If we want a system to stop child pornographers accessing illegal content, then they should be more heavily policed. The govt should commission law enforcement and an ISP to police these people properly. This scale of policing is very expensive and almost impossible to introduce to the masses without doubling the cost of our connections. So why make everyone pay for the crimes of the few? As part of the sentence, paedophiles should only be allowed to use the Internet through heavily policed connections for a period of years. Job done.

  • Comment number 3.

    1. Isn't this stuff mostly distributed through file-sharing networks?
    2. If criminality is an issue why aren't the police funded to do the job?
    3. What proof has the IWF that they've made any difference?

  • Comment number 4.

    Zen are right, the IWF and the other Childrens' Charities are wrong. The blocking doesn't work, has never worked, and can't ever work.

    Any user of child pornography with a sense of self-preservation is going to be hiding thir activity by running their traffic over something like Tor, simply to avoid being monitored, and that would also take them straight past the IWF blocking.

    That's leaving aside the fact that, as the wikipedia incident demonstrated, the IWF blocking is targetting the wrong URLs in the wrong manner, and the principle problem with allowing self-appointed, private sector organisations to censor the internet without any democratic oversight, and then lie about it afterwards.

  • Comment number 5.

    I think the charity official who thinks it is technically possible should be invited to spell out the technical details on how it is possible, as I have yet to hear of a scheme that is not easily circumvented, and as you point out all this stuff lives on the dark net anyway. Perhaps the charities should be focusing on the demand and supply sides of the equationn, rather than the transmission medium.

  • Comment number 6.

    I have two questions relating to this issue.

    Firstly,why is it so expensive for ISP's?

    Secondly, is more being done to allow this 'blocklist' to work on a wider scale e.g. https sites and p2p?

  • Comment number 7.

    "If they are hosted via a p2p client it will catch them."

    Typo. If they are hosted via a p2p client it will NOT catch them.

  • Comment number 8.

    I think your missing a major point Rory. Anyone who wants to circumvent their ISP's blocks can do so very easily. The technical knowledge required is minimal. Anyone who wants to visit these sites will certainly know how to do it.

    If the blocks don't work why bother with them at all? Another case of presentation over substance?

  • Comment number 9.

    Although it is possible to work around these blocks, what the posters above forget is that many, many, many people dont know how.

    Most users (including kids) are far less clued up than bloggers like to report. (They would never read this column, for instance)

    So, this is effective on one level - it makes life difficult for the casual person, or the curious person, and that is as important as clamping down on the more dangerous element.

    I never understand the attitude that says because something is not the whole solution, it is a waste of time. Stupid!

    For anything like this you need different solutions aimed at each part of the problem. A better global response, for instance, would make it much easier. More cross industry cooperation.

    And sanctions against those mad organisations who think clamping down on this horrific data is somehow against peoples freedom of expression!

    But while all those are being argued out, this is doing some of the work. Even a little bit is something.

    And I agree, I doubt there is a major cost implication involved here, it is only passing DNS information against a file. The only cost is if an ISP is worried that they will lose some customers who object to having this information blocked. They really want those customers in the first place?

  • Comment number 10.

    clearly it would be good if the ideal world we hear so much about could actually be real. it would be ace if we could block all such repugnant content online, but it will never be 100% fool-proof, there'll always be stuff that slips through the net (no pun intended) and if people are determined as well as perverted, they will find a way (sigh)

    prevention is better than cure... we as a society need to stop looking at ways of stopping people doing sick things such as accessing child p0rn, carrying knifes, shooting each other, etc., and start trying to positively influence people's opinions and values so that they won't WANT to do such things.

    or maybe do both, better than doing just one!

  • Comment number 11.

    As the other comments have stated, it is impossible to block access to these sites as most of the distribution of this material takes place outside of the http scope.

    UK law allows encryption, and so long as point-to-point encryption is around, there will be easy methods for downloading illegal material.

    It takes about 30 seconds to set up an end-to-end encrypted tunnel between two machines. When I utilise wireless or third-party Internet connections, I always set up an encrypted tunnel between myself and a machine in London. I could just-as-easily set this up to a machine in a country where no such filters or laws exist, and none of the authorities would have any ability to track my requests.

    I do this, of course, for fully legitimate reasons. Yet there is no way for any agency (except the end-server) to log my requests. If a paedophile were to use the same system, he could 'operate' without a care in the world. And, unfortunately, those that are trying to access illegal material will have a desire to create a network such as this.

    Encrypted connections are used legitimately by millions of people each day, and there is little (or no) scope for the authorities to intervene here. Trying to enforce 'filters' or censorship systems like this will always fail, and do nothing more than infringe the freedoms and rights of the normal users.

  • Comment number 12.

    "Firstly,why is it so expensive for ISP's?"

    The devices capable of doing this kind of work for all protocols have probably not been developed. There are maybe a small group of manufacturers making units capable of blocking one or two file transfer protocols, but there are hundreds if not thousands of ways of transferring files. The technology really isn't there yet. Maybe a few governments will push manufacturers and a market will be born.

    "Secondly, is more being done to allow this 'blocklist' to work on a wider scale e.g. https sites and p2p?"

    HTTPS in encrypted. We use HTTPS to contact our banking sites. Developing, then having equipment capable of cracking this encryption on a large scale in ISP networks is a bad idea.

    The people with the expertise of tracking files on the p2p networks are the music industry. Maybe more could be done, but every time you start to filter a certain protocol you increase the cost of the Internet connection. We're at the stage where it is cost prohibitive now.

    If you want to pay more for a fully filtered connection then maybe the market will appear and you can have your wish. I'm sure the govt will mandate fully filtered Internet connections for all if thats what people want? Perhaps they'll give discount for Daily Mail readers too?

  • Comment number 13.

    I work for a small ISP that doesn't have IWF filtering - you will excuse me if I don't identify myself or my company.


    Like many internet users we are completely opposed to the horrific Child Abuse Images that the IWF are attempting to block - however having spoken to them we have several reservations about the service they provide.


    1) They only provide a list of Child abuse Images hosted outside the UK. They issue takedown notices to anyone hosting this content in the UK but this has an interesting side effect, see later.

    2) This list contains only a few thousand http urls - nothing more and an insignificant fraction of the amount of website urls in the world.

    3) They don't provide any technology to enable this filtering, they leave the technical implementation to the ISP

    4) They refuse to allow an open source implementation of the filtering because of concerns that it would allow the list to become public.

    5) They charge a minimum of 5000 pounds per year for access to the list (going up to 20k+ for people who want to use the IWF approved branding etc).

    6) There is no oversight on what goes on to this list, we only have the word of the IWF that it contains Child Abuse Images that infringe the appropriate laws. No ISP is going to risk looking at the sites on the list to check. There is nothing to stop them from adding sites critical of the IWF to the list, or for the scope of the list to be increased to block other types of sites.

    7) The preferred method of blocking is to pretend the file could not be found and not to draw attention to the IWF list.


    From this you can see that you are paying a significant sum for the list plus have to then spend additional cash and resources on a filtering system which then only blocks a tiny fraction of sites and adds overhead to every single page request.


    The IWF recommend a technology developed by BT called CleanFeed. The idea is that the majority of sites pass unfiltered but if anything is requested from a server that has a url on the list then it is passed to a "proxy" server to do additional checking to only block an exact url match and if no match to fetch the page and return it to the user. This is what caused the wikipedia problem last year as requests going through this path appear to source from the proxy's IP (I won't go into further detail but it has been well covered elsewhere)


    Sadly there can be no real debate about the rights and wrongs of internet censorship with regard to the IWF list because the following two arguments come up.

    * In the case of Child Abuse Images it is right to ignore the censorship arguments because these images are horrific.

    * If you don't block these images you are supporting Child Abuse - How would your boss feel if we told him you supported Child Abuse (Direct quote from an IWF "saleswomen")


    We are opposed to the IWF solution because as has been stated by other people it just doesn't stop the people who are creating and distributing this filth. They are using secure websites (not on the IWF list) private peer to peer (not on the IWF list) and other private methods of distribution.

    The IWF counter this with the argument that they are stopping the average person from accidentally stumbling onto these images. However there are a couple of faults with this.

    1) Images are only added to the list after being reported to the IWF by members of the public.

    2) Images hosted in the UK are never blocked (though in fairness UK ISPs are very quick to remove such content should it be discovered). This could however be to avoid any legal issues with a UK based company having their site wrongly blocked.


    There are more moral and technical issues with this subject and I will respond if anyone has specific questions.

    Bottom line is that blocking Child Abuse Images is a nice idea, but in practice blocking via URL lists is 10 years too late.

  • Comment number 14.

    Waste of time and money. Instead of spending both on updating some arbitrary list that probably blocks less than 5% of the content of this type available they could be spending it on investigating these sites, tracking down those responsible and helping the children who have been exploited.

    Child abuse is a very real and truly tragic problem and one that if not rising in the number of acts committed is certainly rising in prominence and distribution. However this approach is clearly so flawed that it should stop being a money drain ASAP.

    What is needed is more pressure being put on countries where this sort of thing is deemed acceptable (and there are many of those even if they do not admit it publicly).

  • Comment number 15.

    "It would be hard to find anyone who thinks that blocking access to images of child abuse is a bad idea"

    not that hard Rory - here's one!

    The architecture we have build to censor the internet - with the best of intentions - is wide open to abuse. For all the IWF's undoubted good intentions the system they are part of is opaque and potentially dangerous. Oh, and the government don't want to legislate because parliamentry debate (okay, maybe in the Lords!) will throw up how futile this all is, and further, they dont' want state-controlled censorship - they think it makes them look bad. They're right, it does. Rory, come along to my panel this Saturday at the Convention on Modern Liberty (Cambridge) - it's free, we have Sarah Robertson of the IWF alongside anti-censorship campaigners - should be a proper ding dong.

    http://www.modernliberty.net/satellite-conventions/cambridge

  • Comment number 16.

    As previous posters have said, these measures do not and will not ever stop this material from being distributed over the internet.

    What is worrying for me is that this is a dangerous step in the direction of Internet censorship. Sure, for now the list contains child pornography sites, but how long will it be before other sites are added that the government or a government sponsored agency deem 'inappropriate'.

    On one hand we are chastising countries like China for blocking access to certain sites, yet on the other hand we are sleepwalking into potential legislation that will allow our own government to do the same.

