back to article New web filter laws questioned by top child abuse cop

New laws reportedly planned for the Queen's Speech to force all internet providers to block access to child pornography websites have been questioned by Britain's top abuse investigator. Jim Gamble, chief executive of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP), said the blacklist currently used to filter the …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    Flaming heck!

    Jim Gamble not in favour of yet more censorship, and admits he has sympathy with ISPs and is not "against technology".

    That's a turn up for the books! So CEOP is not just a haven for the mindless anti-everything bunch within the police?

    Still waiting for them to accept that very few of the Operation Ore catch were actually involved with child porn....

  2. Anonymous Coward

    He's not the only one questioning the filtering laws

    Now, I'm not a security expert but it seems to me that if I wanted to share some information (of any kind) and make it secure then it would be relatively easy to do the following:

    Send out a GPG public key - everyone else does the same.

    Send an encrypted email with the username and password for a remote machine.

    Recipients VPN tunnel into the machine and download the information.

    Recipients decrypt the information using public key.

    How can anyone snoop on what you are downloading when the downloaded file is encrypted and the connection is encrypted?

    I'm pretty sure that given more than 30 seconds to think of a solution, I could come up with a better on. What that tells me is that anyone who REALLY wants to send really dodgy files will already have a pretty secure solution of their own...

  3. Piers

    Home Office brewing pointless legislation?

    Really!!!! Who knew ?!???!!!one

    Would be funny if it were not so desperate/serious etc...

  4. Graham Marsden


    ... it sounds like he's being sensible, but I'm wondering if he's just looking at preserving his nice little empire?

  5. dunncha

    More poorly thoughout legislation

    That can be used to beat the general populace with. What?

    This government mis-using laws.


    If the Law was well thought out and used appropriately then it could be a good idea. We need to make becoming an internet pedo as difficult as possible. The hardcore that are out there now are very good at covering their tracks and staying secret.

    It's the potential new members which we need to make it more difficult for. Stop them being exposed to the readily available kiddie porn on the internet and maybe they won't dig any further and certainly would be invited to join any 'rings'. Eventually the 'rings' will die in horrible ways (hopefully)

    We also need a clause that would allow the general population to report kiddie porn to the authorities without the worry of being branded one themselves (whistleblower)

    So what is the point in my comment... Am I for or against the new legislation. Neither but I would like to see some good laws not the rubbish the Government have been spewing out to date.

    If we spent as much money chasing pedo's as we did movie pirates then I'm sure there would be a lot less of them.

  6. Benny

    Slightly OT

    But does this sort of filtering apply to dedicated lines?

    I mean, fair enough I can see how it would work if you are using an ISP like BT or whoever, but what if you got a line straight out to Linx or somewhere? (Im asuming that is possible)

    Surely it would be down to you to do your own filtering?

  7. Tony Hoyle

    Doesn't work anyway

    The filter only filters port 80 even.. just stick a webserver on another port and it's unfiltered.. and of course doesn't cover leased lines etc. Prety damned useless. If my ISP was forced to implement it I'd bypass it on a point of principle - I'm against government censorship.

    If they *are* going to make the censorship compulsory then the IWF should be replaced by a publically accountable body, open to scrutiny and the list published. It can't continue in its current state with no accountability to anyone and operating in absolute secrecy.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    @AC 11:12

    Just a small correction: a public key is never used to decrypt messages, it is only used to validate digital signatures or encrypt messages.

    Also, everyone is missing the point! Just ban cameras, then there would be no pictures and everyone would be safe.

    I would love to know some hard facts, such as how many actual abuse cases filtering has prevented. As usual, it is being tackled from the high profile but ineffective angle.

  9. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Not Dixon of Dock Green ... Much more, No Hiding Place from Whitehall 1212

    Finally ... what seems like a Proper Copper with Real Smarts too..... which is hardly surprising given the Special Intelligence Training Environment. Watching and Waiting with Blackguards.

    Bravo, CEOP. Nice Strategy

  10. Christoph
    Big Brother

    Who watches the watchers?

