Last week my attention was drawn to a notice which had been put up on 3's web site. It reads as follows
Note: If you're using a BlackBerry, we can't put a filter on your phone. This is because BlackBerry apply their own settings to access the internet
Why had this caveat appeared out of the blue where previously there had been nothing? Had something changed? If so, what and when?
At first everyone started clamming up. I took that as a sure sign. Then finally two networks confirmed that, right now, they believe none of their BlackBerry users are covered either by the adult content blocking policy or by the IWF list blocking
policy. Another network said they believed some BlackBerry models were still covered but they acknowledged not all of their BlackBerry users are any more.
Why have Blackberry decided to stop running services which keeps adult sites away from children or indeed anyone who has not asked for the adult bar to be lifted? And what exactly is the position with the IWF list? When did universal coverage
under either or both headings cease to be a fact? Was it ever a fact?
Was OFCOM, CEOP, the Government or anyone in authority informed of any changes to what was very widely understood to be the status quo? If not why not? This is a scandal which risks putting a big dent in the credibility of the whole notion of
self-regulation of the internet in the UK, if not elsewhere as well.
My understanding is that all of the UK's mobile phone networks have been tearing their hair out trying to get RIM to sit down with them and resolve this but it hasn't happened. Meanwhile what are the networks to do? Cut off all of their customers
who use BlackBerry devices? I am sure some people will say that is exactly what they should have done but I think that is rather an extreme view and it ought not to be necessary when RIM have it within their gift to avoid it.
Should the mobile networks have warned parents or the public or some of their customers?
BlackBerry has been summoned to a meeting with the internet censors at Ofcom after it emerged that its internet feed is provided
without age restrictions.
Research in Motion (RIM), the company behind the BlackBerry, will be joined at the summit by the leading mobile networks at the summit called by the telecommunications regulator.
It was brought to our attention that there was a problem, an Ofcom spokesman said: It is to do with the way in which the BlackBerry operating system works. We are very concerned and want to get this resolved as quickly as possible.
While mobile phone operators have been able to apply filters to other handsets such as the iPhone, they have been unable to do so on the BlackBerry. This is because data flows through the BlackBerry's own services rather than those provided by the
networks. It is understood that RIM did offer its own filtering system to UK networks, but this has only been taken up by T-Mobile.
Ofcom have had their first meeting with RIM on the subject of website blocking. The meeting was attended by all the UK mobile
operators and the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF). A second meeting has been scheduled for the New Year to check on progress.
An Ofcom spokesperson reported to Techworld that, although RIM was blocking access to those URLs flagged up by the IWF, it does not currently prevent access to adult content by default.
RIM explained it is now working on new parental control features that will give parents the ability to control and restrict their children's use of various services and applications on BlackBerry smartphones. Integrated parental control features
will be provided in future versions of BlackBerry 7, and BlackBerry App World 3.1 also offers content rating and filtering options for applications based on the CTIA Wireless Association's Guidelines for App Content Classification and Ratings
UK users of the popular Fileserve file-hosting service are currently unable to download any files as the site is being blocked by
ISPs acting on a block list provided by the Internet Watch Foundation.
Since early this week the blacklist, which aims to disable access to sexual child abuse content, has been preventing users from accessing their personal files and downloading those uploaded by others. Fileserve expects the issue to persist for at
least a couple of days.
With hundreds of millions of page views each month, Fileserve is listed among the 10 most-visited file-sharing sites on the Internet. The site allows users to store files in the cloud for personal use or subsequent sharing with the rest of the
Update: IWF demonstrate to cloud computer users just how easy it is to pull the plug on all of their data
The UK's Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) has now lifted a block imposed on a major cloud computing data host.
The target of the block was Fileserve, one of the top most-visited sites on the web, allowing users to store files, documents, music etc.
The IWF caused major inconvenience in an attempt to block what is understood to be a single file hosted on the site. But this blocked access to all of the sites' download servers.
