back to article Small ISPs reject call to filter out child abuse sites

ISPs have rejected a call by childrens' charities to implement the government's approved blocklist for images of child sexual abuse, because the list does not stop anyone who wants to accessing such material. On Monday a coalition including the NSPCC and Barnardo's sounded warnings that 700,000 homes could access websites …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    I Want Freedom!

    Go away biblethumping net nannies. There are already laws against the exploitation of children. These are evidently not enough for you, and instead you wish to impose your view on everyone, and this has nothing at all to do with child porn.

    'For the children' we need to protect freedom of thought and expression. Those children's forefathers fought and DIED to protect those rights. IWF is shameful and so are any ISPs that jump on board this great firewall idea.

    Did the puritans leave the new world and move back to England?

    Be careful what you allow people. I'm sure that China had similarly grand sounding excuses to impose censorship on a country-wide scale. Now they run over protesters with tanks.

  2. Anonymous Coward


    On the one hand, they should really block these sites.

    On the other hand, where will it end?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Political copout

    Who cares about passive viewers? Why try to drive it underground?

    If the politicians were willing to put _my_ money where _their_ mouths are they'd go after the producers.

    And the stupid argument about "accidental exposure": what are we scared of? It reminds me of the fundamental religious morons who think that female flashing an ankle drives men mad with lust; or the arguments not so long ago about kids turning homosexual because their pop stars were.

  4. Chris

    Sounds like Downgrading of E

    This reminds me of the call for downgrading E that was rejected the other week. We are basically saying, we know that this is pointless, stupid and a big waste of money...but for the idiots that know nothing it makes us look good. (liking idiots think E is very harmful so we should waste money trying to catch the "criminals" that use it)

    If you read between the lines of many mass media articles on these ISP's which do not put in the IWF blocking, they write them to suggest they [the ISP's] either don't care about this material or happily support it, which is absolutely disgusting and, yet again, bullying tactics which the idiotic mass agrees with, who, like I stated, know nothing.

    Hands up who has been "accidentally" exposed to this I thought.

  5. Simon

    Aaaaaahhhhhhh! When will this stupidity stop

    <quote>On Monday a coalition including the NSPCC and Barnardo's sounded warnings that 700,000 homes could access websites hosting images of abuse because small ISPs do not filter their networks</quote>

    So in essence the NSPCC is saying that there are 700,000 homes full off paedophiles - just because there's the potential it doesn't make it a fact. What a bunch of arseholes. Without a doubt that kind of stuff shouldn't be in existence, anywhere.

    This type of reaction is all part of a growing FUD philosophy that has brought into existence things, such as, the Iraq war, ID cards to stop terrorists and the removal of a pensioner from a political party conference.

    Well, I say to you – let’s stop all speeding by digging up the roads and replacing them with conveyor belts.

    Will common sense ever be reborn? Or are we all condemned to a perpetual insipid life of total and utter boredom – a life not worth living.

  6. James

    A modest proposal

    Since she wants censorship, however expensive and futile, the obvious solution is to close the IWF down entirely, reprogram her computer to block all web access unconditionally and leave the rest of us alone. On average, there's about as much censorship as she wants, but without inconveniencing the rest of us. Better block her email and phone access too, to stop her whining - I mean, in case any unsuitable content reaches her that way.

    *sigh* It's embarassing that the IWF even exists, let alone having it rammed down our throats with this "think of the children" BS.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Who decides

    IMHO, child porn is bad, as are all religions.

    I would be happy to make both impossible to reach, but not just one or the other.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    We used to poke fun

    The western world used to poke fun at China's firewalls at pride themselves on their open internet and access of information. Now it looks like they are just putting the first steps to censorship on a growing scale. Filters like this are absolutely ineffective to anyone with little know how, and as they are introduced software to make circumventing them with one easy click will begin to appear.

    Paris, as she was anything but censored on the internet.

  9. Tom Chiverton


    Chalk another win up for Zen, who were on the radio (BBC Four none the less) talking about why they weren't going to have anything to do with blocking or filtering internet access, just as they did during Phorm. Rar.

  10. Stephane Mabille


    Anyway the IWF is just the first step, with photography being banned, severely monitored, an arrestable offence (strike out as required) the problem will soon disappear. Any picture will be banned and the internet will be text only (and be careful even text can get you arrested for indecency...).

    Just another wave of Victorian hypocrisy. At least they agree that they don't want to prevent crime to be committed but "only" to censor, check and repress the general public....