    I applaud Zen for their reluctance to sign up to this - and for further full disclosure, I am also a very happy customer of theirs!

  • Comment number 17.

    Why not target the child abusers rather than the usual scapegoats - the ISP's?

    The police are demanding more and more money to fight 'internet' crime, yet all the focus is on telling the ISP's to solve the problem for them.

    It would seem odd to anyone with common sense that we can shoot an innocent Brazilian several times on a crowded tube train, yet we are unable to track and imprison those involved in child pornography.

    Some high profile, public arrests and reasonable sentencing would do more to solve the problem than useless blacklists and self important 'charities'.

  • Comment number 18.

    The problem with the IWF is that it only blocks web sites but the web only makes up a small portion of the internet, the IWF does nothing to stop exchange of material through e-mail, messaging services, newsgroups, peer 2 peer networks and so on.

    Of course you could get it involved in all these things but the cost becomes rather prohibitive and there's always ways around any kind of censorship. It has been said before and still remains true:

    "The internet treats censorship as damage and routes around it"

    The internet was developed to be resilient against nuclear attack so quite why these charities believe they're somehow magically able to censor the uncensorable I don't know. Even China which has gone to the lengths of having a national firewall and secret police watching it's citizens cannot prevent dissidents sharing information.

    I submit then that Dr. Clayton is absolutely right, there is nothing the IWF can do. There is of course a further question in that we don't have any evidence that these images actually cause anything, only that they are the effect of something and it is the cause that we should be going after if we want to deal with the effects. Why is time being wasted going after someone who is viewing these images when it would be better spent going after someone creating them and actually committing the horrific abuse in the first place? There's a theory that viewing these images can lead to that but if people can get round blocks and view them anyway then there's no net gain.

    There is a further issue in that we're on dubious legal grounds finding someone with these images on their system too. If police see an IP downloading these sickening images and raid the house that IP belongs to only to find the images on the owners PC and arrest him how can they possibly ever prove it was him and not someone else in his house if he'd had people over for example? A few years back we had the case where the police arrested tens of people because their credit cards had been used on a pay-for child porn site and yet it turned out after much harassment of these people by the police that they had simply been victim of credit card theft and were not the ones responsible.

    We absolutely must stop child abuse and we must deal with people who support it and are involved anyway in it, but we're not doing this and the NSPCC and other charities who persist on pushing this agenda are absolutely not dealing with it either. They are creating a smoke screen that makes it look like they're getting somewhere when the reality is they're not whilst in the process of this are inconveniencing innocent people.

    Everyone knows you can't get rid of an ants nest by squashing all the ants that come out, you have to destroy the nest itself, so why in this case are the NSPCC advocating crushing the ants at the edge whilst creating a smokescreen of ignorance around the existence of the nest itself? Problems wont go away and cannot be dealt with by closing your eyes, putting your hands over your ears and screaming "la la la I can't hear you". They have to be dealt with directly.

    So this is why the IWF should be done away with, it ultimately achieves nothing but it has been guilty of improperly blocking both Wikipedia and the Internet Archive in recent months. The money and time would be better spent dealing with actual abuse and cutting the problem off at the source - catching the actual abusers.

  • Comment number 19.

    The IWF system only really stops those who don't actually want to see that content in the first place.

    If it's so bad that these smaller ISPs do not use the system I would quite like to see the statistics for which ISPs those who are convicted of abuse are using, as surely if this IWF system is the great savour that it's being suggested they will all be confined to those ISPs right?

    Wrong - they will be on larger ISPs in a probably slightly disproportionate number as it gives anonymity. Being one of 2+ million subscribers is a lot more 'faceless and nameless' than being one of 20,000.

    Every attempt to filter the Internet is overcome one way or another, get into a technological race with these guys and you will inevitably end up in the situation where we copy China in having a 'Great Firewall' and it'll be even harder to catch those people who are carrying out this abuse as a large number of people will be perceived as hiding traffic.

    Start filtering heavily it escalates and eventually you end up blocking sites on the offchance that they might be offensive and you will simply end up losing those doing harm in the mass of people who take exception to being monitored / blocked from harmless sites.

    Blocking on the offchance has also already happened - see instances of Wikipedia and Archive.org being blocked...

  • Comment number 20.

    "He has written at length about technical aspects of the blocking system - but his overall conclusion is that the blacklist is just a waste of time. Why? Because most of this material is held abroad and the IWF is ineffective about getting it removed."

    It is also stored in Britain, so drop the myth.

    The IWF was set up to protect NGs trading in child pornography, not to eradicate them, that has to be the stating perspective.

    CEOP sit around waiting for the FBI or RCMP to call or send them something. So what else have you got going on? There you go, another not fit for purpose Brit public confidence scam.

    So lets test Jacqui Smith's Myspace promise.


    BBC NEWS | England | Beds/Bucks/Herts | Ex-teacher jailed for ...
    13 Apr 2007 ... Luton Crown Court heard Graham Conridge, 59, admitted posing as a teenage boy to contact 261 girls aged 11 to 15 through MSN and chatrooms. ...
    news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/beds/bucks/herts/6552437.stm - 39k - Cached - Similar pages


    I bet his Myspace is still up and I bet the US authorities begged Jaqcui Smith MP to take it down.

    You Brits are an embarrassment to any country prepared to have a 'special' relationship with you.

    You have 'not fit for purpose' hanging over your entire island.

    The IWF? Best to wind that thing up, it is nothing but trouble.

    It is damaging to US/UK relations.

  • Comment number 21.

    "It is technically possible and should be counted as the cost of doing business in the United Kingdom." - this is where those small pressure group charities are failing. It is technically IMpossible to block material on the net. Encryption, private memberships, invite only memberships, virtual private networks, secure peer to peer, you name it... they're all beyond the sight of such badly thought out 'filtering' systems.

    If it were possible to block unwanted material, then the movie and record industry would have done it years ago with the millions of dollars that they have at their disposal to prevent piracy.

    Historically governments are pushed around by vocal minority pressure groups with an agenda to flog. This is just another example of groups that think such outlandish ideals are possible in a free world. If the charities were to donate their income to effective policing, then we might get somewhere.

  • Comment number 22.

    RobPal, here are your answers:

    "Firstly,why is it so expensive for ISP's?"

    Because every single connection a user makes on the internet has been checked against this list. Many thousands of users making many connections all have to be checked. To check every user requires some pretty heavy computing power and even then still adds some latency to users connections so it is detrimental albeit to a small extent to every single user who is on an ISP that uses this list.

    "Secondly, is more being done to allow this 'blocklist' to work on a wider scale e.g. https sites and p2p?"

    HTTPS can be blocked like HTTP nothing new needs to be done there. The problem in this case is that the IWF relies on reports so someone would have to pay to access the secured site to report it, likely making them a target of the police for funding these operations!

    Regarding P2P, it really can't be blocked. P2P can use any port, it can use any custom protocol and it can occur between any source and destination on the internet. Stop and think about that for a second- short of blocking traffic between anyone and anyone else, block all types of traffic on all port - i.e. shutting the internet down, how would you propose it be blocked?

    You could at best block common P2P protocols like BitTorrent but it's used to transfer legal stuff such as Linux ISOs and World of Warcraft patches too so you'd be shutting down legitimate activity in the process. You could scan the contents of a bittorrent transfer but that's defeated by encryption and again would cost far far more than all but the biggest ISPs can afford in terms of hardware.

    So you see, this is the problem, censorship of the net is prohibitively expensive and simulatenously unworkable as it doesn't actually work.

  • Comment number 23.

    "Any user of child pornography with a sense of self-preservation is going to be hiding thir activity by running their traffic over something like Tor, simply to avoid being monitored, and that would also take them straight past the IWF blocking."

    The Brits keep their groups going even when the FBI are all over them.

    What's the downside? Pedophile groups have offshored to the UK to avoid the FBI/RCMP in North America. It doesn't always matter if the FBI break into a Brit network.


    "UK ISPs clean up their act
    News In its annual report, published this week, the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) said that in 1997, when the organisation launched, UK ISPs hosted 18 percent of child abuse images available on the Internet."

    How many folks went to jail for the period the IWF say the Brits hosted 18 percent of the world's total of child pornography web-sites, would it be none?

    Because 'none' is the exact figure pedophiles like, and Great Britain probably didn't put any of them in jail, half of them could be working in your schools given your track record over there.

    So, why should pedophiles be 'on their guard' in Britain, that's silly, the Uk has no track record of putting them under pressure.

    If the FBI *insist* on something, and do the work, then maybe, CEOP will pass the packets out to force aea policing, but generally, Brit pedophiles are as safe as houses.

  • Comment number 24.

    The government prefer self-regulation over legislation as its a cheap option for them as the ISP has to pick up the cost. They can get a headline by claiming to be clamping down without doing anything substantial to address the underlying issue - typical NuLabour spin.

    We have the nerve to criticise the Chinese for the "Great Firewall" but we are on the path to that destination ourselves with the IWF list. As usual the agenda is hidden behind strong images that the man in the street take a polarised view on (Kiddie Porn, Terrorists etc) while removing freedoms from the majority.

    The issue is one of proportionality - some would have us give up our freedoms to protect one child - a worthy goal but impossible to achieve in practise. We have sufficient laws to deal with this already but they don't get new headlines in the press.

  • Comment number 25.

    Coincidentally I'm a Zen customer too, although that's not relevent. I'm also a parent. Of course these sick illegal sites should be blocked or closed, and as soon as possible.
    However as a computer worker for many years I have to agree with Zen, I don't think this is a sensible way to do it.
    Firstly it's simply not very effective, like a cheap door lock it will only ever keep honest people out. Those driven to do so will soon learn the ways to avoid it. I'm not convinced that the 'every little helps' argument beats the false sense of security that is created.
    Secondly I am not at all happy about this shadowy quasi-official and unaccountable Internet Watch Foundation having such sweeping powers. Especially I disliked their use of 'not available' error pages which they used for the Wikipedia fiasco to cover their tracks. Isn't this exactly how despotic governments censor the web?
    Lets at least protect both our kids and our freedoms by doing everything we can properly, openly and honestly. We need and deserve a properly constituted and accountable web censorship body that will do the job in an honest and open manner. Then if a page or site is blocked it should clearly say so, say why, and even display a warning that circumventing the block is illegal. If the site is abroad a properly constituted body should also be better able to call in government pressure to try and close it.