    Who decides what sites I am forbidden to see, and what information I am forbidden to know?

    What qualifications do they have? How are they appointed? How are they dismissed?

    If the list of censored sites is secret, who checks that only sites within the stated remit are blocked, rather than anyone the current government dislikes?

    How do people who are wrongly blocked confirm that this is so? Who do they appeal to? What compensation will they be given for destruction of their legitimate business?

    What if anything is going to stop this expanding its remit endlessly, to block anything whatever that the government or the police or the Daily Mail take a dislike to?

    The government have proved repeatedly that they will bring in ridiculous laws on the flimsiest of causes.

    The police have proved repeatedly that there is no limit whatever to the increased powers they will demand, and no consideration whatever of civil liberties.

    The Daily Mail have proved repeatedly that it will rant about anything that sells newspapers,

    This thing will grow and grow - and what politician is ever going to demand that it shrinks, only to face instant accusations of every crime possible?

  11. Julian I-Do-Stuff

    What's a Leak Got To Do With It?

    "The Home Office today declined to discuss its legislative plans, citing a policy of never commenting on leaked documents"

    So... ignoring any "leak" (could be an H.O. technique to shutting down debate - leak it themselves then say, "Oh, no... we never discuss leaked documents!") do they or don't they intend, are they or aren't they considering...?

    Seems a perfectly legitimate question regardless of what prompted it.

  12. Anonymous Coward


    Public keys can be used to do encryption. Thats what public key encryption is ????? Public/Private keys arent limited to digital signing.

    I think that filtering isnt too clever as mentioned above as there are so many ways to circumnavigate this , easiest of which is a proxy server located in another country.

    I have to commend people's efforts however in trying to control and track pedos.

    I dont care if we live in a big brother society. I've got nothing to hide, only the pervs and criminals have. To balance this though, I think we need better privacy laws to protect people from/when private information is leaked.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Do not disturb

    So what are we saying here? That the purpose of mass internet surveillance is to prevent young people being 'disturbed'? Or 'novice' crimes, i.e. a precrime? I don't believe these are adequate arguments!

    Meanwhile any campaign group wants their own pet hate filtered, first it was 'hate speech', then 'extreme porn', what next? Discussions on drugs? Pot even? Scientologists wanting Xenu discussion suppressed? Mandy wanting copyright filtered for his Yacht owning mates?

    Filtering is not the answer, its the top of a slippery slope and UK is already way way down that slope.

    If there are almost no commercial CP sites then why does the IWF in their 2008 report claim 76% of 1500, i.e. 1140 sites!

    If the stuff is old, then how can the claim be that we filter to prevent production of *new* stuff, yet most of the world today *isn't* filtered, and there *isn't* new stuff now, only old stuff!

    I believe that the solution is to get the sites taken down, trace credit card transactions to commercial sites and trace individuals who exchange privately.

    *NOT* mass filtering.

  14. The Original Ash

    Oh puh-lease...

    Just after they admitted this:


    Fire everyone in CEOP and employ someone with a brain, FFS.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    <...We need to make becoming an internet pedo as difficult as possible. The hardcore that are out there now are very good at covering their tracks and staying secret.>

    'Stay secret'..? I don't think so. Mr Gamble and his colleagues know *exactly* where these P2P file sharers congregate and he also knows there's nothing 'secret' or especially hidden about any of it.

    <It's the potential new members which we need to make it more difficult for. Stop them being exposed to the readily available kiddie porn on the internet and maybe they won't dig any further and certainly would be invited to join any 'rings'. Eventually the 'rings' will die in horrible ways (hopefully)>

    Please don't believe everything CEOP may have told you in the past. I know it's easier that way, but it really doesn't bear up to the realities of the situation today. There are no 'rings' nor no 'organised global networks' - just like there is not now (nor ever was to any significant degree) a 'commercial CP industry'. If you read CEOP's most recent annual report, you'll see it mention social networking sites more than once or twice... the realities, I'm afraid, are often far less sensational than these imagined vast 'international criminal networks' of so much fable.

