Feeds

'Extreme porn' law could criminalise millions

Here come illegal pictures of legal activity

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

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. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
Facebook pays INFINITELY MORE UK corp tax than in 2012
Thanks for the £3k, Zuck. Doh! you're IN CREDIT. Guess not
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
YARR! Pirates walk the plank: DMCA magnets sink in Google results
Spaffing copyrighted stuff over the web? No search ranking for you
In the next four weeks, 100 people will decide the future of the web
While America tucks into Thanksgiving turkey, the world will be taking over the net
Microsoft EU warns: If you have ties to the US, Feds can get your data
European corps can't afford to get complacent while American Big Biz battles Uncle Sam
Don't bother telling people if you lose their data, say Euro bods
You read that right – with the proviso that it's encrypted
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.