UK Government Backs Down on Forcing Broadband ISPs to Block

The UK government's Home Office has backed down from plans that were due to be revealed in this year's Queens Speech and would have forced UK broadband ISPs to block online child abuse websites. Failure to comply with the mandatory order would have resulted in a fine or possibly even criminalisation (original news). However the announcement caused significant anger within the industry, not least because an effective voluntary scheme was already in place and "working well". The latest statistics show that nearly 99% of UK ISPs already block or remove illegal child abuse sites through a self-regulation body known as the Internet Watch Foundation ( IWF ). The Home Office told Computeractive: "The Government has been considering whether legislation was needed, but having reached the figure stated by Ofcom (98.6 per cent), feels that at present legislation would not be required as the efforts made by industry have been effective in reaching this figure. We will continue to urge ISPs to implement blocking, and ask consumers to check with their suppliers that they have done so." Several UK ISPs , such as Zen Internet and Entanet, have historically raised concerns about the effectiveness of IWF and similar filtering systems. Not only are such methods easily circumvented but there are also many other ways of exchanging content where ISPs simply have no way of either seeing or restricting it (encrypted P2P etc.). The news is definitely positive, considering all the effort that has been put in by UK ISPs to tackle this most serious of problems. Still it does raise concerns about how the government allowed itself to take the situation so far without recognising the good work that was so obviously already being done. The news comes on the IWF's official Internet Awareness Day, which revealed that despite receiving over 27,000 reports (a 5% increase on 2008) only one in five were confirmed by the IWF as images of child abuse. Less than 1% of child sexual abuse content known to them has apparently been hosted in the UK since 2003, down from 18% in 1997. No responsibility can be taken for the content of external Internet sites.

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