Feeds

Gov and ISPs clash over informal policing of net

If I said you should have a beautiful self-regulatory body...

Intelligent flash storage arrays

A row is brewing today between government and ISPs following suggestions that greater informal policing of internet content might be needed, along with a new self-regulatory body to carry out the task.

The proposal arose as Culture Minister Ed Vaizey spoke at the Internet Watch Foundation's (IWF) 2010 Annual Report launch yesterday.

He praised the IWF and UK ISPs for having put in place a model for dealing with child abuse and criminally obscene material (the IWF's current remit) that was recognised around the world. Both he and Home Office Minister James Brokenshire indicated that they "liked the self-regulatory model" and very much hoped it would continue.

Vaizey also indicated that there might be scope in future to extend the IWF's methods – though not necessarily through the IWF – to cover other categories of material.

Vaizey did not specify the nature of material that he had in mind, or who would be responsible for setting up the new self-regulatory body. However, he is involved in ongoing discussions – with roundtables scheduled for the future – about an opt-in for adult content and possibly the blocking of some additional adult material. He is also involved in moves to encourage ISPs to further block unauthorised use of material under copyright.

His remarks – particularly the implied suggestion that a new body might be required – generated some concern among those who work in the internet industry.

Nicholas Lansman, secretary-general for the Internet Service Providers' Association spoke to The Register. He suggested that the issue was far more complex than the ministers appeared to understand. Lansman said: "They need to understand that there is a world of difference between blocking material that is generally agreed to be abhorrent and unlawful across the world, and blocking or policing where different regulatory regimes are in play.

"Government has to acknowledge that there is a range of legal and other factors in play over these issues – and a far wider debate, with evidence from experts, is needed."

Officials at both the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Home Office were keen to play down any suggestion of a new initiative. A spokesman for the DCMS told us: "The IWF is an excellent good example of self-regulation and could serve as a model for industry-led approaches in other areas.

"The government is continuing to work with industry to address the concerns people have around privacy online as well as how to help parents protect their children from harmful and inappropriate content."

He rejected suggestions that the minister was specifically calling for a new body. A spokesman for the Home Office added that Brokenshire's comments related to the principle of self-regulation, but that no suggestion was being put forward at this time for any new body, or for a broadening of the remit of the IWF.

Any attempt to expand the remit of the IWF would have to be considered carefully by the IWF Board and the internet industry, which funds it. In the past, the IWF has said that it is in a stronger position if it sticks to its core areas and expanding out into more controversial topics could undermine some of the work it has done to date.

This is not the first time that government has suggested that the IWF could act as a panacea for other social ills. In the past, former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith expressed a brief interest in asking the IWF to focus on terror material. The call was quietly dropped. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
The 'fun-nification' of computer education – good idea?
Compulsory code schools, luvvies love it, but what about Maths and Physics?
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Ex-US Navy fighter pilot MIT prof: Drones beat humans - I should know
'Missy' Cummings on UAVs, smartcars and dying from boredom
Yes, yes, Steve Jobs. Look what I'VE done for you lately – Tim Cook
New iPhone biz baron points to Apple's (his) greatest successes
Lords take revenge on REVENGE PORN publishers
Jilted Johns and Jennies with busy fingers face two years inside
Sysadmin with EBOLA? Gartner's issued advice to debug your biz
Start hoarding cleaning supplies, analyst firm says, and assume your team will scatter
Edward who? GCHQ boss dodges Snowden topic during last speech
UK spies would rather 'walk' than do 'mass surveillance'
Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots
We know what the Doctor does, stop going on about it already
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.