Many inconvenienced users had taken to their web providers' support forums to complain about the move, with many believing their ISPs were blocking downloads. Subsequently, an updated message on the Fileserve site revealed in cringeworthy language
that the: IWF recently implemented changes that may affect your download ability on the site .
The conviction of Vincent Tabak for the murder of Jo Yeates has thrown the issue of online criminally obscene adult content, sometimes known as
extreme porn, into the limelight. The vast majority of the IWF's work concerns the removal of images of child sexual abuse from the internet, for which we have an international remit, but we also deal with criminally obscene adult material hosted
in the UK.
In 2007 the Home Office asked the IWF to allow our public internet reporting mechanism to be used for the reporting of UK-hosted criminally obscene adult content. Following consultation with our industry members, our Board informed the government
of our agreement to fulfil this role, from 26 January 2009, as part of our original remit.
We are able to act on any public reports of online obscene adult content when it is hosted in the UK and contravenes UK Law, we cannot act if the content is hosted abroad and do not action legal adult content. The online industry fully supports us
issuing takedown notices for this part of our remit. However, we receive very few reports of this type of content which satisfies these criteria and enable us to issue a takedown notice:
In 2010 we issued eight notices for criminally obscene adult content.
In 2009 we issued two notices.
In 2008 the number was 39.
The reason there are so few is a reflection that the UK online industry provides one of the harshest environments for hosting criminal material. On those rare occasions when material believed to be unlawful is depicted on a website hosted in the
UK, we work in partnership with the online industry and the police to provide information to assist investigations into the distributers of the content. The material is removed in hours.
The IWF is not an organisation which makes moral judgements on what is hosted on the internet. We are solely concerned with the prompt removal of criminal content within our remit and we have achieved great successes in this.
Offsite: Interview with Susie Hargreaves, IWF Chief Executive
In recent years, the IWF has widened its net slightly. To its original concern with child abuse images, and imagery that breaches the Obscene Publications Act, it has added extreme porn (2008) and cartoon images of child abuse
Which brings us full circle to the question of whether the IWF is in danger of turning into a net police ? Hargreaves thinks not: There is no one on the IWF board from the police. Members come from a range of backgrounds, including human
rights and some have strong anti-censorship views: the role of the IWF is to implement a takedown and filtering of material in line with what the industry wants.
And there, she suggests, is the heart of the matter. It is not unusual to hear the IWF praised by government -- or even ministers suggesting, sotto voce, that the IWF could be used as a solution to this or other problems, namely online bullying,
terrorist sites and even piracy.
But so far, all such pressures have been resisted. MPs, she tells us, recognise that the IWF does what it does best by sticking to a very specific focus .
The UK Government passed the Criminal Justice & Immigration Act 2008 criminalising the possession of adult, staged, consensual
violent pornography with draconian penalties of up to 3 years in prison. The law also bans images of bestiality and necrophilia.
Since that time the law has achieved:
Numerous paedophilia cases have been pepped up with lesser charges of extreme porn that is found when computers are searched.
The authorities have been able to persecute people when no evidence of their suspected original crime has been found. The resulting computer search has turned up some extreme porn 'so at least they can be done for something'.
A few innocent people have got into trouble about jokey bad taste video clips found on their phones and computers.
Zero reports of dangerous sex criminals being detected from their extreme porn use.
Following the disclosure that Jo Yeates's killer Vincent Tabak was obsessed with websites showing sexual violence, bondage and strangulation, campaigners are inevitably claiming that an unstoppable flood of hard-core and violent pornography is
corroding the very fabric of society.
This has been put down to the apparent failure of laws introduced in 2009 to outlaw images of rape, torture and extreme sexual violence as well as bestiality and necrophilia. Anyone caught visiting such websites to view violent and extreme pornography was threatened with up to 3 years in jail and an unlimited fine.
But officials admitted they expected to see only a small number of prosecutions and no extra funding was made available for a proactive police response. The policy contrasts with proactive inquiries into the use of child-abuse images which are the
responsibility of specially trained teams.