    <We also need a clause that would allow the general population to report kiddie porn to the authorities without the worry of being branded one themselves (whistleblower)>

    Yeah, good luck with that. Perhaps you can succeed where a hundred investigative journalists fear to tread.

    <If we spent as much money chasing pedo's as we did movie pirates then I'm sure there would be a lot less of them.>

    How much exactly do you think we should be spending? The UK leads the world in terms of its legal and financial provision for the booming child protection industry. CEOP alone gobbles up over £6million a year in public/private finance, whilst charidees like the NSPCC and Barnardos are among the richest in the UK. How much is enough - in the face of a panic now shown to be in retreat?

  16. Chris Miller

    @AC 13:11

    aTPP is correct - normally you encrypt using the public key of the recipient so that only she can decrypt your message (using her private key). It is possible to encrypt using your private key, but this provides no security since anyone can decrypt it using the corresponding public key, which is available to everyone - however this does prove that the message originated from someone with access to the private key.

    We now return you to our regular programming ....

  17. Christoph


    Anonymous Coward said: "I've got nothing to hide, only the pervs and criminals have."

  18. Danny 5
    Thumb Down

    can censoring be good?

    i think we're on a two way street here, completely filtering out kiddie will push pedo's to try other things to get their satisfaction, something that may very well be even harder to find out, so what's your choice? no censor knowing that children will be molested regardless and giving the justice department better tools to combat it, or filter more knowing that children will still be molested and now the justice department has even less tools?

    to pick between two evils :(

  19. Si 1

    @Anonymous Coward 13:11

    You say you've got nothing to hide yet you posted anonymously!

  20. Eden


    But what about people who can produce photo realistic paintings or digital images!!

  21. adnim

    @AC:9th September 2009 13:11 GMT

    "I dont care if we live in a big brother society. I've got nothing to hide, only the pervs and criminals have."

    Until that is, a law is passed which makes illegal some freedom of choice you now value.

    I used to like sitting in the park with a few friends, a bottle of wine and my minidisc player on sunny days, I am a commiting a crime if I do that now.

  22. Ed Blackshaw Silver badge

    @Anonymous Coward 13:11

    You have nothing to hide, eh? Mind if I pop round your house and have a leaf through all your old bank statements then? Thought not.

    The contradiction here is that although everyone has lots of things that they, quite rightly, wish to remain secret (bank details, sexual orientation, personal interests, information that would be useful to identity theives and other criminals, etc., etc., etc.), you believe that they should not be able to hide such things.

    Please stop reading the tabloid trash and turn your brain back on.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Proxy Servers

    Am I being silly here, but what's to stop you using reverse proxy servers etc. to hide the ultimate destination? All you need is a reverse proxy abroad somewhere and the URL etc. changes beyond recognition. I don't really see how this 'technology' works in the first place to stop anyone with half a brain.

  24. Anonymous Coward

    @ AC 13:11

    "I dont care if we live in a big brother society."

    Bravo, step right up.

  25. MinionZero
    Big Brother

    This isn't about web filters. Its a battle for control over the Internet...

    So now we will also have web filter laws?! ... oh great. But how does a web filter stop criminals sharing data? ... They will just use whatever encryption they want to hide their activities as they share data, just like all criminals hide their activities. So it won't stop criminals.

    Meanwhile this law then means we will all be left with a government way to order the censorship of any web sites they wish. Which I'm sure is their real goal. Plus it won't take much government feature creep to the law to allow them to silence political opponents and critics online and don't forget the business opportunities. For a start they can block access to all P2P sites they don't like, which will make the music industry very grateful. On top of this, for them to create a filtering system, it also means they must scan all data passing through, which effectively gives them a Phorm style monitoring system, to log and monitor all web sites everyone visits which then allows a private company contracted to run the filter, to sell this marketing log data they steal from everyone. (So is Phorm/ex-phorm people even behind this law change?).

