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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 March, 2005, 10:55 GMT
Child porn site blocks supported
Seized computer equipment
UK adults want service providers to report visitors to child porn sites
UK net users would strongly back service providers if they tracked visitors to child porn websites, according to a Mori survey.

Eighty-nine percent in the survey of 1,000 said they would support the move.

A further 90% said they would welcome service providers voluntarily blocking access to child abuse websites.

Last year, BT started a trial to block sites that were on the Internet Watch Foundation's black list. But this can be technically complex and expensive.

Currently, net service providers in the UK operate on a self-regulation basis.

When a service provider is made aware of actual illegal material by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) or law enforcement agencies, they remove it.

But Ispa (Internet Service Providers' Association) said it was not possible or practical for a service provider to monitor all the content held on their servers or other sites.

Fine line

"It is a very difficult line to tread," explained Jim Cottrell, Ispa spokesperson. He said BT's trial revealed that some sites were blocked when they should not have been.

"But there is no internet service provider in the UK that would not willingly block access where applicable.

The freedoms offered by the internet should never extend to protecting those who derive pleasure from harming the most innocent section of our society
Simon Gawne, StreamShield
"Ispa and the IWF have zero tolerance for the actual hosting or production of paedophile material. All internet service providers are more than happy to work with law enforcement.

"The ideal solution is to have far greater integration on a global scale," he said.

Ninety-nine percent of child abuse sites are not hosted in the UK, but in Eastern Europe and the US according to Ispa, which means service providers cannot take the material down themselves.

Technical problems

The IWF has a database of sites which are "blacklisted". But content on websites can also be changed in a matter of seconds.

It also operates a net "hotline" for the public to report illegal content online.

Service providers do not, according to Ispa, consider themselves authorised or resourced to decide on the legality of all the material on the net.

It said it was the role of the government to conduct filtering or censorship processes above the consumer level, but there was also no one size fits all technical solution to the problem.

Different service providers have different core technologies governing their networks, so a range of approaches was needed, explained Mr Cottrell.

"A range of ISPs are very actively looking at this," he added. "They are keen to do what they realistically can, but it is a moving target."

Simon Gawne, from net security firm StreamShield which commissioned the survey, said that the research showed the public believed people accessing child porn sites should not be given privacy protection.

"The freedoms offered by the internet should never extend to protecting those who derive pleasure from harming the most innocent section of our society," he said.

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