  11. James

    Hand on Hand on I’ve heard this before

    Now where have I heard technology censoring and blocking being used to stop criminal activity, a system forced on the public without any real thought to the issues or even a basic understanding of the technology.

    Oh year DRM and we all know that completely stopped all the internet piracy in the world overnight....

    Does this have Wacki Jackie’s s name on it by some chance?

    She makes a Mormon look liberal and smart...

    PLEASE PLEASE PEOPLE OF REDDITCH STOP VOTING FOR HER... I dont care what party you support just dont vote for her...

    Mine’s the one with 1984 in the pocket...

  12. Anonymous Coward

    @AC #2

    No, they shouldn't block these sites... if they're honestly illegal, they should prosecute the guy and take the site down. Otherwise, the "biblethumping net-nannies" (great term) should just go away.

  13. Richard Porter
    Thumb Down

    Accidental exposure?

    Actually I'm quite capable of not downloading kiddie-porn, or any other porn for that matter, and I don't need IWF to tell me what I can and can't view.

  14. A J Stiles


    How much more effective would it be to leave alone people who just look at pictures, unless and until they actually abuse a child?

    IWF are using mediaeval superstition (the idea that a person can be harmed by looking at a picture of them) and appeals to emotion (if you're not with us you're in favour of child abuse!) to sell proprietary technology in a way that amounts to privatisation of the law.

    Any study linking viewing of child porn images to actual child abuse is effectively committing the fallacy of affirming the consequent (they're only catching people who have actually abused children, and nobody's ever going to admit voluntarily to viewing child porn if they can even half-plausibly deny it). For every actual child abuser, there could easily be 99 people who view it and don't actually abuse kids (NB: figures made up for illustrative purposes, as real figures not available). If the police manage to arrest 1 in 10 people who view child porn, then it's still 9:1 against them getting the right one.

    If some sicko really wants to get his filthy little rocks off, isn't it far better that he does so into a box of Kleenex than into any of our kids?

  15. Simon

    Furthermore, if we are going down this route

    let's make the Highways Agency responsible for any crimes committed on any road as this is exactly the kind of philosophy the NSPCC and Barnardo's are trying to propound with their technically incompetent calls for filtering

  16. M Room

    Lateral Thinking

    Would it not be more sensible to not block the sites but have an automated "Report Abuse" button which would provide the Police Authorities with the websites details - and thus a chance to track down the actual abusers?

    Just blocking the sites does not protect the abused children.

  17. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Back when Metronet were an ISP

    they weren't a big ISP but they were (in some ways) a bit like a small version of Zen. Respect was/is due to both.

    Metronet used to have an optional web proxy server. If you wanted to ignore it, you could.

    It didn't cost anything extra for customers who wanted to use it. It was managed securely from the account control panel. There was a selection of classes of sites you could choose to block; you could selectively block "adult content" and "advertising" and a whole load of other stuff.

    All done using industry standard hardware and open source software.

    Do we think sensible people would be happy with something like that, rather than forcing ISPs to kowtow to BT Cleanfeed or other commercial equivalent?

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I hope

    I hope soon we all have the good sense to use anonymizing services of one sort or another.

    You shouldn't go wondering a wild west saloon without you six shooter, or use the phones without using a clever code in Soviet Russia. Just like you shouldn't use the net without proxies, anonymising vpns and virtual servers in The Corporate Republic of Britonia

  20. Anonymous Coward

    Speeding on a conveyer

    @simon - Replacing the roads with conveyers wouldn’t stop speeding (in the same way you can run up an escalator). The only thing it would mean is you’d have to go into reverse to stand still… actually, that could pretty much sum up all current government policy.

    Anyway, as the recent Wikipedia and Rapidshare problems caused by the IWF have shown, most people have much more to fear from those that claim to protect them, than anyone else.

    Yeah, my coats in the wardrobe, next to the VPN tunnel to Narnia.

  21. spam

    protects average web users with no interest in such material from accidental exposure

    And why would I need to be protected?

    Because they decided that someone who "has no interest in such material" still deserves to be locked up for 6 months and have the rest of their lives blighted should they inadvertently 'possess' some.

    Since no one is allowed to see such material how is anyone supposed to know they possess some? Scorpion album cover? Who would have thought it.

    Dunno why they don't just bring back throwing people into ponds, if they float they are peedyfiles, if they drown they were OK but better safe than sorry eh?

  22. David Pollard

    Pardon the expression ...

    ... but however well-meaning this coalition may be they have things arse about tit.

    To the extent that child pr0n presents a problem then censorship probably makes it worse.