    So how long before this filter log data is then used for political gain to monitor what political web sites everyone reads. At that point, don't dare read a political article or a blog or your political terrorist(tm) score will increase. Then they will find quite ways to make your life harder, to hold you back as you are then labelled an opponent and political trouble maker. Then you'll win the right to be subjected to even deeper scans to workout which groups you belong to. After all large groups of people can stand against politicians so the best way to silence groups is to find ways to divide and conquer the opposing groups. Sow division and FUD to fragment the groups so they no longer stand against the politicians.

    So yet again, yet another day and another step towards a police state. They seem to be in a hurry to get us all into this nightmare world?!. Is this what life is becoming under their growing tyranny. Almost every day these days we are being subjected to their endless controlling attitudes that includes words such as: "Censor, Block, Track, Control, Limit, Monitor, Scrutinize, Watch, Spy, Oversee, Record, Profile, Punish".

    I have one more word for them, "Dictate!" ... as in dictatorship! ... They seem to have an almost endlessly Machiavellian attitude to us all and frankly their lack of empathy is showing them up to be very Narcissistic in their endless pursuit of self interest at the expense of everyone else. Their attitude seems to be endless manipulation, lying, cunning and duplicity to get ever more power over us all (because as usual, ultimately they seek the personal gain they get from having such power over people) and yet its all hidden behind endless lies and fear mongering. Think of the children, Think of the terrorists. Think of the fear of the day. Fear fear fear.

    The political control freaks keep showing they won't stop until they have found a way to win control over the Internet so this news is yet another step for them in their battle for control. They must really fear leaving the Internet uncontrolled and of course they also desire control over the Internet because the Internet is a vast source of knowledge and knowledge as we all know is power, so control of the Internet gives a vast source of power.

    So how much power do they really need?!? ... Is there ever going to be an end to their greed for ever more power?. Previous generations of politicians ruled just fine most of the time with far less control over their people. So where is this nightmare level of control going?!

    Sadly it seems, as they gain ever more power over us all, they are following the old say, "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely"

  26. lukewarmdog

    Ban Kids

    Free teh Internets!

    legal jiggerypokery to fulfil a claim (election promise?) to childrens charities will not protect children. I'd suggest the best way to catch paedohpiles is to offer huge rewards to members of the public if their information leads to the capture of one and then public humiliation of the convicted paedophile. They could use David Blaines glass box to display them in, rig up human sized versions of the squirrel catapult and upload the event to YouTube, they could be forced to wear fatsuits and participate in human bowling. Or you know, fed to hungry pigs.

  27. dunncha

    @ AC @ dunncha

    Response to a troll........

    The RIAA was intially setup with a annual budget of $200 million. They spend $6 million last year alone in the UK lobbying for stronger punishments in the UK. This does not include the US.

    So lets get your figure of $6 million for child protection into perspective. Its not very much. I believe they have 15 fulltime staff actively seeking and trying to get Kiddie Porn sites shut down. I'll bet the RIAA have 10 times that amount in lawyers alone

    Barnardos Mission Statement

    What we do/Whatever the issue from drug misuse to disability; youth crime to mental health; sexual abuse to domestic violence; poverty to homelessness; Barnardo’s believes we can bring out the best in every child. We run almost 400 projects around the UK.

    They protect children on local levels. No major internet remit.

    NSPCC -Similar remit but they also lobby for new laws to protect children. No Internet remit as such but they do get involved in the child protection issues. i.e where a child has been identified they will help that child.

    As for Kiddie Porn not being secret. I can't think of many area's of the internet where pedo's are welcomed. I guess you would agree with this which is why you posted as an anonymous coward

    I can't even be bothered responding to the rest of your replies as you are obviously full of shit and more worried about how your valuable taxes are spent and the price of your house. As long as something doesn't effect me I'm not spending money on it.

  28. JohnG

    Internet by satellite

    Internet by satellite is sold by companies on the continent, who would therefore be unaffected by UK legislation on filtering.

    if protecting children is the goal, wouldn't it be better to concentrate on acquiring what child porn is available and, together with law enforcement around the world, make every effort to identify and find the victims and those who have abused them? Filtering the Internet is unnacceptable in a modern democracy, as our politicians are so fond of reminding the Chinese government.