Liz Longhurst, who led the fight for a new law after her daughter Jane was murdered, said she was disappointed that there have been few prosecutions and attacked the recklessness of internet companies. She claimed:
The internet service providers have so much to answer for. They go on about freedom, but for goodness sake where was Jane's freedom?
The police should make it routine that if somebody is accused of murder or a serious attack they should investigate if this stuff is on their computer.
The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) said that last year they have investigated 2700 complaints from the public claiming llegal adult porn but these resulted in only 12 cases that were judged as potentially criminal and 8 take down notices were
issued. The other 4 presumably been hosted abroad and not liable to IWF intervention. 49 take down notices have been issued in the last 3 years.
IWF chief executive Susie Hargreaves said: The IWF is able to act on any public reports of online obscene adult content where it is hosted in the UK and contravenes UK Law. However, we receive very few reports of this type of content which
satisfies these criteria.
Former Labour MP Martin Salter, who campaigned for the new laws, said he wants to see police using them and sending out a clear message.
There are some people so evil and so depraved that nothing will deter them. But it was hoped that by tightening these laws we might prevent some unbalanced individuals from being tipped over the edge.
Quite frankly, every time the police use these powers and there is more publicity about their existence, the greater the deterrent factor in these cases.
87,000 child sexual abuse webpages have been removed in 15 years thanks to the work of the Internet Watch
Today the IWF not only marks its annual Awareness Day, but reflects on its 15 years of tackling online child sexual abuse content. Since it was launched on 1 December 1996, the IWF has assessed almost 370,000 webpages. As a result of the IWF's
work with the online industry, the volume of UK-hosted child sexual abuse content has reduced from 18% in 1997 to less than 1% since 2003 and the IWF has kept it that way.
Child sexual abuse webpages in the UK are rapidly removed thanks to the responsible actions of the online industry with whom the IWF works. However there is still a problem with child sexual abuse content hosted around the world. The IWF
statistics spanning the past 15 years show 45% of the worldwide webpages assessed and actioned for removal by the IWF featured children aged 10 years and under, including babies. The is percentage has increased in the last 4 years reflecting the
increasingly extreme nature of the content assessed and actioned by the IWF analysts.
The IWF is the UK reporting Hotline for images of child sexual abuse hosted anywhere in the world. Unfortunately it also the snitch line for UK-hosted extreme adult pornography. But to be fair, the IWF hasn't really sought to get involved in adult
censorship, presumably because it rather dilutes the near total support for the primary task. The IWF is an independent self-regulatory body which was set up and funded by the online industry and the EU. It has more than 100 funding members.
All reports to the IWF are assessed by a team of analysts who have an exemption within the law to enable them to view potentially criminal content. When child sexual abuse content is found and hosted within the UK, it is shared with the police and
removed within hours thanks to the responsible actions of the online industry. When it is hosted abroad, it is shared with a corresponding Hotline in the host country and with law enforcement. While actions to remove the content are in progress,
the IWF updates its URL list of child sexual abuse content which the online industry voluntarily deploys to protect their customers from stumbling across the content. This list is updated twice daily to ensure the URLs which contain child sexual
abuse material remain on the list until the content is removed.
Since 2004 when the list was first made available, cumulatively almost 63,000 URLs have been added to the list. Typically the list contains around 500 live URLs on any one day, which is a reduction from 1,200 URLs a day two years ago. This is
because the websites hosting the identified content are now taken down more quickly.
IWF Chief Executive Susie Hargreaves said:
To assess more than 370,000 webpages is incredible and the IWF is proud to have played its part nationally and internationally to remove images of child sexual abuse. Although we've had tremendous success domestically, child sexual abuse content
on the internet is a problem the IWF and the industry are eager to tackle wherever it is hosted. With the industry and partner Hotlines' support we've been able to remove 87,000 webpages containing some of the worst content depicting the rape and
sexual torture of young children and babies. Preventing the revictimisation of those children and protecting the public from stumbling across this horrific content is our priority. Through working with the online industry and our partners we've
been able to grow and adapt in order to meet this challenge and we will continue to adapt to tackle this global problem.