  • Comment number 26.

    I'm against all forms of censorship on the web. I believe if it's available to one person on the web it should be available to all, as mentioned above it would become very easy for these blocking lists to be added to with any web addresses of sites that critisize the lists owners.

    All this time and effort spent creating the lists should be spent finding the people responsible for creating the websites, the ISP's for hosting them and bringing criminal charges against them.

    If they are resident in a different country then the IWF should be lobbying the UK government, the EU, UN and even organisations like the IMF to bring sanctions against countries that allow these things to happen.

    Censorship just drives things underground, we need the get the law to stamp it out.

  • Comment number 27.

    With respect to Gurubear, you are incorrect that it "is only passing DNS information against a file"


    Specifically the IWF list contains individual URLs and you are not allowed to block based on IP. This is because it is possible (and common) to host hundreds of websites on a single IP address and IP based blocking would take out all sites on that server if they are related or not. Worse because you are encouraged to just reject the request with a 404 file not found error it becomes harder to troubleshoot.


    The other worry for ISPs is that this list is in no way comprehensive and changes twice a day. How can you promise your customers that they are protected (hint: you can't). Who is responsible if a customer views an image not on the list? What if when the customer complains to the IWF they are told that the image is on the list (but it wasn't at the time the customer saw it). Does that mean ISPs have to keep copies of these lists?


    You are also incorrect in stating that whilst it is possible to work around most people won't know how. There are lots of ways to circumvent the blocks that can be done at the host server and thus a normal user wouldn't need to know anything technical.

    * Enable https (you can't filter on secure traffic because it is encrypted browser to server and any hops in between cannot see the content. This is by design and is how credit card transactions can be made safely).

    * Enable dynamic URLs or Round robin DNS - the user doesn't know any different but he URL won't match the list so won't be blocked.

    * Peer to peer type applications - can't block those and the IWF list cannot block any site offering such a program for download as it would breach their mandate.

    * Use a port other than 80 (default http) - the IWF list doesn't include traffic on any other port and the filtering solutions don't check other ports either.

    * Use a proxy server in another country


    Another concern is the security of this list, what is to stop a hacker getting in and playing havoc - add google.com to the block list and watch hilarity ensue.


    From a technical point of view, the list is not a fixed size and could theoretically expand massively from one update to the next. Also if just one of the URLs on the list happens to be a popular server (such as wikipedia) then your filtering platform gets swamped and response times for all your users suffer.


    None of this information is news to the ISPs, but hopefully people will appreciate that the issue is not a simple one.


    Is it worth spending thousands of pounds for the IWF list, thousands more for filtering equipment, hundreds of hours of time to implement a solution just to block a thousand website URLs out of the trillions of sites in the world?

    Would that money be better spent on catching the people producing the Child Abuse in the first place? I think so.

  • Comment number 28.

    "Some high profile, public arrests and reasonable sentencing would do more to solve the problem than useless blacklists and self important 'charities'."

    I think you will find the teaching unions ( or one of them) are the main stumbling block.

    Do the Jim Gamble test, has he ever arrested a teacher in his entire career without being leveraged into it by the FBI?

    Neither CEOP nor the NCIS/NCS ever targeted a teacher without being put under some kind of pressure to do so. In the USA, where this is discussed, what started out as a 'typical Brit joke' simply became 'true'.

    How do you think 'Paul Reeve' entered the public arena? The yanks were in Norfolk in September 2005, and just kept looking. There are 'PR' aspects for the US govt. Who wants an FBI identified pedophile to do something terrible?

    Especially when the Brits are as likely as not to have him giving swimming lessons to six year olds.

    So stop the blog, it is all a scam, there is nothing to be done.

  • Comment number 29.

    "Why not target the child abusers rather than the usual scapegoats - the ISP's?"

    The people committing the abuse are often in other countries. People should be asking what we can do in our country? Well, the same system that is used for the IWF blocklist can, with a few modifications, also be used to track people accessing the content. With that information the Police can make a few home visits. Hopefully the Police will have the ability to spot someone whose PC or Wireless Access Point is being used by a third party.

  • Comment number 30.

    "So this is why the IWF should be done away with, it ultimately achieves nothing"

    The IWF create the list, that's all. They have nothing to do with its implementation into ISP networks. Only when all the relevant parties understand the current system and the limitations will there be consensus on how best filter illegal content. The current system is still oversold by the charities spouting off today, govt ministers and MPs who don't understand the technicalities and some folks within the IWF.

  • Comment number 31.

    95% compliance = 5% non compliance
    Q: Where do these smaller service provides connect?
    A: Through the bigger providers who are compliant. Therefore it is probably already filtered in most cases.

    So the 5% is probably really only about 0.5%

    This is not the whole solution, but that does not make it a waste of time.
    BUT
    There should also be a watch dog that some how checks that those being blocked
    are being blocked for the right reasons and not for some outdated information or because they insult the IWF.

  • Comment number 32.

    The IWF are using mediaeval superstition (looking at a picture can have an effect on the subject of the picture) and appeal to emotion (if you don't buy this then you support child abuse) to sell a piece of proprietary technology. And to make this compulsory would amount to privatisation of the law.

    If ISPs are expected to block access to certain websites, the database *must* be publicly-accessible in order to allow ISPs to develop their own solutions independent of any proprietary technology. If the consequences of that database being publicly-accessible are worse than the consequences of not blocking anything, then so be it.

    Why not concentrate on catching people who *actually* *abuse* *children*, as opposed to people who just look at pictures? Otherwise, what's next -- will we be banned from looking at pictures of sports cars, just in case we drive too fast?

  • Comment number 33.

    In response to Cadazian

    "It is also stored in Britain, so drop the myth."

    The IWF list does not contain any sites hosted in the UK, instead they issue a takedown notice to the ISP in charge of that server. This is (apparently) a legal enforcement notice and the content must be removed immediately.


    You may however be interested to hear that the IWF specifically state that you cannot use the IWF block list as an enforcement list because in their words "The police would be overwhelmed with the amount of work". (A very woolly statement to say that there are thousands of people looking at illegal images without actually backing it up with evidence.)

    This means as an ISP you can block (silently with a file not found error) what is on the list, but are not allowed to identify the person or look for repeat offenders etc.


    I would be very interested to find the statistics of number of unique URLs on the list, number of these sites blocked per week by the ISPs etc - except such stats are not allowed either (as far as I know, if they are available I would appreciate a link).

  • Comment number 34.

    Why do we have debates like this "we have no way of stopping 1s&0s or 0h"

    As for us being regulated! we are and we link to your.gov database. Our emails are monitored and like me I get hooked into some IRC from SKY as my connection as a Joe public user, I can be monitored and I am. AKA Public internety

    I have nothing to hide so I don't mind but all these secure encrypted web providers need to be vetted as to what they host.

    I understand the need for private space "but if your some perverted kidy fiddler using it to hide disgusting crimes thats different.

    How about all who don't conform to show there not doing anything to hide get there sites taken down and turned off at THE CONICAL TRANSLATOR WATERING HOLE!

    Its what were all on and unless you got the cash for your own satellite you wont be going on line in the normal way!

    The hosts who provide web space for these filth are just as bad as the monsters they hide, maybe worse, so don't fool yourself these are not some computer genus at work "there scum on earth getting help by people with no morals for cash.gov.

    If need be I'll put up my "sorry your.gov" hook into my PC. Daft Geordies

  • Comment number 35.

    Whenever I hear anther call for internet censorship, I'm hearing from someone that doesn't have a clue how the internet actually works.

    And "every little bit" does not help.

    It helps drive the development of easy-to-use ways around such controls.

    The IWF is doing that right now, and so does every other new bit of intrusive legislation and regulation.

    Should the government get their heart's desire with the ability to record every URL accessed by every user - then they will greatly accelerate the use of these methods of avoiding detection - pretty soon it will be built into every freeware web browser.

  • Comment number 36.

    It's a hiding your head in the sand approach.
    The sites in question will still be there - just because you've blocked something on the internet doesn't mean it's gone. In this regard, the IWF list does nothing. Worse, the IWF block list is kept secret for a reason; we're ironically paying people to access websites which we don't want people to access. I'd be bad news if the list got into the wrong hands.

    Ohh, as for tracking people on the internet, it's easier said than done. How do you track a wireless laptop? Anyone?

  • Comment number 37.

    "The IWF are using mediaeval superstition (looking at a picture can have an effect on the subject of the picture) and appeal to emotion (if you don't buy this then you support child abuse) to sell a piece of proprietary technology. And to make this compulsory would amount to privatisation of the law."

    The indecency test is in law, the photo would have been caught by that test.

    However the IWF re-assessed on the basis of 'context' which is legislatively excluded s a defence, so go figure.

    The test

    In Regina v. Graham-Kerr, Stocker L.J. said that the appropriate test
    in the case of the Protection of Children Act was that as stated in R.
    v. Stamford [1972] 2 QB 391, which uses the formula ‘recognised
    standards of propriety.’

    This, and the use of the word ‘impropriety’ by Lord Parker, point to
    the essential elements of indecency being offence caused, and
    inappropriateness, rather than that any amount of shock or disgust be
    caused in those forced to see it.

  • Comment number 38.

    The comment by LocalISP is excellent, very well written and explains why the IWF proposals cannot work.

    I do worry though that the IWF, by publishing such details, actually encourages people to go looking for such sites/images.

    I would like to ask though "why is a charity doing this work?". These pictures, the taking of them, the hosting of them, the downloading of them, and the personal storage of them are all illegal activites. So, why isn't it a police problem? Ahhh! Perhaps because then the government would have to fund the extra police work.

  • Comment number 39.

    I hope act2bmp is being sarcastic but I will mention the following in case people have the wrong idea about encryption.


    The reason we need encryption is not to hide criminal activity from the police but simply because there are more people in the world out to steal your credit card details, passwords and other personal information than there are people looking at Child Abuse Images (please note the IWF do not refer to it as child pornography because apparently that legitimises it).


    To ban encryption because "only criminals use it" is to remove all security on data and hand it straight to any criminal with a packet sniffer.


    Encryption can be used by criminals to hide their communications, but you may as well ban cars because criminals can use them to move around and commit crimes.
    Innocent until proven guilty, don't blame a technology for the ways it can be abused.