    As an example, CB radio was initially hugely popular. Once the cachet of illegality was removed its use declined. Clearly child abuse isn't desirable in any way, but it's more important to reduce the frequency with which it occurs than to hide it away. The psychological denial that goes with prohibition doesn't help.

    If the coalition wants to do something useful to reduce what they see as the effects of 'bad' pornography, perhaps their efforts would be better employed in setting up or assisting well-run adult contact sites so that more might engage in regular sexual relationships and fewer would have recourse to ersatz.

    If they have a burning desire to change our perceptions, perhaps they could find a way to change the stereotype of women that many magazines present. No, not the racy ones, but fashion and women's magazines. Take a look at a row of the front covers of these on a newsagent's or supermarket shelf from time to time and think what this is conveying to a child. These arrays might often be better placed on the 'top shelf' than directly in the gaze of children.

    Some while ago in the USA, the mother of a child who had been abused, with commendable insight, set up a confidential helpline for adults who found themselves becoming attracted to children. This worked fine. A few hundred potential abusers were helped and the idea was replicated in other states ... until the FBI caught wind of it and decided to tap the lines. How many cases of abuse have occurred as a result that would otherwise have been preventable?

  23. Anonymous Coward

    Dubious metrics

    How does anyone know if this block list is effective or not? Has there been a dramatic drop in child abuse? How on earth does one measure "effective"? I suppose one could count the number of rejects provoked by the IP block list, but how would I know whether 100 hits or 1000000 hits against this list counted as "effective"? If it's to block only accidental exposure, then it's not really preventing any crimes being committed, is it? Seems like an awful lot of trouble to go to in order to prevent trivial accidents.

    This is the thin-end of a very nasty wedge and I would urge everyone who objects on principle to support ISP's such as Zen. I do for one.

  24. Anonymous Coward

    this is not about child abuse

    The IWF list is not based upon the idea of censoring illegal child abuse material. It is based upon a small group of self important people passing moral judgement on sites which is not related to the sites legal status. This is also true when it comes to blocked content. The IWF takes a moral highground based on a mob culture without legal grounding. There are examples where the content blocked is not illegal and is not child abuse and is available in highstreet shops in the UK backed by well respected publishers. Why should the same material be blocked by the IWF? It is unacceptable that IWF are allowed to use the horrific reference to child abuse as an excuse to frivoulously put material (which is otherwise legally available) on their list just because they personally do not like it. Then to have the whole list secret is absolutely unacceptable in a civil society. There are very good reason for why we have a justice system which is dependent on three categories (prosecute / judge / defend) as opposed to a single mob (prosecute = judge). Even worse when accusation and judgement is covert.

    The IWF attitude has no rightful place in a modern democracy. The aim does not justify the means!

  25. Anonymous Coward

    100% of UK internet users

    "About 95 per cent of UK internet users are thus shielded from the darkest corners of the web by their ISP"

    is simply not true - the IWF do not blacklist sites hosted in the UK, instead they issues a takedown notice. There is inevitably some delay between them issuing a notice and the ISP removing the content. If they blacklisted then it'd be effective far more quickly so you it's certainly true to say that 100% of Uk internet users _can_ access childporn. The most likely reason they don't do this is because they're worried over liability in the country they're based in...

    _If_ you accept the arguments for blacklisting it needs to be open, not by some unelected Quango.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The point?

    If they are admitting that people can work around this system, don't this flame the debate of "what is the point?".

    I don't agree with the Zoe in the slightest and I feel I should convert their quotes into New Labour (1984 speak).

    "Zoe Hilton, the NSPCC's policy adviser, told The Register that despite the simple technical counter-measures available to paedophiles, filtering websites was valuable. "There's a whole spectrum of offending," she said. "Clearly, we're not going to stop determined paedophiles, but we know from our work with offenders that it can often start with an accidental exposure and curiosity. There's a huge element of opportunism to a lot the commercial sites.""


    "Despite the fact that the system can be circumvented by anyone (specially paedos), pointless (and unknown filtering of an unable secret list) is valuable. Lots of people frequently circumvent our list and they should be shot/jailed/hung. Any determined person can look at anything they like and we cannot stop them - we need to censor the internet. Accidental exposure creates paedos and we want to ban pictures of any kid as it might give the mentally fucked up individual (paedo) a hard one."

    I'm sorry but I find people like this evil - I don't see what good censorship does and if it can be worked around (Tor network or proxy) when that is the point of it?

    OK, paedos might be terrorable but why don't the goverment (police) just setup honey traps and catch them that way (or is this too much effort?).

