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Europe questions move to block child sex abuse images

Probably not effective, or legally possible across the EU

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Members of the European Parliament have cast doubt on plans to move to community-wide blocking of child sexual abuse images.

The Civil Liberties Committee questioned whether such blocking would be effective and whether different legal traditions across Europe would make such blocking impossible.

Alexander Alvaro (Alliance of Lib Dems MEP Germany) said: "Blocking does not seem to be very efficient."

Alvaro said blocking would be better implemented by individual states and said there might be issues with getting the US and Russia to remove sites hosted internally.

Current measures against child abuse images on the web in the UK, run by the Internet Watch Foundation, are run from a watchlist based on public complaints. The IWF also passes details onto international partners for content not hosted in the UK.

Apart from the occasional hoo-hah for blocking Wikipedia it does a reasonable job.

But the IWF remit does not extend to peer-to-peer networks or other distribution methods.

The European Union is in the early stages of creating a directive which it hopes will be adopted next year.

Issues include preventing people who have committed child sex offences from getting a job with children in another community country, stopping child sex tourism and blocking access to certain websites.

A spokeswoman for the IWF sent us the following:

“The IWF is the Hotline for the public to report online criminal content within our remit. We issue a 'notice and takedown' for that content so it is quickly removed from circulation. We consider removal at source to be the most effective way of combating child sexual abuse images online, and less than 1% of all child sexual abuse images known to the IWF are hosted in the UK.

We also work internationally by passing details of every identified non-UK website to our partner Hotline in that country, so they can investigate within their own legislation and in cooperation with their national law enforcement agencies. Whilst steps to have that content removed are in progress, the UK internet industry has voluntarily agreed to block access to them using a list provided by the IWF.

We consider URL level blocking to be a short-term disruption tactic to be used in conjunction with notice and takedown which can help protect internet users from stumbling across these images.

Neither blocking nor notice and takedown can put an end to offenders abusing children, nor can they effectively deny determined criminals who are actively seeking such material. It can however help to minimise the re-victimisation of the child by preventing images of their sexual abuse being repeatedly viewed.”

The full statement from the European Parliament is here. ®

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