    The "If you have nothing to hide what is the problem" argument does not work here. I do have something to hide from the various people my internet traffic passes through and that is my online banking, my credit card payments and VPN (virtual private network) traffic to my employer.


    Look at the fallout when a shop website gets hacked and their customer data is exposed to the world.

    Thinking logically for a moment, do you want to hand your bank statements, credit cards and car keys to anybody who walks past?
    I don't.

  • Comment number 40.

    "Ohh, as for tracking people on the internet, it's easier said than done. How do you track a wireless laptop? Anyone? "

    Same way you track anything else.

    Possibilities are...

    1) Get its MAC address - not easily done and its behind a router, you can't.

    2) IP address - but that may be shared by dozens/hundreds of machines.

    3) Tracking cookie - but can be disabled

    4) Tracking trojan - can also be disabled but only if you know its there.

    5) Sideways tracking - eg, send target user an email containing a pixel tag, gather info from this. Will only be effective if they open the mail, obviously.

    or 6) Be an ISP, or an ISP that jumps when the government says JUMP!

    6 is pretty effective.

    The thing to realise is that when you surf, you leave clues - when you download mail, P2P, anything, you leave clues. Even a careful user will perhaps overlook two apparantly safe pieces of information that when aggregated reveal identity/location/IP-machine connection etc.

    it's the *aggregated* information that will do for ya.

  • Comment number 41.

    Filtering is not the solution . In operating a filter the offending sites are identified . It is at this point that they should be fully investigated - the people concerned prosecuted and the children freed and rehabilitated - and the sites closed down . Filtering is a bandaid solution and is very dangerous to democracy - or is that what the politicians want ? If the money being proposed for filtering was spent on direct law enforcement the results would be far more effective - or is that just too hard for the politicians and the police ? Meanwhile innocent young lives are ruined and the gangs aren't chased down and shut down . In the Madeleine McCann case we heard of networks in Belgium - what's happened there ? If you trawl the Internet - even innocently - it's not too hard to come across the ocasional such links . There should be central reporting mechanisms - eg. via Google or via the police - and then the police should chase them down .

  • Comment number 42.

    #32. Why not concentrate on catching people who *actually* *abuse* *children*, as opposed to people who just look at pictures?

    The IWF do report sites that carry material that contravenes UK child protection law to the UK's Police Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, who also pass relevant information to INTERPOL if hosted aboard.

    To comment on the view that just *looking* is somehow *innocent*; no it's not innocent, it fuels demand - many such images are on pay per view sites - and it is real children that get sexually abused to create those images. *Looking* is being complicit (an accomplice after the fact in my opinion) in child abuse - and why would you want to look at such images (or see the IWF block list) unless you're a paedophile?

    The IWF are not selling proprietary technology. They supply URL's to be blocked to the ISPs.

    The ISPs pass their traffic to suspect websites through a web proxy router. This proxy checks the web requests and blocks only the specific URLs (pages) that are on the IWF list; only around 33% of blocks are of entire sites specialising in such images.
    It is as easy for the ISPs to do as it is for a mobile phone company to stop your pay-as-you-go-phone making calls when credit runs out, until you top-up again.
    The IWF makes judgement, based on UK law, of images reported to them by the public. IWF staff are trained by the Police Paedophile Unit.

    As sites containing illegal images are also reported to the police, many sites discontinue and relaunch under a new URL. One effect of the IWF is that the number of sites hosting images of child sexual abuse hosted in the UK has fallen from 17% ten yearrs ago to around 1% - most are hosted abroad.

    The IWF themselves admit their limitations: "Blocking is designed to protect people from inadvertent access to potentially illegal images of child sexual abuse. No known technology is capable of effectively denying determined criminals who are actively seeking such material; only removal of the content at source can achieve that goal."

    If you want to change the law (and the IWF acts in accordance with current UK law, specifically the Protection of Children Act 1978, as amended in the Sexual Offences Act 2003 together with case law made by juries.) then by all means campaign for it.
    I can't see a political party or the public supporting easier access to images of child-sexual-abuse, but you're free to campaign if you want. (I'd wear running shoes if petitioning in town though :->)

    It's worth mentioning that the police can also ask ISPs to act against other types of sites (and nothing to do with the IWF) such as phishing websites impersonating banks, fake lotteries and other frauds.
    Some efforts against cyber-crime are even mounted by volunteer groups. e.g. http://wiki.aa419.org/index.php/Main_Page

  • Comment number 43.

    The issue with outfits like the IWF is that they are self appointed arbiters of morals.

    The lessons of 1950s "watch committees" should be borne in mind - especially given that such self appointed moral guardians will tend to views at odds with the community at large.

    Compelling ISPs to use IWF lists without stringent regulatory oversight of such lists is extremely dangerous.

    As a long-time Internet admin (Over 20 years), this raises alarm bells.

    Transparent, fully accountable goverment oversight aimed at combatting child abuse is one thing.

    IWF and its ilk is something completely different - no accountability and no transparency, self appointed and pushing to be compulsary use.

    This is _extremely_ dangerous as such organisations have historical tendencies to also blacklist webpages critical of them, or analysing their methods, etc. This censorship without oversight causes great disease among advocates of free speech.

    (This is not the same as using voluntary resources such as antispam blacklists - these are accountable to their users and can be dropped in a heartbeat if unsuitable for purpose.)

    In summary:

    Yes, some regulation is needed, BUT it MUST be fully accountable. The current setup is not and this is why a number of ISPs are not buying in.


    On a technical note: It is trivial for a determined offender to bypass such security measures - which mainly prevent accidentally coming across such material.

    From that point of view the entire thing amounts to nothing more than an expensive smoke and mirror exercise and it would be far better to heavily invest in resources to track such material on the Internet and deal with the groups and individuals responsible for it existing - as well as rescue those being abused.

  • Comment number 44.

    "and the IWF acts in accordance with current UK law, specifically the Protection of Children Act 1978, as amended in the Sexual Offences Act 2003 together with case law made by juries."

    Not with wikipedia they didn't. They allowed a 'context' defence for foreign hosting. The PoCA doesn't have a defence of context, or art, or innocent possession.

    The song ( virginkiller) was about a demon having sex with a child, so CEOP and the IWF were on safe ground, it was a prurient image, and indecency almost certainly a slam dunk.

    They allowed 'context' and that was not compliant with their remit.

  • Comment number 45.

    "I would like to ask though "why is a charity doing this work?". These pictures, the taking of them, the hosting of them, the downloading of them, and the personal storage of them are all illegal activites. So, why isn't it a police problem? Ahhh! Perhaps because then the government would have to fund the extra police work."

    Memorandum of Understanding,

    the ACPO are the cheapest legislation Britain will ever see.

    They can legalize anything. If it is not to be policed it is darn near legalized and they can do agreements with teachers, social-workers, customs, they could make the BBC in charge of something if they wanted to.



    [PDF]
    We are pleased to publish this Memorandum of Understanding Between ...
    File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat - View as HTML
    This Memorandum of Understanding has been drafted to be in accordance with ..... If potentially illegal content is hosted in the UK the IWF will work with ...
    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]- Similar pages

  • Comment number 46.

    In response to #42 SheffTim

    I knew these arguments would come up sooner or later because they are the exact ones that the IWF threw at us when we spoke to them.


    "To comment on the view that just *looking* is somehow *innocent*; no it's not innocent, it fuels demand - many such images are on pay per view sites - and it is real children that get sexually abused to create those images. *Looking* is being complicit (an accomplice after the fact in my opinion) in child abuse - and why would you want to look at such images (or see the IWF block list) unless you're a paedophile?"

    Of course we don't want to look at these images however the IWF get paid to look at these images, does that mean they are fueling demand and are paedophiles?

    Of course not and if I thought that I would be correctly branded as an idiot.
    Everything comes down to context.

    Of more concern

    a) We only have the IWF's word that the images on the list are potentially infringing - they know full well we are not going to check.

    b) There is no regulation or 3rd party oversight that the list is accurate, secure and not being used for other purposes.


    "The IWF are not selling proprietary technology. They supply URL's to be blocked to the ISPs."

    The IWF are well aware that the filtering solution is the hard part and it appears they don't want the liability of providing a solution that is not effective which is why they do not block UK hosted content.


    "The ISPs pass their traffic to suspect websites through a web proxy router. This proxy checks the web requests and blocks only the specific URLs (pages) that are on the IWF list"

    Thus adding an overhead to every page request and causing the source IP for some requests to come from the proxy instead of the user (which is why the wikipedia entry in the IWF blocklist caused such issues).
    You also miss out the fact the list has to be processed twice a day to lookup all the IPs that the URLs are hosted on, add those rules to the routing tables at the edge of the network and redirect an unknown amount of traffic at these proxy servers. Attempting to budget the required hardware for the traffic volume is thus made difficult.


    "only around 33% of blocks are of entire sites specialising in such images."

    I was not aware that the list contained such large blocks. The IWF said they don't filter whole IP ranges - thanks for the info.


    "It is as easy for the ISPs to do as it is for a mobile phone company to stop your pay-as-you-go-phone making calls when credit runs out, until you top-up again."

    This is an incorrect and flawed apples to oranges argument. Limiting a single user's access to the entire network is not the same thing as monitoring and silently dropping connections based arbitrary URLs.

    A more accurate analogy is to say it is as easy as providing a list of phone numbers to a mobile phone company and telling them to silently reject all calls to those numbers.

    It is _not_ an easy system to implement if the technology required to implement it is not already in place and it has a significant cost in time and resources for an increasingly ineffective solution (as the criminals move their operations to other technology not covered by the list).


    "The IWF makes judgement, based on UK law, of images reported to them by the public. IWF staff are trained by the Police Paedophile Unit."

    The police and IWF staff are not judges thus they state that the images are _potentially_ infringing.
    I will concede that it is a job no amount of money would tempt me to do, I do not wish to see child abuse images in any context.


    "As sites containing illegal images are also reported to the police, many sites discontinue and relaunch under a new URL."

    Or move underground to distribution methods not filtered by the IWF list.


    "One effect of the IWF is that the number of sites hosting images of child sexual abuse hosted in the UK has fallen from 17% ten yearrs ago to around 1% - most are hosted abroad."