They have the power to ban a film, withdraw an advert or shut down a website. But how do Britain's censors decide what goes
beyond the boundaries of good taste? Holly Williams meets the nation's moral guardians
Rebecca Mackay of the BBFC revealed"
We reject the granting of certificates very rarely. Fifty years ago, we were rejecting films that now we might classify as a '15'. Now, we're classifying things with greater potency, because shocking and offending is just shocking and offending.
Fred Langford of the Internet Watch Foundation revealed:
We also took on obscene adult content, so that's anything likely to deprave and corrupt -- which is quite subjective. Because of the shifting landscape, we only act when the content is potentially illegal, and a legal precedent has been set. We
don't see ourselves as censors of the internet. If it's criminal offline, it's criminal online. Simply inappropriate content isn't within our remit.
There's no place for vigilantes searching for this content, but if a member of the public stumbles across it, they can report it on our website. The number of reports vary from 150 to over a thousand, though that would be an unusually busy day.
We have four analysts and a hotline manager.
Louisa Bolch of the Advertising Standards Authority revealed:
More interesting is the stuff around taste and decency, and harm and offence. We ask, is this something the majority are going to find offensive? Or is this something which is going to offend a much smaller number of people, but offend them so
much that actually when you weigh in the balance the advertisers' right to freedom of expression versus the amount of offence it's caused, you say it's too great. That's a really grey area -- we will discuss them for quite a long time. We don't
withdraw adverts lightly; it's a serious business. The meetings can be really good fun, but there's a lot at stake. If it's not clear cut, at the end of the day we have a voting mechanism.
Alison Marsden of Ofcom revealed:
Ofcom isn't a censor; we don't have any powers before broadcast. We have to take into account freedom of expression -- broadcasters' and audiences' rights to impart and receive material. [...BUT...] The counterpoint to that is that,
intervening post-transmission, we have some pretty strong legal powers to impose sanctions where necessary, so there is an incentive for broadcasters to comply.
Susie Hargreaves started as Chief Executive of the Internet Watch Foundation on 5 September 2011.
Susie was selected for the position in May and replaces Peter Robbins who led the organisation for nine years.
Susie has worked in the Charity sector for more than 25 years, most recently as CEO of The Society of Dyers & Colourists and previously in a range of senior positions including running a number of membership organisations.
The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) has appointed Susie Hargreaves as its new Chief Executive. She will start in September.
Susie has worked in the Charity sector for more than 25 years, most recently as CEO of The Society of Dyers & Colourists and previously in a range of senior positions including running a number of membership organisations.
The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) has announced two new appointments to its Board. Brian Webb, Head of Internet Customer Security &
Specialist Services at BT and Andrew Yoward, Head of Support at Yorkshire and Humberside Grid for Learning (YHGfL) have been appointed as Industry Trustees.
Brian Webb -- biography
Brian is responsible for BT's internet acceptable use policy and its enforcement for BT's 5 million plus customer base across BT's internet access products. Within BT Brian works as part of its child internet safety steering group and the
corporate responsibility group on social impacts of the internet. He represents BT on the board of Family Online Safety Institute, the funding council of the Internet Watch Foundation and on the UK Council for Child Internet Safety public
Brian has 23 years' experience working within a crime and security environment, 19 of them in an investigative capacity. In Government service Brian investigated the activities of organised crime gangs, specialising in identity crime cases. Since
joining BT in 1997 he has dealt with a multiplicity of criminal matters, focusing latterly on e-Crime issues. Prior to his current role Brian was Head of Incident Management Operations, BT Security where he was responsible for 24/7/365 incident
monitoring & handling operations and managed security for BT's 30,000 international business travellers.
