Feeds

'Extreme porn' law could criminalise millions

Here come illegal pictures of legal activity

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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. ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
Inequality increasing? BOLLOCKS! You heard me: 'Screw the 1%'
There's morality and then there's economics ...
Spies, avert eyes! Tim Berners-Lee demands a UK digital bill of rights
Lobbies tetchy MPs 'to end indiscriminate online surveillance'
Google hits back at 'Dear Rupert' over search dominance claims
Choc Factory sniffs: 'We're not pirate-lovers - also, you publish The Sun'
While you queued for an iPhone 6, Apple's Cook sold shares worth $35m
Right before the stock took a 3.8% dive amid bent and broken mobe drama
How the FLAC do I tell MP3s from lossless audio?
Can you hear the difference? Can anyone?
4chan outraged by Emma Watson nudie photo leak SCAM
In the immortal words of Shaggy, it wasn't me us ... amirite?
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.