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Monday, March 1, 1999 Published at 17:27 GMT


Sci/Tech

Child porn turns to Chat

Children are best protected by rating and filtering technology - IWF

By Internet Correspondent Chris Nuttall

The UK body set up to monitor illegal material on the Net says paedophiles are turning to online Chat rooms to pursue their activities, after being driven from Websites and newsgroups.


David Kerr on the work of the Internet Watch Foundation
David Kerr, Chief Executive of the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), says 90% of the "Hotline" calls it receives are about child pornography.

But it is a misconception that Websites are the problem, he says: "By and large, Websites are legal. Most of the illegal material is in the much less controlled area of Usenet news.

"But the new frontier is Chat Rooms, which are in real time. So what goes on there is not susceptible to the sort of process we have of getting material reported, looking at it and then investigating."

Handful of newsgroups offend

Speaking earlier to Internet Service Providers (ISPs) at the ISPCON 99 show in London, Mr Kerr said three-quarters of the illegal material on Usenet was in just three newsgroups out of 40,000 available.

He said relationships had improved over the past few years between government and the police and the ISPs hosting the newsgroups. There was co-operation and more direct, friendly relations.

He denied recent reports that ISPs had been compromising users' privacy and cyber liberties by discussing access to information with the Association of Chief Police Officers. The IWF had been party to the discussions, he said, which were only about legal requirements and what they should and should not release.

Cross-border links improve

Mr Kerr said the IWF was not that successful in restricting illegal content - 90% of the material originated overseas and it was up to police forces abroad to take action. In the 24 hours it could take to alert them, the material could have been downloaded by those that wanted it.

There had been improvements in co-operation between police forces across borders, such as in last autumn's Operation Cathedral raids against child porn on the Net.

Hotlines similar to the IWF's are being set up around the world, leading to the networking of information and reports reaching the police in the relevant countries faster, he said.



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