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ICQ users slammed in priest child porn case

Paedophiles 'thought they were untouchable'

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An English Catholic priest has been convicted for downloading child pornography from an ICQ chat-room, used by "dozens of paedophiles".

The Reverend John Wingfield, 56, stored the obscene images on a computer at a Catholic girls school in Kingston, Surrey, where he used to teach. He was put on two years' probation and placed on the national register of sex offender, according to the trial report.

In an interview with the London Evening Standard, PC Neal Ysart of the Metropolitan Police's Obscene Publications and Internet unit said: "People who use the ICQ network do so under the conviction that they are untouchable and cannot be discovered, but this case proves that it is not so."

AOL likes ICQ so much that it bought its developer last year for $325m. ICQ technology forms a key plank in AOL's instant messaging strategy. But Ysart's attack on ICQ exposes a raw nerve in the ISP community. ISPs resist the notion that they can and / or should police all the content posted through their networks.

They are blind carriers - in common with telcos and voice traffic - the ISP argument runs. But some regulators and courts disagree. They say that ISPs are publishers and should be held to account for content published on their networks.

In July, Demon Internet threw in the towel in a landmark libel case in which it was held responsible for defamatory accusations published on a bulletin board it hosted. And last year, Bavaria convicted the former boss of Compuserve Germany, because of porn hosted on its site.®

See also

UK Court rules on ISP liability
Porn ruling raises UK law over Net freedom
Bavaria convicts former CompuServe boss in porn case

The Register's full coverage on Child Pornography and The Web

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