Andrew Yoward - biography
Andrew is Head of Support Services and IWF Funding Council representative at YHGfL Foundation, one of the Regional Broadband Consortia set up to meet the Government target of connecting all schools in the Yorkshire & Humber region to
broadband. In addition to the successful completion of that target, YHGfL provide BECTA accredited ISP services and connectivity to over a quarter of a million students in 1500 schools as well as a significant number of public libraries and other
learning establishments. Its aim to become a regional centre for excellence and innovation in eLearning was validated by the award of the ICT Excellence Award for Support to Schools in autumn 2010.
Andrew heads up the team that implements and supports the technology that provides eSafeguarding for the region, ensuring that access to inappropriate internet and e-mail content is restricted: an important element of which is the IWF child sexual
abuse webpage blocking list. The team also provide technical support for local authorities and their schools across a range of technical services including network monitoring and servicing. His role involves keeping abreast of all key developments
in the technology surrounding online monitoring and protection in order to provide advice and guidance to the region.
Andrew has worked in the IT industry for 15 years and has a hands-on technical background. He has industry qualifications from Microsoft & Citrix as well as certifications from Cisco. He is also in the process of achieving ITIL Expert status
which establishes best practice between IT and business.
An international notice and takedown system should be implemented to combat the global problem of online child sexual abuse.
This is the key finding of an independent report by Dr Weixiao Wei, commissioned by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) and funded by the Nominet Trust.
Entitled: Online Child Sexual Abuse Content: The development of a comprehensive, transferable international internet notice and takedown system , the report establishes the value of an international notice and takedown system,
through the examination of the legislative and regulatory approaches in eight countries. Dr Wei identifies impediments to achieving this aim and recommends a way forward.
The report found that there is compelling evidence that the notice and takedown system already used in some countries is effective in removing child sexual abuse content at source, while still allowing law enforcement authorities to capture
evidence for investigations aimed at prosecuting offenders and where possible, the rescue of child victims.
Some of the obstacles to establishing this system on a global scale were identified as:
Gaps in legislation concerning child sexual abuse content where the law has not kept pace with the development of technology
Regulatory regimes in some countries which are still in the early stages of development
The challenges posed by differing national and legal standards
The potential impact on complex international relationships if an international notice and takedown system is developed;
In order to develop a comprehensive, transferable international internet notice and takedown system, Dr Wei recommends:
Harmonising laws between countries relating to online child sexual abuse content
Using a consistent and comprehensive international procedure for taking down child sexual abuse content
That those countries which already operate a notice and takedown system harmonise their practice and procedures to enable the development and use of an international system
Developing partnerships between countries' Hotlines and law enforcement agencies to minimise the impact of an international notice and takedown system on law enforcement
Managing the legal and reputational risk to the organisations that issue takedown notices, and the risk of compromising law enforcement investigations within that country.
IWF hand over reporting of internet hate crime role to the police
A bit of an alarming concept to have the police running a reporting service. The police seem to continuously side with the complainant without ever considering the merits of the complaint, nor the rights of people caught up in any police
A new service for reporting all hate crimes online has been launched by the police. The website, called True Vision, is
supported by all forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and can be accessed at www.report-it.org.uk.
All reports of incitement to racial hatred content hosted in the UK previously reported to the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) should now be reported directly to True Vision.
The True Vision website provides information about what hate crime is, and includes a new online reporting form. The site also provides links to organisations that can offer support and advice on hate crime related issues.
Eve Salomon, Chair, IWF said:
We are very pleased to see our law enforcement partners develop a comprehensive reporting service incorporating all forms of hate crime. The Internet industry deserves a great deal of credit for funding an IWF service to
receive reports of incitement to racial hatred content hosted in the UK since 2000 when no alternative system existed. However as new legislation has been introduced to include a wider range of hate crime definitions, the development of one
all-embracing direct reporting service is an excellent idea. Having made a significant contribution to providing a public service for many years the IWF is now pleased to hand over responsibility for racial hatred reports to our police partners.
We now turn our attention to focus more effort on other areas of our remit and in particular the removal of child sexual abuse content wherever it is hosted in the world.
