Block access to online porn, urges children’s charity

The Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children has urged the Government to consider forcing internet service providers (ISP) to block access by young people to online pornography.

However, Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte has said that EU laws prevent him from forcing ISPs to ban or limit access to pornography.

Warning of the damaging effect of pornography on young minds, the ISPCC favours a system similar to that being introduced in Britain.

Mr Rabbitte said he would be willing to take a look at proposals by the British government, which aim to block children’s access to sexually explicit material on the internet.

The minister said he would be happy to examine a proposal by British Prime Minister David Cameron, which would see internet service providers installing family-friendly filters.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Mr Rabbitte said he would be willing to consider the possibility that a similar protocol could be agreed with internet service providers in Ireland.

However, he said Irish ISPs were “largely different” to Britain and EU law prevents the imposition of mandatory measures.

Mr Cameron announced family-friendly filters would be automatically selected for all new customers by the end of the year, although they could choose to switch them off.

Possessing violent pornography containing simulated rape scenes will be made a crime in England and Wales and videos streamed online in Britain will be subject to the same restrictions as those sold in shops.

Mr Cameron accused Google of making money out of circulating pictures and videos of children being sexually abused.

He warned Google, Bing and Yahoo that they faced being forced by law to ban internet searches for illegal images if they refused to do so voluntarily.

Mr Cameron said they had a “moral duty” to act because their expertise was “aiding” paedophiles.

He set Google and the other firms a deadline of October when they would be called to Downing Street to produce their plans for “obliterating this disgusting material from the net”.

A secure database of banned child porn images gathered by police will also be used to trace illegal content and the paedophiles viewing it.

The British internet industry has agreed to use the database proactively to scan for, block and remove, the images wherever they occur, Mr Cameron said.

He has given search engines an October deadline to introduce further measures to block access to illegal content by blacklisting searches based on certain phrases, claiming they have a “moral duty” to act.

A Google spokesman said: “We have a zero tolerance attitude to child sexual abuse imagery. Whenever we discover it, we respond quickly to remove and report it.”

However, anti-censorship groups in Britain have warned that sites about sexual health and sexuality could inadvertently get caught up in the ban.

Mr Cameron’s proposals have also been criticised by anti-child-porn campaigners. The former head of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection centre (CEOP), Jim Gamble, said Mr Cameron’s plan to tackle child abuse images by removing results from search engines like Google would be “laughed at” by paedophiles.

“There are 50,000 predators… downloading abusive images on peer-to-peer, not from Google,” he said.

“Yet from CEOP intelligence, only 192 were arrested last year. That’s simply not good enough.”

Parent guide

* Hotline.ie offers ‘A parents’ guide to filtering technologies’. Hotline.ie is an anonymous reporting service for members of the public who accidentally uncover illegal content on the internet, particularly child pornography or activities relating to the sexual exploitation of children.

Other filtering software packages include:

* Reassure Me: www.reassureme.com

* Kidsafe: www.kidsafe.ie

* CyberPatrol: www.cyberpatrol.com

* NetNanny: www.netnanny.com

* CensorNet: www.censornet.com

* SafeEyes: www.safeeyes.com


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