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Super regulator won't censor Net

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The new super regulator - the Office of Communications (Ofcom) - will continue to wage war on illegal material on the Net although Government preference appears to remain in self-regulation.

It seems Ofcom does not want to be a heavy-handed regulator - at least when it comes to Net content.

For example there's no mention of Ofcom introducing a "watershed" for Net content - similar to that used by broadcasters - probably because such a crude device would be almost impossible to implement.

Instead, it favours the approach pursued by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), which was set up in 1996 by ISPs to enable members of the public, via a hotline, to report child pornography or other illegal material on the Internet. The IWF then informs the relevant authorities to take action.

The White Paper also wants to promote rating and filtering systems that help Internet users control the content they and their children will see.

The White Paper says: "It is important that there are effective ways of tackling illegal material on the Internet and that users are aware of the tools available, such as rating and filtering systems, that help them control what they and their children will see on the Internet. Research suggests that this is what people want in relation to the Internet, rather than third party regulation."

Ofcom will continue to work at an international level to "secure from our overseas partners the necessary co-operation to maximise the effectiveness of rating and filtering."

What exactly this means is hard to guess. However, expect a row if - or when - "filtering" becomes translated into "censorship". ®

Related Links

The Communications White Paper

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