Demon gets tough on child porn
It's all about growing up
Demon Internet has taken a public stand against child pornography stating will remove known paedophile newsgroups from its servers.
It claims it is to take a more "proactive role" in the removal of child pornography and will remove known paedophile newsgroups (30 in the first instance) from its servers.
It will also work with organisations across the industry to identify other measures to abolish paedophile content.
And it's called upon the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) - which monitors illegal content on the Net - to redouble its efforts in highlighting paedophilic material so that it can take action.
However, Demon said it would not seek out child pornography itself since it does not want to be seen as a censor. While it is happy to act on advice, it does not want to act as "judge and jury".
This stand is significant since it maintains the premise that ISPs are merely a conduit - rather than publisher - of content.
However, the announcement by Thus - which owns Demon - was unexpected and has caught industry groups by surprise. For until now Demon has been known for its stand on freedom of expression and the non-censorship of the Internet.
Last year the Observer published an investigation into the ISP in which Demon came under fire for allegedly not doing enough to prevent child pornography from appearing in newsgroups and on its news servers.
In a story entitled "Exposed: where child porn lurks on the Net", the newspaper claimed that Demon's bias towards "an uncensored Internet" was at the expense of removing child pornography from the Web.
Following the publication of the story David Kerr, the then CE of the IWF, wrote to the newspaper.
He said: "Shutting down newsgroups would not do much to protect the children whose pictures are already on the Net.
"What if the UK industry had accepted the original position of shutting down newsgroups nominated by the police?
"Might we not have had an article today reflecting on the damage to freedom of speech and the threat to democracy of a situation where the state could dictate what is available on the Internet, irrespective of whether it is legal or not?"
Demon denies it has made a policy U-turn. Instead, it claims it's just the "next logical step in the process to help us abolish illegal paedophile content from the Internet".
It claims it has always removed articles containing paedophilic content from its servers when it has been notified by the IWF.
But that doesn't explain why it has changed tack - why it has altered what many believe to be a fundamental plank of Demon's make-up.
That reason, it seems, lies with Thus. While it was fine for Demon, as a private company, to take an ideological stance on such issues as censorship on the Net, now it is part of a corporate it has been forced to ditch its T-shirt and fatigues in favour of a shirt and tie.
In other words, Thus cannot afford to have one of its companies championing such causes - especially when it involves such emotive subjects as child pornography.
Keith Monserrat, the director of legal and regulation at Thus, told The Register: "This is about the Internet growing up. It's abut the Internet becoming more responsible."
Earlier this month seven Britons were convicted on child pornography charges. ®