    So 17% of worldwide Child Abuse Images were hosted in the UK 10 years ago and now that is down to 1% (thus 99% is hosted elsewhere outside the UK and thus outside the IWF's control).
    Whilst this is encouraging, it is a bit misleading as you infer that the drop is due solely to the IWF. Do you have references that this drop is due to the IWF filtering list and not due to enforcement causing the supply to move to less regulated jurisdictions or underground to other distribution networks?
    Has the overall amount of Child Abuse dropped an equivalent amount?


    "The IWF themselves admit their limitations: "Blocking is designed to protect people from inadvertent access to potentially illegal images of child sexual abuse. No known technology is capable of effectively denying determined criminals who are actively seeking such material; only removal of the content at source can achieve that goal.""

    Then why do they not add UK hosted material to the list until it has been removed? If they really wanted to stop inadvertent access they would add all images no matter where they are hosted. The fact they exclude the jurisdiction in which they operate makes me suspect they are worried about legal comeback from incorrectly blocking a non infringing UK site.
    The argument that they don't need to add UK sites because they issue take down notices doesn't wash. There is a delay between identifying an image and it being taken down where people might inadvertently view it. Better to add it as soon as it has been identified surely?

    This is just another reason why the statements in the press today that only 5% of internet users are able to view Child Abuse images is very misleading. I put it to you that 100% of UK internet users could view Child Abuse Images if they so wish - thankfully the actual number of people with the specific sickness that makes them want to view, or worse perform, such acts is very small.


    "If you want to change the law (and the IWF acts in accordance with current UK law, specifically the Protection of Children Act 1978, as amended in the Sexual Offences Act 2003 together with case law made by juries.) then by all means campaign for it."

    We certainly don't want to change the law, where on earth did you read that?

    We support the prompt removal of these images and the prosecution of the offenders to the fullest extent of the law. The law which unless I am mistaken does not require ISPs to pay money to the IWF for them to view and categorise Child Abuse images.

    What we are saying is that the current filtering list provided by the IWF is very limited in scope, 0% effective against people using https, peer to peer or other methods of distribution than port 80 http.

    A list which has no public statistics on how many URLs are on it or how many URLs are blocked per week (because such stats are against the terms of use)

    A list which as an ISP you may not use to report an infringing user to the police due to the contract you have to sign with the IWF.

    A list which requires the ISP to develop a solution which has a high cost in technology and time to implement and cannot be made available openly for review.

    And that is before we get into the subject of censorship and forcing ISPs to police internet content outside their own networks.

    Putting this in place and then claiming that 100% of UK ISPs are filtering Child Abuse Images is misleading and inaccurate.
    The cost involved and the creation of internet censorship by the back door is unacceptable.


    "I can't see a political party or the public supporting easier access to images of child-sexual-abuse, but you're free to campaign if you want. (I'd wear running shoes if petitioning in town though :->)"

    This is the usual tired response to any logical debate on these issues - if you don't support censorship then you must support child abuse. It shows complete contempt and I find it incredibly insulting that I will be classed in your eyes and those of the IWF as supporting Child Abuse because I dare to point out the IWF filtering scheme is flawed to the point of being irrelevant.

    That the benefit of the filtering is very slight and the cost to implement is too high.

    Not implementing the IWF filter list does not make it easier to find child abuse images for the internet users not looking for the stuff in the first place. The minority of people who are searching for it will find it anyway, IWF filter or not.

    Now that the IWF filtering and the way it works are public knowledge, the suppliers of this filth will already have moved to technology not filtered by the IWF list.

    What I think of the kind of people who abuse children cannot be expressed on this blog.


    I've taken the time to put together a reasoned argument based on facts and hope to see reasonable replies and no more accusations that people against this censorship by the back door are Child Abuse supporters.

    I appreciate that it is an emotional issue and the IWF and supporters have a vested interest in government action, but in the words of Benjamin Franklin

    "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety"

  • Comment number 47.

    SheffTim,

    I agree with you about page hits, which is why I support your point about that.

    However, I must disagree with you where you say just wanting to know what sites are on the block list makes you a paedophile. There needs to be an independent check to make sure that the sites being blocked are being blocked for the right reasons. China markets its firewall as block on pornographers and other similar people, which means that, just by visiting the BBC (if you go by Chinese Government standards), you must be depraved....

    There needs to be a way of getting independent verification that the sites that are being blocked genuinely should be on that list. As others have pointed out here, the fact that the list is secret leads to the suspicion that the list may contain URLs of articles critical of the IWF.

    Given what happened to Walter Wolfgang, Damian Green and Stella Rimmington's warning about the Government using "Fear of Terror" (together with lots of new laws and statements), there is also the (admittedly AT THIS POINT, slight) possibility that that list may contain sites the Government don't want you to read.

  • Comment number 48.

    Now that I've had some time to think about it I realise that I fell into the same logical trap I accused SheffTim of. In my case: Just because an organisation has Government support, especially tacit Government support (extraordinary rendition anybody?), it doesn't mean that it's lying or has a nefarious agenda.

    I still think the list needs to be checked but, instead of making the whole thing public, have copies given to every British news organisation and have their journalists confirm that the sites on it should be.

    That should stop Governments and others using the firewalls of ISPs for their own agenda.

  • Comment number 49.

    To reply to a few points raised and to add some new ones.

    The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) was founded in 1996 by the UK Internet Service Provider (ISP) community to act as a self-regulatory body to combat criminal content, most especially child pornography. It is funded by those ISPs plus others in the Internet industry including Google, AOL and Microsoft, amongst others.

    If the IWF was to disappear today, a replacement body would soon appear, either another 'voluntary regulatory body' set up by the ISPs and Web companies, or as a police unit, a subset of the home office; and it would work in a similar way to the current IWF, working with the same partners.

    The IWF currently operates as a charity. There may be a case that the IWF's Chief Executive should become accountable to an elected body such as Parliament or a Police Authority, but that also leads to the danger that they`d be a political appointee.

    If you wish Parliament to appoint an ombudsman to check that that laws are being adhered to and interpreted correctly and that procedures are rigorous, or you wish it to become part of Government (e.g. Home Office) so it is accountable to Parliament then, again, you need to make a case to MPs and the Internet bodies that founded the IWF.

    I think there is a case for the IWF to recruit a number of industry specialists to advise them on the increasing number of technical issues they face.
    But allow anyone and everyone to look at the IWF list, that clearly would be a paedophiles charter, so any checking would have to be by an independent body, its members police-checked etc

    A lot of this ground (and more) was covered in quite a lot of detail in a thread just before Xmas. It may be worth reading that [esp. from #17 onwards] rather than rehashing it here.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/technology/2008/12/wikipedia_no_longer_censored.html

    To make a reply to Rory's original question at the top of this thread.
    If the offending site is located in the UK, the IWF informs the hosting company (a take-down and desist notice) and, providing the host acts promptly to remove the material (eg within 24 hours), the host has no liability for it. ISPs are also notified to block access. (See 42) However most sites which the IWF identifies are overseas, where it has no jurisdiction.
    The IWF believes it cannot issue a notice to, say, a Polish or German ISP.
    The IWF informs a sister body, known as a 'hotline', in the relevant country and then it is a matter for them and their local law enforcement agencies.

    Richard Clayton, who runs a blog about Computer Security Research at the University of Cambridge, believes this is because UK police only have jurisdiction within the UK, because of the IWF's links with the police the IWF remains within these UK jurisdiction limits too.
    Banks etc however succeed in requesting foreign ISPs/hosts to take down pishing sites - sometimes within hours.
    Clayton argues that the IWFs self-imposed limit should be re-thought and they should establish links with overseas ISPs; particularly as most child-sexual-abuse-pornography sites are hosted abroad.
    http://www.lightbluetouchpaper.org/2008/06/11/slow-removal-of-child-sexual-abuse-image-websites/

    On the Internet Archive: The Internet Archive (in the USA) has 'robots' that crawl the web taking copies of websites to preserve for posterity, often material that wouldn't be preserved by the original website owner.
    However, from time to time, these robots unwittingly preserve sexual abuse images of children, without staff at the Archive realising - they obviously don't archive child-pornography.
    Eventually someone stumbles across one of these pages and reports it to the IWF. I understand the problem lay with Demon’s web proxy, no other ISPs' proxys caused a problem.
    There is a good argument that the IWF should rethink its jurisdiction policy and in building relationships with major websites - in this case by contacting the Internet Archive direct, who would have removed the offending material.

    I also agree that much, much more should be done to stop child-sexual-abuse at source, here and abroad. We all know this isn't a perfect world; in the meantime we (society) should work in a number of ways. This isn't about just 'censorship'; real children are sexually-abused in order to make pornography that both panders to paedophiles and funds criminals.
    This debate is also about how we combat that - that doesn't involve wishful thinking.

  • Comment number 50.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 51.

    "Has the overall amount of Child Abuse dropped an equivalent amount?"

    In Britain it has went through the roof.

    The UK is moving into a monopoly scenario of certain types of child pornography. mostly early years, and schools.

    Britain is turning into the HQ of global pedophilia.

    The CEOP remit is a 'steam release' valve for the FBI, they're not in the detection business themselves. It is verboten (for example) for Jim Gamble to target teachers.

    Or to keep FBI related outcome reports, the FBI have to mesure trends via G/TIP outreach, CEOP will not tell them anything. The FBI basically wants to know about people like Graham Conridge


    And CEOP are not allowed to keep track of such people.

  • Comment number 52.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 53.

    As posted, this form of regulation is easily avoided. It would be so much more effective if these "watchdogs" actually did something constructive about the problem of child abuse.
    First these big headline grabbing stunts do nothing to deal with the problem.
    Secondly, the issue is horridly complex with very difficult issues. Child pornography on the net is a very unpleasant product of the actual abuse. Obviously sometimes the abuse is done to make money from "selling" the images, but largly the abuse is done for the "reward" the abuser gets. Again, although this abuse is recorded and traded for other "abuse" material, this is generally not the primary reason for the initial abuse.
    So how about everyone works on the problem not the symptons? and stops these big stunts that doesn't help with the problem?

  • Comment number 54.

    This is clearly a far more complex issue both technically and ethically.