The police believe that the website will help increase the reporting of hate crime by building confidence in victims and offering a range of reporting options for victims who may not wish to talk directly to the police. It also provides links to a
number of organisations who can offer support.
The UK's Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) has launched its Annual Report 2010 in which it reveals the success of a new collaborative project to have child sexual abuse images removed from the web faster across the globe. Results show a dramatic reduction
in the length of time these criminal images remain active, down from around a month only a year ago, to an average lifespan of just 12 days today, irrespective of where in the world they are hosted and only a matter of hours if hosted in the UK.
Thankfully the IWF is keeping its focus on its role to remove child abuse images. It does also have a remit to take down other UK hosted material:
adult material if it is found to be 'criminally obscene'
incitement to racial hatred
non-photographic child porn images
But the IWF has only removed about 12 such URLs from about 4300 reports. Hopefully this suggests that the IWF are only taking action only where strictly necessitated by law or remit, rather than just playing safe and taking action against everything
Offsite: Ed Vaziey hints at a IWF like organisation with a remit for wider internet censorship
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey spoke at the Internet Watch Foundation's (IWF) 2010 Annual Report launch.
He praised the IWF and UK ISPs for having put in place a model for dealing with child abuse and criminally obscene material (the IWF's current remit) that was recognised around the world. Both he and Home Office Minister James Brokenshire indicated that
they liked the self-regulatory model and very much hoped it would continue.
Vaizey also indicated that there might be scope in future to extend the IWF's methods -- though not necessarily through the IWF -- to cover other categories of material.
The internet censors of the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) have set up a website to advertise the post of Chief Executive:
We need a creative strategic leader with a commitment to continuous improvement and the vision to inspire, innovate and develop our organisation. You will be a transformational leader with excellent communication skills who wins
hearts and minds. A credible ambassador, you will have experience of effective partnership building and influencing a range of stakeholders across the private, public and not-for-profit sectors. The ability to work effectively with our dedicated Board of
Trustees is essential.
We are not looking for someone with expertise in legal or technical issues -- instead we need a Chief Executive with the ability and willingness to learn and an interest in technology. Most importantly we need a leader with
objectivity and emotional detachment when dealing with sensitive issues.
Peter Robbins has announced that he will step down as Chief Executive of the Internet Watch Foundation in July. He has held the post since 2002.
In his time at the IWF Peter transformed the organisation, expanding its funding base and securing annual revenues around five times those the IWF has on his appointment. He led the organisation through the controversial adoption and roll-out of the URL
based blocking service, commonly known as Cleanfeed , and gave the IWF an internationally prominent profile in Internet governance circles.
Eve Saloman, Chair of the IWF Board said:
On behalf of the IWF Board, I would like to thank Peter for all his hard work. He has provided clear and steady leadership to the IWF for many years and overseen our considerable growth into the successful and respected body we now
are. We are immensely grateful and wish him every success in the future.
The European Commission has drafted new laws to force ISPs to block child porn. The measure will be voted on by the European
Parliament next month. The technical solutions envisaged are broadly based on arrangements in the UK, where all major ISPs block access to child abuse websites named on a list maintained by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF).
If the laws are passed as proposed, the UK government will get powers to force the small ISPs who do not use the IWF blocklist – who serve less than 2% of British internet users – to fall into line. Last year the Home Office abandoned
a pledge to enforce 100% compliance.
Although voluntary, the British system is not without controversy, and EuroISPA, the European ISP trade association, is lobbying MEPs to reject the move to enforce it across the bloc.
Malcolm Hutty, the President of EuroISPA, said: In order to make the Directive on child sexual exploitation as strong as possible, emphasis must be placed on making swift notice and takedown of child sexual abuse material
focused and effective. Blocking, as an inefficient measure, should be avoided. Law enforcement authorities' procedures for rapid communication to internet hosting providers of such illegal material must be reviewed and bottlenecks eliminated.