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Govt sets target for blocking child porn sites

Concern over scope creep

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The government has given internet service providers until 2008 to block all access to websites containing illegal images of child abuse listed by the Internet Watch Foundation.

In a Parliamentary written answer on 15 May, Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker said progress had been made, but hinted that if the last paedophile services were not snuffed out of circulation soon the government might take steps itself to block people accessing them.

The industry-funded IWF had already seen a drastic drop in the number of illegal sites reported to be hosted in the UK, from 18 per cent in 1997 to 0.4 per cent in 2005.

All 3G mobile operators blocked access to paedophile sites over their networks, while all of the biggest internet service providers, representing 90 per cent of broadband domestic connections, were also willingly blocking access.

However, he said, "90 per cent of connections is not enough and we are setting a target that by the end of 2007, all ISPs offering broadband internet connectivity to the UK general public put in place technical measures that prevent their customers accessing websites containing illegal images of child abuse identified by the IWF". New ISPs would be given nine months before they had to comply, he said, but, "If it appears that we are not going to meet our target through co-operation, we will review the options for stopping UK residents accessing websites on the IWF list. Linx Public Affairs, an Internet law news service, noted that the technology used to block news sites displaying child pornography could easily be turned to other uses.

The Home Office had admitted that it had considered blocking websites that "glorified terrorism" under the Terrorism Act (2006). It said it was not policy to require ISPs to block content, but added: "our legislation as drafted provides the flexibility to accomodate a change in Government policy should the need ever arise ."®

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