  29. Ed Blackshaw Silver badge


    Quite right. However, I feel compelled to point out, and mock you for, this wonderful mixed cliché:

    "Almost every day these days"


  30. Jimmy 1

    Grumpy Graham.

    @ Graham Marsden

    "... it sounds like he's being sensible, but I'm wondering if he's just looking at preserving his nice little empire?"

    Considering the amount of time we have spent on here criticising the IWF as an ineffective political sticking plaster it would make sense to offer more than grudging support when a professional copper like Jim Gamble comes on board our side of the argument, even if he is obliged to express his opinion in diplomatic language when talking to El Reg.

    Gamble's so-called "nice little empire" consists of hard-pressed staff who, in addition to standard investigative work, have to cope with monitoring deeply disturbing images that are the stock in trade of the paedophile fraternity. I believe the turnover rate is quite high so maybe people like Graham Marsden would like to offer their services and advice.

  31. Justin Clements

    Jim Gamble has realised...

    ....that if paedos can't see the web, then he is out of a job.

    Don't these guys ever realise that they are driving paedos underground everytime they come up with a law. First they killed off newsgroups by scattering these animals to the wind, then they come down on the web hosts like a ton of bricks, and now they want to filter this stuff as well.

    And every time they come up with something, the perps simply come up with new ways of circumventing it, leaving a trail of destruction (like Usenet) and technology laws for the rest of us to deal with.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I predicted this

    The problem with people like CEOP is that once people realise children aren't in grave danger then they are out of a job. Now the recession is ending they can face that chance.

  33. Paul Banacks

    Bad Bad Bad

    Right now we have the ability to identify and track these disgusting people. Policies like this will push them onto networks like Tor or other encrypted p2p style networks where their actions and even the identity of their servers will be completely untraceable.

    Furthermore, any list of censorship should be published by each and every ISP that implements it. If not, then we have no assurance whatsoever that it's only being used for the intended purpose. No government can be trusted with this.

    Sadly, such a list in this case would be a directory of child porn and would make it easier for these filthy people to exercise their desires. Thus the only logical answer is that you simply can't have such a list.

    We're stuck with personality politics and the ever present pressure to be seen to do things - even if those things are completely wrong.

  34. MinionZero

    @Ed Blackshaw

    @Ed Blackshaw: "Quite right. However, I feel compelled to point out, and mock you for, this wonderful mixed cliché:"

    For which I'm deeply sorry. No really, shame on me. I would just like to say in defence, I also feel compelled to point out, I find grammar Nazis style behaviour particularly entertaining, as they so often over look how hung up they are on grammatical errors and in doing so, often miss the importance of what's said, preferring instead to focus on how something is said and then compounding this by then spending their time seeking public vilification of the grammar rule breaker. For which I refer you to your need to “mock” me and in doing so, metaphorically publically verbally stone me into shame. (Some grammar Nazis toes will be curling up at that one ;) ).

    But then as I'm a grammar heretic, I often feel grammar rules are made to be broken, because petty rules such as these are made by other people and I don't seek to follow everything everyone says. Plus I was preoccupied by the subject rather than the importance of avoiding grammatical errors, (of which I'm sorry, but I will keep tripping up I'm sure). But then language also evolves over the centuries, so its not as if its even a constant rule, and its certainly not such an important rule that its beyond being broken. The day it does become a law, is the day I leave the UK! ;)

    I should like to end my defence, by quoting Mark Twain, "I don't give a damn for a man that can only spell a word one way" ;)

  35. raving angry loony

    6 step plan

    step 1) create an artificial aura of fear and doubt through sensationalist press releases, etc.

    step 2) create an artificial need for censorship in one particular area. "Think of the children" works.

    step 3) apply censorship and trumpet how successful it is at stopping what "caused" step (1).

    step 4) make censorship required by law

    step 5) extend censorship to apply to other items as required by ruling party.

    step 6) give China a friendly wave for having led the way to true censorship "to protect the people".