    It would seem that charging ISP's £5000 for this list is quite exessive in my opinion. Especially if they have to also spend even more money on the technology to make us of it. This appears to be quite obstructive to the whole point of having the list in the first place. Obviously the IWF have good intentions and it's true that this list is likely to stop innocent people accidentally coming across these images rather than people who are actively seeking out this material. I think the execution is quite poor and more work needs to be done is order to make this more effective.

    What the IWF should not be doing is putting 'sales' pressure and guilt on ISP's to use this list as there clearly are lots of issues that are ample reason for not signing up rather than they 'approve of child abuse'. I hope the money that is currently being made by the IWF is being spent on tackling the source of these images. As they are a charity then it would be interesting to see their annual accounts to see where the money is actually going.

  • Comment number 55.

    Cadazian wrote :

    "Britain is turning into the HQ of global pedophilia."

    Citation please.

  • Comment number 56.

    Noting some of the responses here I should point out that there are two types of activity we are talking about here. While both are deplorable, one is clearly far more serious than the other.

    First you have the users, the people who download these images. Now a small percentage may do it on accident, either visiting a site unwittingly or not realising how young a person in an image is (I know some 13/14 year olds that would easily pass for 18/19), however most will be intentional. The easiest way to tell is by quantity, the intentional users will have far more of it. These are the easiest to target because the evidence is on their PCs and they are usualy not so technically savvy.

    However consider that these people may also be fairly harmless in themselves, you can be a peadophile without ever harming anyone, just like you can be straight but never rape anyone. Clearly not all will be and the exploittion they are looking at is very real regardless.

    The real 'bad guys' are the content providers, yet very little effort seems to be put into tracking them down from any of these charities. Astonishingly they have even turned to targetting several sites that produce purely computer generated images. If anything these sites should be promoted as they do NOT exploit anyone.

  • Comment number 57.

    Seems Cadazian has a bit of a chip on his shoulder against the Brits and teachers in particular, and enjoys swimming in an impenetrable acroynom soup of unsubstatiated assertions and tenuous linkages lacking in any factual basis. You really sure the FBI is that effective mate? Care to back your trolling up with some verifiable facts?

  • Comment number 58.

    hackerjack brings up a valid point.

    The issue of policing the providers of this material is complex and multi-jurisdictional.
    A UK ISP such as ourselves will remove any content of this type within minutes of it being reported and would assist fully with any criminal investigation.
    Such promises are not available from every server host in the world.


    As to people looking for these images, we would be far happier with the IWF list if it could be used to identify persistent offenders and report them to the authorities instead of pretending that the image isn't there (enforce the existing laws rather than censor).
    It is far easier to run an automated process to compare URL requests (which we have to log) against the list than to attempt to do real time blocking.

    Sadly the IWF have a contract in place with the ISPs where they are not allowed to log that a block has taken place.

    They are worried that if somebody finds out that they have tried to access a Child Abuse Image and that it might have been logged that the person in question might commit suicide (I was told this directly by the IWF "saleswoman").


    There is also the issue that the list contains "potentially infringing" images and thus they might not actually be illegal should the case get to court (i.e. overblocking as per the wikipedia incident).
    (Though I am certain that in the majority would)


    I am worried that from a technical stand point this type of blocking does not work and that it is riding on the back of an emotionally charged issue.
    Telling people that 95% of ISPs are blocking images of Child Abuse while 5% are supporting paedophiles is misleading in a big way.


    I guess 95% of ISPs blocking a couple of thousand images from a specific list that doesn't include other forms of distribution and were reported to the IWF by members of the public who had viewed them in the first place isn't such a good headline.


    And this 95% figure keeps coming up - is that 95% of ISPs or 95% of total ISP customers? Just curious.

  • Comment number 59.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 60.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 61.

    "Britain is turning into the HQ of global pedophilia."


    Pedophiles in Britain were establishment celebritiess in the 1970s.

    It is iconic, if you go back to UK/USA activism with Mary Whitehouse, it is still the same deal today.

    Most Brits are completely ignorant of how the PoCA 1978 came into being.

    Campaigners against global pedophilia go to Britain, where the leaders are as they did in the 1970s.

    Britain is one of the few countris that passes a law and then issues a press release to state they'd not the slightest intention of enforcing it.

    So violent porn gets referred to the FBI, in the hope our side will chuck you the 12 cases per annum for face value. It was the same with teachers and the SOA 2003.

    Except we gave you a lot more than 12 didn't we?

    We found more in Scotland in the blink of abneye than the Scottish authorities had found since their GTC(S) came into being in the 1960s.

    :o))

    And that was the problem vis a vis the USA and UK, you didn't want teachers,

    Opposition to pedophilia is largely a blue-collar activity in Britain.

    So, nobody out of the IWF hosting stats went to jail for a period almost fifth of the world's child pornography web-sites were hosted in Britain.

    Too many teachers like Paul Reeve I expect, we found him by the way in late 2005, and we found him before that, it was the Brits secretly plonking him in primary schools.

    You don't do teachers, you're not allowed to, we know this, you told us, and what you told us you don't do, you definitely don't do.

    Which is why sex offenders are not banned from your schools.

  • Comment number 62.

    "Care to back your trolling up with some verifiable facts?"

    When Britain hosted a fifth of the world's child pornography (web-sites) nobody went to jail,

    you didn't ban convicted pedophiles from schools until 2007 ( and only then as as a result of US activism).

    Not only was Paul Reeve on a FBI packet, we had to go ( in person) to Norfolk in 2005 to sort it out (again).


    BBC NEWS | England | Suffolk | Banned teacher can work with boys
    17 Oct 2008 ... A Suffolk teacher banned from working with children is allowed to resume ... Stuart Barley, from Holbrook, Suffolk, was handed the ban after ...
    news.bbc.co.uk/go/rss/-/1/hi/england/suffolk/7676784.stm - 42k - Cached - Similar pages
    More results from news.bbc.co.uk »


    We have a dozen people in the USA who do nothing else, but damage limitation relating to your teachers.

    BY the way, gender specific sex offending is like a bank teller who only steals fifty dollar bills.


    » Britain best at beating online child porn - IWF » Soft32.com News
    24 Oct 2006 ... The United States and Russia host the bulk of the world’s child ... that appears to be hosted in Britain, down from 18 percent in 1997. ...
    news.soft32.com/britain-best-at-beating-online-child-porn-iwf_2603.html - 48k


    Britain is best, ecept nobody went to jail for the IWF's 18 percent. Whats in today's newspapers?


    Almost 7000 criminals 'applied to be teachers' last year - Telegraph
    23 Feb 2009 ... Almost 7000 convicted criminals, including paedophiles, killers, and kidnappers, have applied to become teachers in UK schools, ...
    www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/4787846/Almost-7000-criminals-applied-to-be-teachers-last-year.html - Similar pages


    There you go, call it 18,000 over three years, all of whom excepting two or three, probably got jobs.

    Your country (almost) banned pedophiles from schools because Americans begged for over thirty years for you to do so.

  • Comment number 63.

    "you can be a peadophile without ever harming anyone"

    I have ( at least) a hundred press statements from Brit LEAs, Board of Governors, telling me so.

    They only done it on their computer.

    & etc.

    The pedophile movement see themselves as an identity,

    when Dr. Judith Reisman met their leader in 1977, we thought they were few, thousands but a few

    Then the internet came, and they learned, they had server melting numbers. They see themselves as 'inevitable' and to win is their intention.

    1000 child-porn web incidents tracked in Kirklees - Huddersfield ...
    13 Feb 2008 ... the seven-person team identified more than 13.7 million online child porn ... Flint Waters, who oversees the task force in Wyoming, ...
    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

    It is not going to be doable unless we change tack.

    The FBI are losing.

  • Comment number 64.

    "It is far easier to run an automated process to compare URL requests (which we have to log) against the list than to attempt to do real time blocking.

    Sadly the IWF have a contract in place with the ISPs where they are not allowed to log that a block has taken place."

    I'm not with you, if you are logging the former, isn't it the same thing?

  • Comment number 65.

    "Again, although this abuse is recorded and traded for other "abuse" material, this is generally not the primary reason for the initial abuse."

    It is the reason pedophiles have an advanced culture, it is tribal, they need that 'culture' to stay linked. Their chit chat is like that of baseball supporters.

    The UK has emerged as the global centre, because your free speech, may hit Al Qaeda, or homophobia, but pedophiles have a long history of toleration.

    (2) Opinion submitted to the National Council for Civil Liberties and made available to me at the time, when I was regularly attending meetings of the NCCL Gay Rights Sub-Committee.


    Their leaders sat next to your Members of Parliament.

    One of my US colleagues was supported by the cleaning ladies and nobody else when the same pedophile capo regime, was at a conference in 1977.

    Dr. Judith Reisman, her e-mail is on the net, go and as her.

    Judith wanted the guy banned and she was the only academic to want that to happen.

    Abuse is a 'celebration' of their 'being'.

    They have peer status, so I am a third ranker, Hollywood D list, Dr. Reisman is A List, the same for them.


    BBC NEWS | England | Beds/Bucks/Herts | Ex-teacher jailed for ...
    13 Apr 2007 ... Luton Crown Court heard Graham Conridge, 59, admitted posing as a teenage boy to contact 261 girls aged 11 to 15 through MSN and chatrooms. ...
    news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/beds/bucks/herts/6552437.stm - 39k - Cached - Similar pages

    He's a rock star to pedophiles. The 261 was only a hobby, he's an icon, far and wide.

    Did Jacqui Smith zilch his Myspace for the FBI?

    :o((

    The FBI can't do your free speech, you own that, your citizen and your call,

    the FBI can suggest that icons of the pedophile movement, should lose their Myspace of course.

    As one friend to another.

  • Comment number 66.

    "I can't see a political party or the public supporting easier access to images of child-sexual-abuse, but you're free to campaign if you want. (I'd wear running shoes if petitioning in town though :->)"


    The Lib Dem policy on U18 pornography is what?

    Proposal To Allow 16-Year-Olds
    To Appear In Explicit Porn
    By Andy McSmith
    Political Editor
    The Independent - UK
    3-21-4

    So legalization of some U18 and derogation of SOA 2003

    That really is their policy,

    the PNVD in Holland copied it, virtually word for word, and they're hard-line pedophiles.

  • Comment number 67.

