back to article ISPs battle EU child pornography filter laws

ISPs are battling proposals by officials in Brussels that would force them to block access to child pornography, arguing that such systems only hide the problem. The European Commission has drafted new laws that will be voted on by the European Parliament next month. The technical solutions envisaged are broadly based on …


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  1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge


    Here's a thought - instead of blocking it, monitor it and collect info on the perps and hand it to plod. That way it actually serves to reduce the amount of CP and it's perpertrators

    1. Pablo

      Is this sarcastic?

      This is such spectacularly bad idea, I have to hope it's a joke. If there's one policy what would actually be worse then censorship, this is it. To put it in perspective, even notoriously repressive governments like China and Saudi Arabia don't usually do this.

      It might sound okay when you assume it's only going to happen to "those guys", but when you stop to think about all the ways this could go horribly wrong, it should become apparent why nobody does it.

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge


        Hold on to your galloping horses there.

        They* already employ filters that target kiddie porn etc. yes?

        I'm not suggesting they do anything other than actually STOP filtering, and just monitor & report instead. It's called a honey trap, but you'd be using real life targets as the bait.

        Sure it won't catch the most tech-savvy pedo's, but it should help thin their numbers out a bit wouldn't you think?

        *Yes, really they do this already. There are also 'rooms' inside ISP's that are only accessable to the uppermost eschelons of the techies. The clue as to why there are there is in the previous sentence.

  2. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    Agreed, up to a point, good sir!

    If I should accidentally come across child pornography, I would report it instantly, as would many people, so yes, blocking might be counterproductive. However, I trust the perpetrators of this kind of crime protect their content anyway, so you would need passwords to get at that kind of smut. Stumbling across it may be unlikely.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Ever heard of Strict liability?

      Probably best that you don't mention you have stumbled across kiddie or extreme porn these days and burn your hard drive just to be sure...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        By passing a link to plod YOU are then purveying paedophilia. All things being equal it would be the right thing to do, but it's just too damn risky. You could easily find yourself at the pointy end of an investigation and just the rumour of that could effectively kill your life.

  3. Colin Millar
    Big Brother

    Running away from responsibility

    Hosting providers, content sites, ISPs - all making money (or desperately seeking monetisation), none of them responsible for anything that happens.

    The law should put responsibility on all of em. If hosting providers consistently carry CP require ISPs to block everything from the provider. If ISPs fail to comply in blocking hosts revoke their licences, if content providers carry the stuff, prosecute them for publication and stick their CEOs on the CPR.

    But the law is too busy going after john q public for a lazy-arsed entertainment industry who can't be bothered to develop a C21 business model to actually look at the web and introduce some laws on stuff that actually matters.

    1. EvilGav 1

      So . . .

      you advocate the blocking of an entire host, because of the actions of some of it's customers ??

      What a great idea - you use that hosting provider, therefore it's your own fault one of their other customers happens to peddle kiddy-smut, take the consequences of your heinous crime.

      It's idiotic thoughts like this, which don't examine, even rudimentally, the consequences of actions, that cause all the bloody problems.

      1. Colin Millar

        learn to read

        before you blurt

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      You don't appear to know what responsibility is.

      So if I choose to siphon off a load of natural gas from the supply in my house and use it to destroy part of the M1 viaduct at Tinsley that this is somehow TransCo's fault, or that if a library lends me a Haynes manual and I use that book to disable the brakes on my neighbour's car this is somehow the library's fault, or if I send a bomb through the post and it's not detected this is somehow the Post Office's fault?

      I have a better idea. Why not assume people are innocent and allow them to take responsibility for their own actions, put in enough laws so that people who do not take such responsibility may have a penalty applied to them, and vigorously pursue those laws regardless of the amount of money, power or influence those people have rather than assuming people are guilty and trying to second-guess what they might do?

  4. Graham Marsden

    "filtering reduces the risk of abuse by...

    "...preventing internet users from being accidentally exposed to child pornography."

    Right, because we're all such weak-minded and morally bankrupt people that if we were to see this sort of stuff we would immediately think "Gosh, I must go out and abuse a child!"

    1. crowley


      I was offended by that insinuation too.

      Though - when passing chav infested areas, 'Battle Royale' does spring to mind... ;-)

    2. Moz

      re: "filtering reduces the risk of abuse by...

      On the other hand, seeing how accidentally stumbling onto kiddie porn may leave cache files on your hard disk that could lead to a very long prison sentence, I'm actually rather for the blocking idea.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        However, if filtering was introduced and you stumbled upon a child porn site then the case against you would be stronger. Not only would you have to explain the trace evidence on your computer but you'd have to prove that you hadn't bypassed the filtering. As for the latter, if you work in IT you'd automatically be assumed to have the knowledge to do that and so must be guilty.

