Fall in reports of child porn websites

REPORTS from the public regarding child porn and other illegal websites fell by almost a quarter last year, with internet watchdogs claiming the war was being won against criminal online content.

Figures in the new hotline.ie annual report, published yesterday, show 1,966 reports on suspect material were made last year by Irish internet users – a decrease of 24% on the figures for the previous year.

Of those, 1,275 were found to be actionable, with 497 reports determined as illegal under Irish law.

Of that figure, 443 referred to child pornography, with the remainder involving child trafficking, financial scams and racist material.

Hotline.ie general manager Paul Durrant welcomed the drop, claiming: “We are beginning to win this battle but it is a battle that requires international cooperation.”

However, he said while the quantity of illegal content found by Irish users had fallen – and had continued to do so into this year – the severity of much of the child porn had not waned.

Hotline.ie is part of an international network of sites – INHOPE – that forwards information regarding illegal content, with the aim being the closure or removal of the websites by local internet service providers (ISPs).

While 23 of the largest ISPs here are members of hotline.ie, up to 80 newer and smaller ISPs are not. Both Mr Durrant and Justice Minister Dermot Ahern, who launched the report, appealed to all ISPs and companies to join up to the voluntary initiative to limit illegal websites.

It also emerged yesterday that a report from a member of the public here ultimately led to a network of sites registered in Australia being disabled.

According to Mr Ahern, 92% of the sites confirmed to be illegal by hotline content analysts during 2008 are now no longer in existence or no longer contain illegal material.

None of the illegal child pornography was traced to Ireland, but Mr Durrant said it was “worrying” that 553 reports from members of the public to hotline.ie last year were “non-processable”, in most cases because the person did not leave enough information when making their report.

The fall in illegal content being reported by Irish internet users tallies with figures from other countries, especially in Russia, which last year saw a dramatic drop thanks to the shutting down of one internet network in late 2007.

There was an increase in the number of reports in America and Canada, but a decrease in almost every other country with sites “effectively being taken off the air”, Mr Durrant said.

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