Internet industry moves on blocking child pornography

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Thursday, 30 June, 2011 - 18:00

 The Internet Industry Association today announced the framework that would underpin its imminent code relating to child abuse material. 

The voluntary industry code of practice for ISPs in Australia would entail blocking child pornography sites which would otherwise be available to Australians. It would rely on a blocklist compiled and supplied by Interpol, in cooperation with the Australian Federal Police ('AFP').

Consistent with industry commitments made almost 12 months ago to develop a voluntary industry program to block child abuse materials, the IIA announced the final elements of the scheme were moving into place in preparation for a launch of the code in July.

IIA member ISPs in Australia have confirmed their intentions to support a code based approach.

"We anticipate that we will have ISPs representing between 80-90% of the Australian user base complying with the scheme this year," said IIA's chief executive Peter Coroneos. ;

Elements of the scheme

  • The scheme will be limited to child abuse sites supplied by Interpol
  • Interpol sets out the criteria for list inclusion as follows:
    • The children are real. Sites containing only computer generated, morphed, drawn or pseudo images are not included.
    • The ages of the children depicted in sexually exploitative situations are (or appear to be) younger than 13 years.
    • The abuses are considered by Interpol to be severe constituting the "worst of the worst" activities involving children.
  • ISPs who block access to sites would be doing so in accordance with a legal request for assistance under Australia's existing Telecommunications Act (section 313); no new laws will be required to implement this scheme
  • Browsers which have attempted to access blocked sites will be directed to an Interpol page explaining why the site has been blocked;
  • Because of the possibility of accidental access to blocked sites, users will not be tracked or reported under the scheme.

Accuracy and accountability
The list of sites is compiled on the basis of manual checks by police whose experience shows that child sexual abuse material is normally not co-hosted with  legal material; it usually resides on specific domains created for the sole purpose of distributing the files. The domains have been reviewed and found to fulfill the above criteria by at least two independent agencies. Users who believe a page is incorrectly blocked can refer the request to AFP/Interpol for review. The current role of the ACMA in receiving complaints from Australian users will continue.

Expected outcomes from the scheme
Both industry and law enforcement agencies recognise that these measures will not stop all child abuse material distribution, but will still achieve a number of significant outcomes, including:

  • limiting "revictimisation" of children whose images of abuse have been circulated online
  • freeing police resources for victim and criminal identification and deleting the material from the hosting service, rather than handling reports about the content itself
  • preventing accidental and unwanted exposure to child abuse materials, the possession of which is a criminal offence in most jurisdictions including Australia
  • making deliberate access to illegal web based material more difficult
  • bringing Australian into line with best practice internationally.

“While we fundamentally maintain the internet is predominantly safe and useful, we acknowledge community and law enforcement concerns about access to illegal materials online, particularly child pornography and so we are taking these practical steps to help make a positive difference”

“We have considered the alternatives and have come to the view that a voluntary industry code by which ISPs agree to block child pornography sites once notified by the police is the best way forward.”

“This move will bring Australia into alignment with Scandinavia and Europe.”

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