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IWF Watch


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11th December 2011. See article from by John Carr

21st December   

Updated: Open Access...

UK BlackBerry phone users are not subject to age verification before access to adult websites
Link Here
Full story: BlackBerry Mobile Phones...Winding up countries who can't snoop on users

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 some explaining to do.

...Read the full article

Update: Summonsed

18th December 2011. See  article from

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.

Update: Blocking Report

21st December 2011. See  article from

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 .


22nd November   

Major Inconvenience Over Minor Issue...

Popular cloud computer file hosting website, Fileserve is blocked by the IWF
Link Here

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 world.

Update: IWF demonstrate to cloud computer users just how easy it is to pull the plug on all of their data

22nd November 2011. See  article from
See  also techincal explanation of how one small block triggered a total block from

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 .


7th November   

Updated: Minor Sideline...

The IWF describe their role as internet censors of supposedly obscene adult porn
Link Here

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

7th November 2011. See  interview from by Jane Fae

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 (2009).

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 .

...Read the full interview


31st October   

Update: So What Has the Dangerous Pictures Act Achieved So Far?...

Martin Salter wheeled out to call for more of the same
Link Here

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.


26th October   

Updated: Mostly Good Work...

IWF marks its 15th anniversary
Link Here

87,000 child sexual abuse webpages have been removed in 15 years thanks to the work of the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF).

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.


17th September

 Offsite: Meet the Censors...

Link Here
The Independent talks to censors from BBFC, IWF, ASA and Ofcom

See article from


11th September   

New Internet Censor...

Susie Hargreaves starts work as Chief Executive of the Internet Watch Foundation
Link Here

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.


19th June   

New Watch...

New CEO for the Internet Watch Foundation
Link Here

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.


8th June   

Board Watch...

New appointments to the Internet Watch Foundation Board
Link Here

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 awareness committee.

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.


3rd February   

Chief Blocker Resigns...

Peter Robbins steps down as IWF Chief Executive
Link Here

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.


15th January   

Blocking New Laws...

Euro ISPs unimpressed by EU proposed mandate of ISP website blocking
Link Here
Full story: Internet Censorship in EU...EU introduces swathes of internet censorship law

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.

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