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Irish senators have put forward a motion in the Seanad (Senate) urging the justice minister to force ISPs to block child abuse material online.

Ireland's ISPs already delete reported offensive content off servers in the country, but the motion seeks legislation to force them to block material hosted overseas.

"The legislation should… direct that Irish internet service providers put in place a system whereby child abuse material... hosted overseas be blocked where removal proves difficult or is likely to take an unreasonable length of time," the proposal read.

The motion is led by Independent Senator Jillian van Turnhout, who has lambasted ISPs for being more concerned with copyright violations than they are about child abuse images. Backers of the motion have also pointed out that similar kinds of rules already exist in other European countries including the UK and Norway.

"Norway has a population similar to ours. They block 10,000 to 12,000 requests a day,” internet safety advisor Pat McKenna of Childwatch told The Journal.

“In the UK, BT alone blocks 35,000 to 40,000 requests a day. That’s 58 million requests a year, just from one ISP.”

But the Irish ISPs have hit back at accusations that they are doing nothing to stop child abuse material online.

“We’ve been doing something which is in agreement with government since 1998 and that is the most effective thing. It is removing illegal content from our servers just as quickly as anyone can point it out to us - we have a hotline service to do that," Paul Durrant, general manager of Internet Services Providers Association of Ireland (ISPAI), told Silicon Republic.

He said the ISPAI was happy to debate the idea of a child abuse material filter as long as it was done rationally.

“We feel that if this is to be debated, it has to stand not on emotional grounds, but on seriously factual ones and to look at the countries where they have actually implemented this and what it has really achieved rather than pushing out figures where, when you investigate them, they don’t actually show what the people think,” he said.

An email sent out to members by the ISPAI and seen by The Register claimed that the given figures for material blocked in other countries was misleading, because they counted all URLs relating to an IP address, some of which might not have any illegal content.

The motion will be debated in the Seanad today. ®

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