  5. JaitcH

    "filtering reduces ... abuse by ... internet users ... accidentally exposed to child pornography"

    I've yet to be accidental exposed to child pornography on the InterNet and having soaked the sun on beaches where tiny tots ran naked I can also report my only reaction was in response to the screams emitted by these naked bodies.

    Greece, where semi-naked bodies are the norm, my reactions were dulled when an aged female emerged from her garden in Marathon, walked to the beach where she shed her beach coat to reveal the most unappealing, totally naked, slack-skinned apparition I have ever witnessed.

    Living in a country with light InterNet political filtering and frequently visiting China, I can assure those dimwits in Brussels filtering does not work. If a human wants something, they have enough ingenuity to find and obtain it.

    Not even Brussels can change something that has gone on for centuries. Maybe the filtering proposition says more about them than InterNet users.

    1. Brangdon Bronze badge

      @I've yet to be accidental exposed to child pornography

      Read the article. The main UK ISPs already use the Internet Watch Foundation to block child porn, so your lack of accidental exposure could just mean the system works.

  6. F111F

    Isn't That The Point?

    Shouldn't we be forcing pedos to go underground? Make it harder to do such things through normal channels? I could use the same argument that going after the hosts only forces them to operate out of areas that permit it. both. Make it as hard as possible for a) someone to post that crap; and b) someone to find it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      There is a counter argument...

      ...that we should be providing pedos with material that will satisfy them, keep them on the radar so they can be monitored and ... more importantly ... children won't get hurt by them.

      We all think that all paedophiles are driven by their own choice, but there are very interesting counter points....

      I bring to your attention the account from London Ambulance Service personnel Mr Brian Kellett, writing under the name of Tom Reynolds in the book, "Blood, Sweat and Tea."...

      "Imagine, if you will, getting sent to a job where a 15-year old boy is threatening suicide. You turn up at the address and discover that it is a care home. Meeting with one of his carers she hands you a list of the boy's medications and it reads like a, 'Who's Who' of psychiatric drugs. You talk to the boy and he seems calm, collected and very polite. He explains that he wants to jump out of a window and kill himself, and agrees that he would like to go to hospital. You take him in to the paediatric department of a local hospital. As this does not feel like the normal, “Teenager wants to kill themselves” you have a chat wit the children's nurse and you ask them to let you know what happens to the patient. You leave and continue with your shift. The next day you ask the children's nurse about the patient and she tells you, “The boy wanted to die because he wants to have sex with, and kill small children – and that he knows that it is wrong.

      I hate paedophiles as much as any other member of society, but in front of me that day, I saw a victim."

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Campaigners have to be analysed

    The claims of the campaigners and those who always adopt the moral high ground when making claims, has to be properly analysed and not simply taken as read.

    I don't have filtering on at home and I can't remember when I last, "accidentally," ended up on any regular pornography, let alone child abuse.

    The ISP's make a good and valid point, while the campaigners for blocking don't seem to have any figures or proof to back up what they're saying; merely relying on making statements which would seem rational to a person who didn't have the time to examine the claims properly. That's how cults rope people in.

    As I've written to my MP and various others, filters are expensive and will be paid for by the public either through ISP customers or else the public purse. They can't handle encrypted traffic in real time and the whole thing will be yet another expensive governmental disaster.

    It also opens up the very dangerous door for mission creep. I'm still chuckling over the Australian's blocking the Perth dentist web site.

    Still, since when did an MP of whatever level actually do proper research? We'll still get screwed.

  8. binner

    wrong target

    The majority of child abuse victims are attacked by someone known to them. Whilst denying the use of the internet as a means to distribute Child pornograpy is a nicely measurable target attacking the problem of content creation and the act itself is a far more complicated, less media friendly problem.

    Maybe is the press (Daily Fail I am looking at you) aimed its hysteria at the not so low hanging fruit and actually looked into problem and tried to do some reporting of the issue instead of that Sarah's Law bollocks something good might actually come of it

    1. Semaj


      Child abuse (including regular violence, which is at least as bad as sex) is going to happen regardless and more often than not will be done by a relative or close family friend (male AND female by the way, not just men, ask anyone who works with abused kids).

      All filtering does is extend the delusion that this kind of thing doesn't happen, it's saying "we don't care if it happens as long as we can't tell". It's hiding the symptom, not solving the problem. And that's assuming it could even work, which it wouldn't.

  9. andy 10


    "...preventing internet users from being accidentally exposed to child pornography."

    In nearly 20 years of access to the internet, much of it with far less filtering/control (and including my teenage years spent pretty much exclusively searching for porn), i've never seen any child porn.

    Anyone who says they viewed it by accident is a lying pedo!

