Pornographic images of children are not blocked by Ireland’s internet providers where the material is hosted outside the country, as it is in many other jurisdictions, including Britain.
Norway — which has a similar population size to Ireland — blocks up to 12,000 such websites a day, revealing the appetite for such images.
Jillian van Turnhout is one of six senators tabling a private members’ bill in the Seanad today calling for action, including providing laws that internet providers should block this kind of content until it is removed from the web.
“Despite the fact that most of them can be found in a ‘virtual world’,” one must never forget that behind every image, there is at least one child who has been sexually abused in real life,” Ms Van Turnhout said.
“Child abuse images involve a series of crimes ranging from the solicitation, corruption or trafficking of children for sexual purposes and various forms of sexual abuse perpetrated on children, to the distribution, collection and consultation of images of the abuse committed,” she said.
Ms Van Turnhout pointed out that since countries such as Britain, Norway, Sweden and Italy block such material, we should be able to.
She said, disturbingly, it seems as though people accessing this kind of material are looking for younger and younger children.
However, Paul Durrant, of the Internet Service Providers Association of Ireland (ISPAI), said the industry in Ireland is following governmental guidelines but added that blocking is not as effective as it might sound.
Mr Durrant said it is essential that the content is destroyed at source and said money should be pumped into policing and deletion at source.
He said it would be helpful to have more legal guidance from Government for its members who are blocking pornographic sites on a voluntary basis. “Our members who do this voluntarily are left exposed if anything goes wrong,” he said.
The Hotline.ie service, supported and funded by the ISPAI since 1999 to provide an anonymous reporting service for members of the public who accidentally uncover child pornography on the internet.
Pat McKenna of campaign group One Child said he believes blocking is a preventative measure that stops unwitting access to child abuse material by law abiding citizens.
“It is found that 3 in 10 consumers of such content are also physically abusing children that they have access to,” he said.
“Thus the internet as a detection and reporting tool to extract child victims of such abuse cannot be overlooked in any future legislation.
“We are also mounting a sustained and targeted campaign among lawmakers in Ireland and Europe to seek to have these images blocked.”
However, Mr McKenna said: “We do not advocate blocking for any other forms of material on the internet.”