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IWF denies wielding Pirate Bay banhammer

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The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) has denied involvement in blocking the Pirate Bay BitTorrent tracker site, after BT mobile broadband users were told they had fallen foul of a filter against "over 18 sites".

The users were told to visit the IWF website for more information on the block. The ISP industry body curates a blocklist of URLs where indecent images of children can be found.

BT mobile broadband customers who attempted to access the Pirate Bay on Tuesday were told it had been blocked in compliance with a "new" content code, PC Pro reports. "This uses a barring and filtering mechanism to restrict access to all WAP and internet sites that are considered to have 'over 18' status," the warning said.

The warning pointed users to a page on the IWF website for more information.

A spokeswoman for the organisation however said it had played no part in blocking the Pirate Bay. "We have no role regarding peer-to-peer traffic," she said, "nor legal content such as adult material and I'm afraid the IWF cannot answer why a blocked splash page for Pirate Bay would reference our organisation."

A spokesman for BT said it did not intend to imply the IWF had applied the block. "BT and the other UK mobile operators have agreed and implemented a voluntary Code of Practice for mobile content that restricts access to content unsuitable for customers under the age of 18," he said.

"The list of sites and content that is restricted is compiled by individual operators themselves. The warning that BT provides links to the IWF website for information on the Code only."

The page BT's warning linked to on the IWF website details a voluntary mobile industry code of practice on content regulation. It is not an IWF document however, but was published by O2, T-Mobile, Virgin Mobile, Orange, Vodafone and 3 in February 2004.

"The Code covers ­new types of content, including visual content, online gambling, mobile gaming, chat rooms and Internet access," it says.

BT's mobile broadband network is provided by Vodafone. Earlier this year the mobile operator also blamed its blocking of some Czech anti-censorship blogs on the IWF. They seemingly denied any involvement in that incident too.

The organisation is particularly sensitive to accusations of going beyond its remit after facing widespread criticism for blocking a Wikipedia page late last year. The action meant the encyclopedia's edit functions were inaccessible to a majority of UK internet users.

The four co-founders of the Pirate Bay were handed prison sentences and fine by a Swedish court last Friday, for copyright offences. ®

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