[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

[FYI] UK: Newsgroups-Debatte


----------------------------- CUT ---------------------------------

Exposed: where child porn lurks on the Net  

Worries about child sex led to the creation of a watchdog by Internet 
service providers. Demon is a member, so why can its subscribers 
still find paedophile images?  

Jamie Doward and Andrew Smith 

Sunday March 19, 2000  


Demon, one of the UK's largest ISPs with nearly 300,000 customers and 
owned by telecoms giant Scottish Telecom, now called Thus, is a 
strong supporter of an uncensored Internet and carries a number of 
the newsgroups banned by most rivals. The newsgroups are often 
explicitly named: several are described as pre-teens erotica. Others 
hide behind impenetrable acronyms. Sources in the Internet world 
suggest that there are up to 40 newsgroups carried by Demon that 
promote paedophile material.  

Newsgroups are stored on an ISP's own news server - a computer 
database that records all the posted messages. If it were proved that 
Demon was aware paedophile material had been placed on its server and 
had failed to remove it, the ISP would be breaking the law. Demon 
says it acts quickly to remove paedophilic material when it is drawn 
to its attention.  

Yesterday The Observer found scores of paedophilic material in 
several newsgroups carried by Demon. Some showed young teenage girls 
and boys; others were of young children performing sex acts on 
adults. It is illegal to download such material, but this newspaper, 
which has now destroyed the images, believes it was acting in the 
public interest.  


----------------------------- CUT ---------------------------------


----------------------------- CUT ---------------------------------


The IWF policy on newsgroups has been regularly re-visited in both of 
the former Boards, and will be again by the new one. As the article 
quotes "It's an interesting balance between the protection of 
children and civil liberties." The conclusion so far by both former 
Boards of IWF and the Government review has been that the original 
agreement got it about right. Nevertheless we have increased 
surveillance of the suspect groups, which are now monitored 
irrespective of whether the public reports them, and keep ISPs 
informed of which groups are currently causing problems.  

The number of newsgroups which regularly receive illegal articles is 
much fewer than the original 130 named by the police, some of which 
have never had an illegal article reported to us. It is also 
considerably less than the 40 quoted in your article. (It would have 
been a more responsible action for you to have reported those 
articles to us, so that we could have had them removed from UK news 
servers and checked the relevant groups.) It is also significant that 
the offending groups are not static. Academic research has shown a 
degree of organisation between correspondents in the relevant groups, 
so it is quite feasible that an attempt to shut them down would lead 
to migration of the illegal content to other groups. By the way, the 
illegal articles appearing in these groups are in the minority. 
Removing them would also remove a lot of legal content.  

Shutting down newsgroups would not do much to protect the children 
whose pictures are already on the Net. The work of the hotlines and 
industry to help police in tracing and prosecuting originators does.  

Your article concludes with the suggestion that we have got the 
balance wrong. What if the UK industry had accepted the original 
position of shutting down newsgroups nominated by the police? Might 
we not have had an article today reflecting on the damage to freedom 
of speech and the threat to democracy of a situation where the state 
could dictate what is available on the Internet, irrespective of 
whether it is legal or not? Interestingly when journalistic freedom 
is at stake, your paper is quick to question the "national interest" 
in Ian Hargreaves' piece on David Shayler in the same issue.  

               Yours faithfully
               David Kerr

               Chief Executive
               Internet Watch Foundation

----------------------------- CUT ---------------------------------