    Paris Hilton

    Bottom Line, As Almost Always

    A good canvas imo is presented here, on which is imo definitely painted the following:

    "A novice is somebody who's new to this - a new paedophile who wants to go out and find images" -

    Here we can see a usual passive surveillance system which is based on a bait. Some gov-contracted underground work - and you own a dozen sites with pseudo-pubertals in the age of about 25. Sure that's ok, but this is a world-known issue when a group is formed, the tasks are set and financed, and you suddenly hear in the office that the team has some wider powers which you can't even snore about when sleeping.

    I mean, is this financial demand done to buy a demanded number of porn actors and pay for lots of cameras? Hardly so, yet there could be a reason to do some brag.

    Heavy Pixel hunting? Through all IPs? Sounds somehow brave... someone teach me how to encrypt/decrypt messages in picture!

    If one could talk to amfM about this opportunity to use porn sites for messaging (-; I don't suppose bad sites, of course... IT would be the hell for the IPFilter live op team. And an unexplainable migration of Reggers, first of all (-: hey wait imkiiiddiiing...

    Paris, anyway.


  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Now "a new paedophile who wants to go out and find images" will have to make his / her own, instead.

  38. Guy Herbert

    Hard to know whether to take seriously...

    a man who says some apparently sensible things and then:

    "Gamble said organised criminals had virtually abandoned the business because of the risks."

    Which is clearly utter rubbish. Organised criminals (though calling *them* organised is usually generous, and mostly police and journalistic projection) aren't frightened by risks, and are pretty good at laying them off on patsies anyway. The only reason for them not to be in 'the business' is because there isn't a business proposition - there's no money to be made. Which tends to undermine the major premise of paedohunters that children being raped for group entertainment is widespread and could become popular.

  39. Sceptical Bastard

    @AC:9th September 2009 13:11 GMT

    Oh save us from Mail readers trotting out "I've got nothing to hide", that most pernicious and spurious of slogans.

    Nothing to hide? Post under your real name in that case. Tell us every detail of your sex life in that case. What are your innermost fantasies? Have you ever had an affair? Do you masturbate and if so how often? And while you're in a revelatory mood, how often do you take a dump and what consistency is it? What is your health record? How much do you earn?

    You are the sort of complacent idiot who let Hitler hijack Germany - ever read "First they came..."? So don't come crying to us when you find yourself living in a westernised version of North Korea.

    Gratuitous abuse is rarely called for in serious debate but in the case of brain-dead crypto-fascist morons like you it is fully justified.

  40. Graham Marsden

    @Jimmy 1

    If you want me to offer even "grudging support" of Jim Gamble, I'm going to have to see something more convincing than his "diplomatic language".

    Remember that he was the one who, only a few months ago, said that ISPs should waive the costs of "assisting investigations" when children are involved and was roundly criticised by ISPs, especially the smaller ones, for this. Then, a couple of days ago, CEOP declared that "the vast majority of paedophiles exchange images via P2P".

    Now, suddenly, he changes his tune and decides that "well, maybe small ISPs shouldn't have to be forced to adopt filtration" which sounds to me more like he'd realised that there was no way that such a thing could get pushed through without a lot of resistance that might then backfire as larger ISPs start saying "hang on, if they don't have to filter and since only 7.5% of this stuff comes from commercial websites and most of it is going via P2P, why should we be wasting our money on it either?"

    Don't forget, also, that Gamble was a major mover behind Operation Ore, and that house of cards is looking extremely shaky with the Jim Bates/ Chief Constable Colin Port fiasco and innocent victims of credit card fraud being effectively forced to plead guilty to avoid a court case which, even if they won, would have ruined their lives.

    Additionally CEOP wanted to censor Second Life just in case someone used underage avatars to "groom" children and they're also one of the groups that pushed for the clauses in the Coroners and Justice Bill to make pornographic cartoons of "chidren" illegal.

    Now IMO Gamble is thinking that he's pissed off a few too many people and he's hoping that a bit of "diplomatic language" might smooth things over before too many questions are being asked about the power that he and CEOP have arrogated unto themselves.

    Oh and your last paragraph reads like "Won't Graham Marsden Think Of The Children!", so please excuse me if I ignore it (and your title line) with the contempt it deserves.

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