Feeds

Scorpions tale leaves IWF exposed

'Look, that regulator isn't wearing any clothes'

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

Opinion As the dust settles over the Internet Watch Foundation's (IWF) little local difficulty with Wikipedia, the question that needs to be answered is whether this was all just storm in a teacup - or the beginning of the end of a conveniently complacent relationship between government and the internet industry.

Can the IWF now return to business as usual? Or do the cracks that have appeared over the last 48 hours suggest an organisation and an approach that is no longer fit for purpose: a confidence trick that remained aloft only so long as nobody asked what was keeping it there.

The IWF was established a decade ago by UK Service Providers in order to avoid onerous government regulation. Its primary function is to fight evil child pornographers - and content that is obscene or incites racial hatred - and it has undoubtedly had some success.

Less child porn is hosted in the UK than in any other Western nation, and a high proportion of material that seeps through from abroad is quickly blocked.

The IWF is careful to position itself as above any moral judgement. It is merely following orders - in this case, interpreting the Children Act 1978 with the help of training and advice from police specialists. It does not determine the legality of sites. It merely identifies those that are "potentially illegal", and forwards that information to the relevant channels - reporting to law enforcers, adding url details to block lists for ISPs.

The problem is that the world has moved on, both technologically and in its response to the big bad bogeyman of the child pornographer, but buoyed by past success, the IWF and its cheerleaders in government may just have failed to notice.

On the technical front, the IWF has "no role or remit for tackling the distribution of child sexual abuse content through other channels such as peer-to-peer or instant messaging". Nor, we would hazard, through web 4.0 - or other technologies that have proliferated in response to the authorities' crack down on the web.

As critics of the great Aussie firewall have commented, to focus only on web content is to ignore over half the problem.

Then, too, there is growing resentment of the way that the authorities have closed ranks to make debate on issues of child "safety" a taboo issue.

According to the IWF, no one has ever questioned its judgements before. No doubt this would continue to be the case, so long as it confined its attentions to sites and imagery that are clearly produced by child abusers for child abusers.

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

More from The Register

next story
Trying to sell your house? It'd better have KILLER mobile coverage
More NB than transport links to next-gen buyers - study
iWallet: No BONKING PLEASE, we're Apple
BLE-ding iPhones, not NFC bonkers, will drive trend - marketeers
Auntie remains MYSTIFIED by that weekend BBC iPlayer and website outage
Still doing 'forensics' on the caching layer – Beeb digi wonk
Scotland's BIG question: Will independence cost me my broadband?
They can take our lives, but they'll never take our SPECTRUM
NBN Co adds apartments to FTTP rollout
Commercial trial locations to go live in September
Samsung Z Tizen OS mobe is post-phoned – this time for good?
Russian launch for Sammy's non-droid knocked back
Speak your brains on SIGNAL-FREE mobile comms
Readers chat to the pair who flog the tech
prev story

Whitepapers

7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration
Avoid the typical headaches of OS migration during your next project by learning about 7 elements of radically simple OS migration.
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.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
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?