    I think we should have a system where we can call an instant election when the government does something we don't like (i.e. population force election by voting in a secure system and there is a 60% mark to force change). We should also have preposant representation so we don't just have two parties (Labour and Torys in out case as both seem to shadow each on big issues).

    I want a government which looks after the population and not trys to fuck with it at every opertunity - unforunitly I think this goverment and the Tory have so often agreed on policy that there is little change between them.

    Anon as I could possibly be shot or detained on some insane law!

  27. Paul


    I have no idea what you're implying. Try using proper grammar and it might be easier to follow.

    But it sounds like you're suggesting that instead of blocking child porn sites, ISPs should track who visits them so they can be arrested.

    Two reasons that won't happen: Turning your customers over to the police is bad for business; it would be much harder to get ISPs to go for that idea. And it would catch too many people. Guilty people yes, if done right, but too many. The government would rather use pedophiles as a phantom menace to scare people than have thousands of real live ones to deal with.

  28. kissingthecarpet

    I for one

    welcome the computer takeover. Once they're intelligent enough to see what a bunch of twats we will have become, that'll be the end of us & good riddance.

  29. Richard Baxter

    "images of child abuse"

    After the Virgin Killer/Wikipedia debacle, why does anyone still persist with the ridiculous fiction that all the IWF is interested in blocking are "child abuse sites" and "images of child abuse"?

    It's very clear now that their remit is far wider than that - we will never know how wide, as the content of the block list is, and will remain, a secret.

    Child porn yesterday, cheezy 70s heavy metal album covers today... your favourite sites tomorrow? Make no mistake, it's the thin end of a very thick wedge folks.

  30. Simon Painter

    what a total load of rubbish

    Take a look at it's just all a whole load of rubbish.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "...we know from our work with offenders...

    ... that it can often start with an accidental exposure and curiosity. "

    That's right, ladies and gentlemen - each and every one of you is but one rickroll away from becoming a child molester!

    ...and @AC re: We used to poke fun... speak for yourselves, Europe - over in the US the constitution is still holding its own, even if it's attacked on a regular basis. It was actually a pretty good idea, that constitution thing. You should try it some time.

  32. P. Lee

    re: biblethumping net-nannies

    Ah, so only Christians want to stop KP, is that it?

    Pesky Christians! Getting in the way of your freedom!

    Has no-one noticed that organisations tend to take on a life of their own? The IWF started as a focus for flagging up KP but the more its objectives are met, the more it has to find additional areas to justify its existence and increase its importance.

    This behaviour has nothing to do with the IWF's goals, its something all organisations tend to do.

    If the government *really* thought this was important and the ISP's can't afford it, the government would stump up the cash. That is what government is for - to organise things which aren't provided by the market. Since that hasn't happened, it obviously isn't deemed that important.

    Indeed, its isn't that important. If the paedophile isn't bright enough to circumvent what the IWF is proposing, he probably isn't bright enough to pick a small isp to avoid the system and he'll probably get caught when he takes his pc back to the shop for a Windows tune-up.

    And yes, ISPs should keep to their "common-carrier" function and status. If law-enforcement wants to get a warrant and tap the comms it can go through the due process. Use the laws we have, they are sufficient.

    I'm much more worried about governments introducing legislation every time there is a newspaper story about something. Less activity, less PR and more thought please!

    Icon, he stumbled across Paris...

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm an exception

    I actually have accidentally encountered child porn online. I still think blacklists are a stupid idea. Know why? Web 2.0. The offending pictures were user-generated content on a busy website. I'm sure they were removed within hours if not minutes, much faster than IWF could do anything about it, but not before I saw them.

    Well, lesson learned, I'm a little more careful where I surf now, but it should be MY choice, not anybody else's. The only way they could have protected me is to block the entire site in advance.

    As disturbing as that incident was, I don't think that would be a good trade. And for anybody wondering what kind of site this was, let's just say it was lulz oriented.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So what is child porn anyway?

    I used to have a pretty good idea of what was being blocked: pictures, taken with sex in mind, of people too young to lawfully have sex.

    But we've had a slow shift to encompass a wider and wider range of material. The recent fuss over Wikipedia was, I think, a borderline case, and handled badly. Things have gotten crazy and, while the IWF doesn't seem crazy, who checks on them?

    We've got to the stage where we have to be careful about pictures of people who are old enough to marry.

    It wasn't like this when the IWF started.

  35. David Pollard

    @ David Wiernicki - pots and kettles

    "... over in the US the constitution is still holding its own, even if it's attacked on a regular basis. It was actually a pretty good idea, that constitution thing. You should try it some time."