    #56. The laws covering cartoons and pseudo photographs are there because computer graphics can be almost photo-realistic and the standard of manga and anime etc is so high; the underlying principle behind those laws is sound.
    Producing and consuming such material also has the effect of 'normalising' paedophile behaviour and thinking and attempts to turn it into something 'acceptable'.

    #58. "There is also the issue that the list contains "potentially infringing" images and thus they might not actually be illegal should the case get to court (i.e. overblocking as per the wikipedia incident). (Though I am certain that in the majority would)"

    You are right, the majority (probably all) would be deemed illegal. The IWF judge them on the same basis as the police when they bring a prosecution.

    Under current UK law to distinguish between child pornographic content, the courts rank material on a sliding scale of severity from one to five.
    Level 1. Images depicting erotic posing with no sexual activity. (See also below)
    Level 2. Sexual activity between children or solo masturbation by a child.
    Level 3. Non-penetrative sexual activity between adults and children.
    Level 4. Penetrative sexual activity between children and adults.
    Level 5. Sadism or bestiality.

    The CrimeLine Wiki has a page on what is currently considered 'indecent' and illegal by the courts and how this has been arrived at.
    http://www.wikicrimeline.co.uk/index.php?title=Obscene_images_and_media
    The Crown Prosecution Service site has more detailed guidance as to how images should be considered.
    http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/h_to_k/indecent_photographs_of_children/

    The courts (and juries) have contributed to how what constitutes an indecent image is defined. There have been several such cases. In Crown vs. O'Carroll [2003], O'Caroll's collection of photos were of non-posed nude children and his conviction for importing indecent photographs was upheld. Accordingly non-posed photographs of nude children can also be cause for an prosecution.

    Let's imagine that a court (or Parliament) says its OK to publish images of nude children on the Web and then sites carrying 1,000s of such images spring up, catering for the sexual fantasies and compulsions of paedophiles by showing thousands of images of nude young children.
    Would you be happy about that? I doubt public opinion would be.
    That's one argument why a court could well find the Scorpions album cover image indecent (And why the record company is now distributing the album with a different cover, both in the UK and elsewhere.), it may open the floodgates.
    A strict interpretation of the law is that such an image as on the Scorpions cover (it was controversial in the 70s, it would be unthinkable now) would be found to be a Level-1 image.

    Wikipedia is based in the USA and covered by US law, but if prosecuted it could mount a defence around the age of the image; i.e. pre Internet, pre widespread concern re. child-abuse; that Wikipedia only displayed one image, not a collection. That it is just one of many sites hosting that image etc.

    Intent, context and quantity of images could also be considered, as in the cases of Sally Mann and Nan Goldin, both controversial commercial photographers.
    But those are not cases that subsequently mean that it is permissible for any and all images of child nudity to be allowed on the web, or in print.
    They are specific exceptions to a general rule, one that is aimed at protecting children.

  • Comment number 68.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 69.

    I don't want to see child abuse of any sort. I am against all internet filtering and censorship and those things stand together just fine.

    A few days ago when I saw a woman screaming abuse at her young child in the street I simply turned up my iPod so I couldn't hear her any more. This sort of censorship/filtering does just the same. The abuse is still there, but nice middle class people can't easily find it.

    Unfortunately the 'think of the children' brigade have opened the door to censorship because of the 'terrorists' or to 'quell dissent' or to 'keep the peace'. It's a very slippery slope and short sighted people are greasing the UK up.

  • Comment number 70.

    "I hope the money that is currently being made by the IWF is being spent on tackling the source of these images."

    Ask them how many people are in jail, or convicted because of the IWF, ask CEOP the same thing.

    They just don't know. CEOP ar not allowed to keep outcome reports. The IWF just don't bother.

    With CEOP the question you need is 'why?'

    If you look at Lord Laird's Hansard PQ's in relation to List 99, you will find the smell of the FBI suspicions.

    CEOP in Washington DC are 'the teachers union' it is a little USDoJ joke.

    Does that help?

  • Comment number 71.

    "It's a very slippery slope and short sighted people are greasing the UK up."

    The Brits jailed nobody in relation to almost a fifth of the world's chld pornography web-sites, hosted domestically, I mean how libertarian do Brits need it to get?

    Whatever your govt. is actively spying on, it ain't pedophiles.

    Let me put it this way, your media is *full* of FBI stories, most of the CEOP stories are also FBI operations, they're re-hashed via PR as clever Brit enterprise

    Right, where are the CEOP or NCIS/NCS stories in the USA?

    Do you follow, the Brits go out of their way not to detect pedophiles. Because if they did they clock them all over the place just like the FBI.

    And we know the reason, your dark secret.

  • Comment number 72.

    Further to my previous comments:

    The following news story is interesting:

    http://government.zdnet.com/?p=4275

    (fair use excerpt)

    The New York Times reports that a major investigation by a national task force found the problem of sexual predators on the Internet has been vastly overstated.

    The Internet Safety Technical Task Force, formed by 49 state attorneys general, and run at Harvard’s Berkman Center, looked at threats from MySpace and Facebook.

  • Comment number 73.

    #66. "The Lib Dem policy on U18 pornography is what?"

    The proposal never became Lib-Dem policy; not that the Lib-Dems stand any chance of forming a Govt, they're a minority party in the UK.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/2277116.stm

    Issues such as these remain contentious as the age of consent in the UK is 16.
    One reason for keeping a higher age limit is that pornographers try and produce 'legal' pornographic material using models (of a legal age) that physically look much younger than they are.

    NB: My comment above has been sent to the naughty step. No idea why, as it was word-for-word pretty much what I also put in comments in the 'Wikipedia case' thread before Xmas.

  • Comment number 74.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 75.

    Hey, my comment's (#67) been allowed back into view. Thanks Mod's for the adjudication.

    It responds to points in #56 and #58.

  • Comment number 76.


    The proposal never became Lib-Dem policy; not that the Lib-Dems stand any chance of forming a Govt, they're a minority party in the UK.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/2277116.stm

    That's 2002


    Proposal To Allow 16-Year-Olds
    To Appear In Explicit Porn
    By Andy McSmith
    Political Editor
    The Independent - UK
    3-21-4

    That's 2004, later conferences negate earlier events, the vote was also overwhelming.

  • Comment number 77.

    "Intent, context and quantity of images could also be considered,"

    There is no context ( or artistic merit) defence for PoCA or SOA 2003, it is legislatively excluded as a possibility.

    The question or test is one of indecency, if it is, then that is that.

    Obscenity is another matter. Indecency ( chil images) is also legislatively defined as 'chiild pornography'.

  • Comment number 78.

    "One reason for keeping a higher age limit is that pornographers try and produce 'legal' pornographic material using models (of a legal age) that physically look much younger than they are."

    The major pornographers in the USA just used real kids to begin with.

    East of the Oder Neisse line, there is only one pornography industry.

    Images of Children, Crime and Violence in Playboy, Penthouse and Hustler (1953-1984) is worth reading.

    Generally speaking brothels, strip clubs, pornographers always use real kids if they can (get away with it).

    The SOA 2003, in Britain was because ordinary British publishers were publishing child pornography as recently as a few years ago.

    ( if it is legal, some 'publishers' will always do it)

    In my personal experience, I once investigated over a dozen strip clubs in a row, and they were all using U18.

    I didn't find one out of the batch which was strictly over 18.


    It is possibly not even illegal, I know the club CCTV ( sexual performances naked children with adults) was free passed ( by the Home Office).

    I can assure you of the latter aspect.

    I've had child sex traffickers openly in business 20 yards from a Brit police station and that was free passed because it was 'immigration' or 'national security'

    So teachers, immigration, the 'Daily Mail' factor, that all ( has at times) stopped the police, CEOP, UKIS in their tracks.

    And at other times, the Home Office has called to arrange events for the media, so US intel is handed over with positive media for a Home Secretary.

    I've done that myself. I've had home office people generating a force area (local police) e-mail (to be used) as the Americans waited to squirt something.

    That ended because women's groups n in eastern Europe were complaining of 'mistreatment' of arrestees.

    Generally speaking, in my experience, all pimps are pedophiles, and extreme pornographers will always use children if they can.

    Similarly, Max Hardcore 'adult' material in Europe will have CP ona user's computer as well.


    This website has been forfeited to the Unites States Government
    pursuant to the conviction of Paul F. Little, a.k.a “Max Hardcore”
    and Max World Entertainment for violations of 18 United States Code
    §§ 1461 and 1465

    http://www.maxhardcore.com/

    Child pornography is also extreme pornography, and some people collect extreme pornography.


    "In his film Max Extreme 4, an actress stated during one verbal exchange that she was 12 years-old."

    http://wapedia.mobi/en/Max_Hardcore

    The 'common enterprise' concept is easy enough.

  • Comment number 79.

    Can we block these sites from the public? Yes

    Is it morally correct to block these sites? Yes

    Will we block these sites from the public? No

    Why? Money

    What does this mean? Politics

  • Comment number 80.

    The news that as many as 700,000 households in the UK can easily access illegal child abuse image sites is both shocking and worrying for the public and the industry as a whole.

    Part of the challenge facing the industry in the UK is the confusing legal and regulatory position. While content such as child pornography is quite rightly illegal, there is no fixed legal requirement for ISPs to block access to it. Legal clarity is needed, to ensure a uniform attitude in the UK towards identifying and limiting access to illegal images online, whilst allowing service providers and businesses freedom of choice over what technology they purchase and what measures they implement to police Internet access.

    The technology to filter access to known illegal sites is already in widespread use among ISPs in the UK and abroad. ‘Web Filtering’ is a proven solution to the challenge of avoiding illegal content on the Internet and is supported by local agencies around the world that compile and share lists of known problem sites to keep technology solutions up-to-date and protect users from exposure to illegal images.

    With 95 percent of the industry taking a proactive stance to ensure that only legal content is access via their networks, end users can rest safe in the knowledge that their internet experience will be a safe and secure one.

    Javier Peralta, UK country manager, Optenet

  • Comment number 81.

    In response to #79


    "Can we block these sites from the public? Yes"
    No, we cannot block all of these sites because

    a) They need to be identified by a member of the public finding such images and reporting them to the IWF

    b) Not all sites are in a form that can be blocked due to newer technology

    A secondary question would be: can we block all the sites in the IWF list which again the answer would be no, because it can be trivially worked around even by non technical users.


