Feeds

'Extreme porn' law could criminalise millions

Here come illegal pictures of legal activity

The essential guide to IT transformation

As matters stand, there are two serious issues with the proposal. The first is the wholly uncertain scope of the offence. A Ministry of Justice impact assessment suggested that in the first year, there might be 30 prosecutions under the extreme porn provisions (Criminal Justice And Immigration Bill Regulatory Impact Assessments, Ministry of Justice, June 2007).

If true, this is unlikely to make the slightest dent on an industry worth billions of pounds in the UK alone.

On the other hand, experts reckon that up to two million people could have such images on their computers – often unaware that they breach the law. In many instances, pictures could be downloaded to cache the moment an individual opens a blog. They might not even be aware of what they had downloaded: but they would have a very hard time proving that. This raises the spectre of police unable to prosecute someone on another unrelated matter taking a peek at their hard drive to see if they can get them for possession of porn.

The second issue is the role of the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) – and an almost inevitable increase in "prior restraint" on websites. At present, a degree of low-level internet censorship is carried out by the IWF. This is a shadowy and unelected industry body. The IWF has taken it upon itself to lead the fight against child porn, by maintaining watch lists of websites that are potential sources of such material.

Sites on these lists are incorporated into blocking software, such as Cleanfeed: and they are then blocked by most ISPs. The ordinary user will be told simply that the site is now "unavailable". Meanwhile, the site owner will only be aware that something is up when traffic to their site drops off. Fair enough if they are indeed disseminating child porn. Not so fair, if their business is perfectly legitimate: for they are effectively guilty until they can prove themselves innocent – and this may take weeks.

If child porn leads the IWF to recommend blocking a few thousand sites, stand by for that list to grow by many tens of thousands. At least the subject mattter of child porn is reasonably objectively defined. But "extreme"? Particularly when the IWF guiding principle seems to be: when in doubt, recommend a ban. Many small site owners will find themselves closed down and if they are not aware of the role of the IWF – and many are not – they will never know why. ®

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
Super Cali signs a kill-switch, campaigners say it's atrocious
Remote-death button bad news for crooks, protesters – and great news for hackers?
UK government accused of hiding TRUTH about Universal Credit fiasco
'Reset rating keeps secrets on one-dole-to-rule-them-all plan', say MPs
Caught red-handed: UK cops, PCSOs, specials behaving badly… on social media
No Mr Fuzz, don't ask a crime victim to be your pal on Facebook
Ex US cybersecurity czar guilty in child sex abuse website case
Health and Human Services IT security chief headed online to share vile images
Don't even THINK about copyright violation, says Indian state
Pre-emptive arrest for pirates in Karnataka
The police are WRONG: Watching YouTube videos is NOT illegal
And our man Corfield is pretty bloody cross about it
Felony charges? Harsh! Alleged Anon hackers plead guilty to misdemeanours
US judge questions harsh sentence sought by prosecutors
prev story

Whitepapers

A new approach to endpoint data protection
What is the best way to ensure comprehensive visibility, management, and control of information on both company-owned and employee-owned devices?
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.