    Er, 'scuse ee, but in recent times recognition of fundamental principles such as Habeus Corpus (part of the British constitution since the 12th Century) seems to have become less than optimal on both sides of the pond.

    It's not so much who has the better constitution or whether it should be entirely written down that matters, it's how best to stop the totalitarians and gauleiters from taking even more of our freedoms.

  36. David Wilkinson

    Censorship is not a good idea ...

    The cost in freedom far outweighs any societal benefits.

  37. Anonymous Coward

    Accidental exposure ?

    Used to happen to me quite often when surfing for pr0n during the days of dial-up, Windows 98, IE 5 and a user without a clue about ActiveX and scripting. I also got accidentally exposed to bestiality images, shock sites, browser hijacks, trojans, spyware, dialers and tons of other crap. I'm actually amazed anyone could access teh interwebz at all in those days.

    By the time XP SP 2 came along, I was pretty au fait with how to protect myself from nasties. In fact, a default build of SP2 / SP3 and a bit of jiggery-pokery will keep you safe 99.9% of the time, even when visiting the seemier sites out there. The risk of accidental exposure while surfing generic pr0n is almost insignificant these days. As AC said above, "and for anybody wondering what kind of site this was, let's just say it was lulz oriented."; Anarchic user-generated-content image boards are far more likely to give you an unpleasant surprise.

    To my mind, if the IWF want to stop people accidentally developing an unhealthy interest in young kids and early teens, they should block access to those 'child modelling' sites (Legal in most countries, dubious in others like the UK). But then, that would be blocking on moral grounds, not legal grounds, and the IWF does not want to be seen to be doing that.

    Completely ineffective, and I applaud the ISPs who are holding out against implementing the IWF blocklist.

  38. Jimmy

    Just another day at The Office.

    Yes, there is a very real problem here in the sense that somewhere there are very real children who are being vilely abused by adults for the purpose of commercial gain and sexual gratification.

    Please don't expect the smug, self-satisfied moral guardians at the Home Office to actually address this problem in any practical way whatsoever because that is clearly not on their agenda.

    {The Home Office said the IWF blocklist was a "considerable success" and that it will continue to consider what further action might be needed.}

    The Home Office may consider blocking images of the criminal abuse of children to be a success story but in reality it is simply a cover up for their total lack of focus and their abysmal failure to address very serious criminal activity in any meaningful way. Reality check coming up: How many children has the HO policy prevented from being sexually abused? Zero, zilch, none.

    El Reg readers will recognise that we are on a well-trodden HO path here. In this country we have a statistically insignificant number of religious fanatics who intend to do us harm. Our security services claim to know who they are and where they are so it's safe to assume that every aspect of their lives is under heavy surveillance. But no, because along comes the upper echelon of the HO hierarchy with another one of their jolly wheezes so that we end up with the mother of all databases. Fifty million UK citizens will be subject to in-depth surveillance of their communications in an attempt to detect potentially subversive behaviour, or so we're told. This is the perfect response from an organisation that is not only "not fit for purpose" but also sincerely believes that the shortest distance between two points on a plane is a parabolic curve. Not fit for toilet paper.

  39. BioTube

    The best solution

    Is to just go after the servers directly - they're in third-world countries most of the time, so it's a simple issue of arming a unit with local weapons(or at least ones that can use the ammo), a map and orders to leave no survivors or functioning equipment. True, you can never stop anything, but you have to do what you can - and with their overseas electric havens dropping like flies, pedos would be forced to keep things local, turning it into a mere matter of detection(the standard police/criminal cat and mouse game).

    Of course, no western government's got the balls to do that(evidently playstates are sovereign these days - whatever happened to when we'd knock out a popular government and install a tyranny just to make sure that they couldn't gain a foothold?).

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  41. Anonymous Coward

    Can't use a Proxy?

    "It's probably difficult for Register readers to believe, but lots of these people would never be able to use an overseas proxy [to circumvent the IWF blocklist]."

    It strikes me that those people not smart enough to use a proxy, are highly unlikely to be customers of the smaller ISPs, because they wouldn't have worked out that there are ISPs other than big ones that advertise heavily on TV, or that if they pay a bit more to a decent ISP they'll get a better service than they would from the cheapo unlimited deals most of the big ISPs offer.

    Besides that., one thing us reg-readers learn't from the wikipedia blocking fiasco, is that you don't even need a proxy to circumvent the blocking.

  42. Anonymous Coward

    I know I really /shouldn't/ find this funny, but...

    What's the main cause of paedophilia?

    Sexy kids.

    (Courtesy of popbitch)

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