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "accidentally exposed to child pornography."

    should ask these people if they have ever "accidentally" come across child pornography

    either they answer yes and they are paedophiles who should be arrested at once (it's a strict liability offence with no defence after all)

    or they answer no and they just undermined their entire argument for why billions needs to be wasted on giving them a censorship system

    the only place i've ever accidentally come across it was when monitoring traffic on p2p networks, which seem to be the only place where you might ever "accidentally" find such things (due to some of the keywords in filenames), not only do i doubt anyone has ever accidentally stumbled across it on the web, but i suspect most who have actively looked for it probably didn't have much luck (unless they felt like giving their name address and credit card details out to a random site full of illegal material, a very smart move...)

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    1. Anonymous Coward

      Would you like to see my puppies?

      They're cute :)

  12. Andrew Radley 1

    Wrong end of the stick...

    The UK Govt has never said that it will fix the problem. What it will do is prevent people seeing the content inadvertently - which is a good thing given there is no defence to ownership of child abuse images.

    Having built systems that address this sort of area, you cannot block access. There are too many way to subvert any of these systems through proxies, using more obscure protocols and even not using the Internet at all (this is not a new problem - the Internet just provides a more efficient distribution mechanism).

    WRT civil liberties, I know for a fact that the IWF and related organisations are not at all interested in filtering the Intenet per se. It's just about controlling and limiting access to illegal content as defined by the government in law. The IWF is also a charity - funded by a fairly diverse group of members so probably has more regulatory oversight than most other organisations carrying out relted activities.

  13. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    So we can look forward to more "virgin killer" cockups then.


    What "standard" would these filters be set to?

    Clenched up public school English? Relaxed French? Laid back Scandinavians?

    Data without frontiers.

  14. ph0b0s

    CP not the real reason for this law.

    I know this will come off all conspiracy theory and all, but I think CP is just and excuse so that the EU can have in place a system enforceable by law for blocking whatever content they want, not just CP. One in place it will be quite easy to add other content to the list. Wikileaks or pirate bay perhaps.....

    Always love how people happily hand over controls to governments with the promise that it will help them be protected from terrorism and pedo's. Then get surprised when the government misuse those controls on something that is not terrorism or child protection related.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    @Michael H.F. Wilkinson - "If I should accidentally come across child pornography, I would report it instantly"

    Barring the awful pun - would you really? That would amount to an admission that you have seen (and thereby downloaded, and quite possibly technically "made") dubious material on your computer. Plod would invariably then seize your computer(s) for full analysis, just to make sure you didn't have any other dubious material, likely arresting you whilst you were at it, which winds up on a record, regardless of subsequent lack of charge/conviction.

  16. Demosthenese

    Thin end of the wedge

    Once the mechanisms are in place, it will become easy to limit access to other 'undesirable' content. Any powers granted will inevitably be widened in terms of scope. After the child porn will come the 'extreme' porn, then porn in general, then information likely to of use to a terrorist, and so on until we might as well just have a whitelist of government approved sites.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    To those who haven't accidentally downloaded CP

    How do you know?

    Technically speaking you can say that you haven't accidentally viewed CP but it's impossible to say you haven't accidentally downloaded it. Any image you download can have a second image embedded in it, in which case if you intentionally download the host image you also intentionally downloaded the guest image even if you didn't know it was there.

    Web pages can have any amount of junk hidden in them that can end up in your cache without you being any the wiser.

    As the offence is possession then not having viewed it is not a defence.

  18. Bill Coleman

    Child prn... really?

    The whole CP argument is BS - we went through all this with politicians touting this nonsense in Oz, until the idea was pulled last minute as an election ploy. It's quite obvious that mandatory ISP filtering is actually a means to try to get general control over the internet - to impose a censorship harness... The "children" argument is a FUD based strong arm tactic. Why you think they want the censorship depends on how paranoid you are. But anyone with any tech savvy will tell you that it is a croc anyway - network filtering is crazy easy to circumvent (especially if you can live without AJAX) and amounts more than an annoyance to anyone who wants to circumvent it.

    ANYWAY, if they really wanted to tackle the child prn thing directly they would be taking on Usenet servers to crack the rings and remove the binaries...

  19. Rattus Rattus

    And so the stupid spreads...


  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    1. Block websites.

    2. Say that's not enough because all the kiddie porn is on p2p networks.

    3. Block all of them. Now we have host AND protocol blocking in place.

    4. Film and music industry associations will be happy but I'm sure that's not relevant.

    5. Claim that child porn is all over the social networking crapsites. Ideally use a cancer metaphor.

    6. DPI needed to distinguish parts of those services to block (since we wouldn't want to block all of Facebook, would we? Not even to protect the children.)

    7. Phorm returns in the guise of child porn filtering "with 'value added services' to reduce the cost of policing the Internet."

    8. Opponents of Phorm II The Return are all branded paedophiles.

    The law doesn't come into it because pedo scaremongering trumps law.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    We find actions against pedos are supported by the sheeple.

    The way a rope supports a man committing suicide.

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