    "Is it morally correct to block these sites? Yes"
    A very simplistic view. As stated you can't block with certainty because until a member of the public finds an image and reports it to the IWF it won't be on the list and so won't be blocked (and anything hosted in the UK will remain available for up to 24 hours because they don't wish to block in their own jurisdiction).

    In addition there are many other methods of distribution available which cannot be blocked by a simple list, direct peer to peer among them.

    I put it to you that it is morally wrong to pretend that implementing the kind of blocking like the IWF propose will have any effect other than causing problems for 99.9999% of users who have to suffer slower connections due to these filters silently re-routing even non-infringing traffic.

    I suspect it is better to monitor access to known sites and report these people to the appropriate authorities where they can be prosecuted and treated for their illness.

    Look at the number of people who get caught speeding which has then lead to convictions for no insurance, drug possession, car tax, burglary etc.

    Imagine the situation where a paedophile is identified by their browsing habits and when they are raided by the police it is discovered they have been abusing children. A far fetched idea?

    Blocking access has no direct effect on the people looking for the stuff, but active policing would.

    Persistent offenders cannot be identified under the IWF scheme because it is against their contract with the ISPs paying for the list. It is also in their interests to avoid anything going to court because they would then have to be held accountable for their classification of sites.


    "Will we block these sites from the public? No"
    To repeat the point, it cannot be done with certainty due to the way the IWF list is created and also due to changes in technology since the system was created.
    Anyone claiming that such blocking is possible is misleading you the general public.

    Nearly 100% of the internet population could find this stuff if they were so motivated. It is a comforting fact that the vast majority are not motivated and that there are not rabid paedophiles lurking behind every post box.


    "Why? Money"
    Money is a factor yes, because as it stands the IWF list costs lots of money to implement (including paying them to view and categorise images reported to them by you the general public).

    A strong reason most ISPs would not wish to get involved with blocking access to sites is that moves responsibility from the people looking for stuff to the ISPs, and for content not stored on their own networks.

    What happens when a member of the public finds something distasteful. Will they sue the ISP because it has been stated that 100% of UK ISPs are blocking stuff based on the IWF list?

    Once the IWF get their way and build a censorship network based on this single issue what pressure group is next? Block sites like facebook because they could be being used by terrorists?

    I'm no anti-censorship nut but I have to say I am uneasy about the level of control this provides an unelected and unaccountable organisation (not that I have much faith in the currently elected organisations who are more concerned with being popular than actually making things better).


    "What does this mean? Politics"

    I have to concede that the government are in the same position as I am here - we can't win because no matter what rational arguments there are against censorship of the internet as soon as the issue of abused children is brought up people turn into a frothing mob and paint anyone against the idea as supporters of paedophiles.

    Any government that publicly supports freedom from censorship will be voted out in the next election after smear campaigns calling them supporters of child abuse.

    What would be nice is for people to take a step back from time to time and not get caught up in the current campaigns of fear, uncertainty and doubt that the media love to fuel.

    What I would like to see from the IWF are statistics showing that blocking content on their list has had any effect on the amount of child abuse. I would also like them to say how many sites are on the list and a break down of number of sites per category.


    I would welcome an informed and rational debate over the issues.

  • Comment number 82.

    To respond to #80

    As a supplier of web filtering technology I am sure you are aware of the difficulty in blocking content without restricting what procotols are available to the users.
    In a corporate environment where you have the final say on what can or cannot be run on your networked computers then it works with more success.

    As an ISP you have to allow end users the decisions on what hardware, software and applications they wish to use and cannot simply block secure or peer to peer traffic without collateral damage (such as people not being able to use skype, bank online or patch their online games).


    But anyway, back to specific points.

    "The news that as many as 700,000 households in the UK can easily access illegal child abuse image sites is both shocking and worrying for the public and the industry as a whole."

    That figure is very misleading. Nearly 100% of internet users in the UK have access to images that would likely be classed by the IWF as child abuse even if their ISP subscribes to the IWF blocklist.

    In fact that blocklist is created by the IWF viewing images reported to them by the general public (they also take reports on racism and hate crime, but those issues whilst probably more common and also distasteful don't have the same effect as child abuse on the general public and are probably more vague legally).

    The legality of the images on the IWF list is another interesting question - how many people are ever taken to court over images the IWF have categorised?

    As has been seen their definition of illegal child sexual abuse images is not quite the same as the general public (see the wikipedia incident) and may not have ever been put before a judge.


    If a law is passed to force ISPs to filter traffic then so be it, but I hope the IWF isn't the arbitrator of the blocklist and that a new body with accountability and judicial oversight is created instead.

    The politicians are well aware of the blacklash such government mandated censorship would cause which is why they are standing aside and letting the IWF take the flack.


    "The technology to filter access to known illegal sites is already in widespread use among ISPs in the UK and abroad. ?Web Filtering? is a proven solution to the challenge of avoiding illegal content on the Internet and is supported by local agencies around the world that compile and share lists of known problem sites to keep technology solutions up-to-date and protect users from exposure to illegal images."

    Lets be very specific here so as not to infer that there is a magic button you can press to remove a site from the internet.

    Filtering http website requests is a proven solution to filtering http website requests.

    It does nothing to filter secure technologies (by design https URLs are immune to being filtered by URL and can only be blocked by IP which has collateral damage to non-infringing sites on the same server).

    It does nothing to filter peer to peer technologies.

    It is misleading to pretend that there is a one stop solution to all of this and I wish people would be honest instead of trying to spin that there is.


    "With 95 percent of the industry taking a proactive stance to ensure that only legal content is access via their networks, end users can rest safe in the knowledge that their internet experience will be a safe and secure one."

    Here is the insidious overriding threat inherent in this discussion.

    The implication that if you are not a customer of one of the 95% of ISPs signed up to the IWF that there will be horrific images popping up at every page and that your internet experience will be insecure and unsafe.

    Isn't that a rather condescending way to talk about the majority of internet users?

    Yes I understand that as a company in the filtering business you have a vested interest in selling such solutions.

    Yes I have a vested interest in providing ISP service to my customers. I am also of the opinion that if there was a commercial demand for filtered internet traffic we would provide such a service.

    The trouble is that such a service will never be 100% safe unless you block access to anything outside your own network (as the original AOL, MSN and compuserve networks did).

    The public voted back then that the walled garden was too restrictive and moved to ISPs providing the whole of the internet, causing even MSN to drop the idea.


    The 95% are not being "proactive", they have simply enabled filtering of http website traffic on port 80 based on the IWF list. It is their choice if they wish to implement anything on their own networks, but they should be more open and honest about it with their customers.


    To attempt to restrict what can be done on the internet by blocking anything that cannot be filtered would be to remove many of the newer technologies we use every day.


    * https used by Secure online banking, online shops and many sites which use logins.

    * Skype and other peer to peer applications

    * Online gaming (which uses secure protocols to avoid cheating)

    * Virtual private networks (VPN) which allow people to work from home.


    Some of these technologies can be used by paedophiles, terrorists and other criminals, but they make up a very small part of the internet community and strangely enough they don't draw attention to themselves (or they would be tracked down). The chances of "stumbling" onto this type of content by accident is very overblown.

    Lets look at other technology that can be abused by the same minority as the internet.

    Mobile phones
    Cars, buses, planes, boats and trains
    GPS
    Television, cameras and DVDs
    Radio

    If you were to talk about banning anything on that list because it can be abused you would get laughed out of town.

    The reason the internet is an easy target is because people are less aware of how it operates and they hear misleading comments like 95% of ISPs are safe and secure while the other 5% are not signed up to the IWF and support child abuse.

    I ask again because I am interested.
    Is that 95% of ISPs or 95% of total ISP customers.

    If the latter it could be as few as a handful of bigger ISPs signed up to the IWF scheme which isn't the same thing.

  • Comment number 83.

    "As has been seen their definition of illegal child sexual abuse images is not quite the same as the general public (see the wikipedia incident) and may not have ever been put before a judge."

    The indecency test is a legal benchmark and the Scorpions photo was well over the line, it was (also) illustrative of a song about a demon having sex with a child.

    People are on the SOR for less.

    Regina v. Graham-Kerr, Stocker L.J. said that the appropriate test in the case of the Protection of Children Act was that as stated in R. v. Stamford [1972] 2 QB 391, which uses the formula ‘recognised standards of propriety.’

    This, and the use of the word ‘impropriety’ by Lord Parker, point to the essential elements of indecency being offence caused, and inappropriateness, rather than that any amount of shock or disgust be caused in those forced to see it.

  • Comment number 84.

    "Some of these technologies can be used by paedophiles, terrorists and other criminals, but they make up a very small part of the internet community"

    They almost control it really. The pro-porn lobby decides what the banks do or don't do.

    IF VISA go the NSPCC will just see the money, so Victoria Clmbie ( as a culture) has to be factored in.

    ( Brit charities are the worst)

    Generally speaking the credit card companies cash-up illegal content directly. Who checks ages in the Ukraine?

    Child porn is even made in Ireland to be retailed in Britain!

    In Budapest they were doing it as they made cookery programs in the adjacent studios.

    I need NET people to get me a solution for abolition. I do not want to listen to them talking about abuse, that's my job,

    There is just *one* porn industry responsible for everything.

    They've always abused children and they're still doing it with their transactioning structures.


  • Comment number 85.

    "Any government that publicly supports freedom from censorship will be voted out in the next election after smear campaigns calling them supporters of child abuse."

    When I was lobbying for the PoCA,

    a few years earlier, 74, 75. & 1976

    MPs, who are today in govt. were sitting next to the pedophile leadership in common advocacy.

    It was the miners, cleaners, sweepers, dockers, laborers and working people of Britain who sided with the anti-pedophile campaigners

    ( such as Mary Whitehouse)

    Brit teachers are the major threat today whereas in the 1970s it was the NCCL, PIE, PAL and South London GLF cheered on by the COC in Holland.

    Today it is the teachers leading the campaign for the right of children to have sex with adults.

    And hence the 10 year old campaigns for legal teacher/pupil sex.

    I lived through those times (1970s) as a campaigner. and today, I do not see the moral bona fides of CEOP or the IWF, the latter are our enemy and the former are a puzzle.

    It is all to do again, to stop the march of pedophila towards societal acceptance.

    We need to clean up the internet and dismantle the special interest groups financing the abuse of U18

  • Comment number 86.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

 

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