Feeds

IWF rethinks its role

Ministry of Justice misleads on extreme porn

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

The Power of One Infographic

Anger at aborted attempts by net censor, the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) to block material hosted on Wikipedia earlier this week may lead to radical changes in the way the organisation works - it has already changed the way the organisation is perceived.

However, a campaign to turn the IWF into a classificatory system for the internet is likely to fail, as advice given out by the Ministry of Justice turns out to be seriously misleading.

One of the organisations opposed to the extreme porn legislation, Consenting Adult Action Network (CAAN) has been seeking official guidance for individuals uncertain whether material in their possession would fall foul of the extreme porn law, which comes into force in January 2009. Although the Ministry of Justice has provided advice as to what would be illegal in general terms, the consensus is that this is just too broad, and individuals need more specific assistance.

To date this has not been forthcoming and, as reported in the Register earlier this week, the police do not yet appear to have a view. Both police and the Ministry of Justice have told concerned individuals to send such material to the IWF for assessment.

This led to a suggestion from CAAN, which also sprang up within the bdsm community, that perhaps people could use the IWF in a positive manner. A spokeswoman said: "individuals could refer material to the IWF and, if they did not then block it, it should be safe.

"Since the Ministry of Justice has repeatedly claimed that the new law will only catch material that would already be illegal under the Obscene Publications Act, a window of opportunity exists for people to refer material on sites outside the UK to the IWF, obtain an assessment as to whether it is obscene, and then act accordingly.

"Such material could even be released in the UK with an ‘approved by the IWF’ tag".

However, the IWF poured cold water on this idea, pointing out that such material was wholly outside their remit. A spokeswoman for the IWF said: "Our role is that of an assessment and takedown body: we are not there to provide classification advice for the public.

"In respect of indecent material featuring child abuse, our remit covers sites hosted both in the UK and overseas. We will refer sites hosted here to the police for futher action, and where we deem sites hosted abroad to contain potentially illegal material, they will be added to the list of blocked sites that we provide to ISPs.

"That is not the case with Obscene material: nor will it be the case with extreme porn. With those categories, our remit will only go so far as to refer sites hosted in the UK to the appropriate authorities."

This leaves the Ministry of Justice with some considerable egg on its face. The government case for legislating against extreme porn was precisely because this material originated overseas and could not be blocked in the UK. It should therefore have been fairly obvious that the IWF could not provide advice on whether material would be covered by this act.

We asked the MoJ why they were directing individuals to seek advice from a body that is unable to assist them, but have so far received no response.

The exception to the above would be material hosted in the UK: if UK-hosted material has been referred to the IWF and the police have not subsequently kicked the host’s doors down then there may yet be room for an "IWF-approved" tag.

In fact, the matter is slightly more complicated, as the recent referral of the Girls Aloud case to the police made it clear - even where material is hosted abroad it can be considered to have been published in this country – and therefore subject to our Obscenity law - if the poster resides in the UK.

The amount of material that could be put to the test in this way is therefore slightly wider than just material hosted in this country. However, it still leaves wide open the question of where to get your advice about extreme porn.

In a separate development, the IWF admitted that following on from last week’s events, a review of its procedures was now under way and it would be consulting with the internet industry and service providers.

Ordinary internet users are unlikely to be involved in this consultation.

®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Yorkshire cops fail to grasp principle behind BT Fon Wi-Fi network
'Prevent people that are passing by to hook up to your network', pleads plod
UK government officially adopts Open Document Format
Microsoft insurgency fails, earns snarky remark from UK digital services head
Major problems beset UK ISP filth filters: But it's OK, nobody uses them
It's almost as though pr0n was actually rather popular
HP, Microsoft prove it again: Big Business doesn't create jobs
SMEs get lip service - what they need is dinner at the Club
ITC: Seagate and LSI can infringe Realtek patents because Realtek isn't in the US
Land of the (get off scot) free, when it's a foreign owner
MPs wave through Blighty's 'EMERGENCY' surveillance laws
Only 49 politcos voted against DRIP bill
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
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.
Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.