An Irish internet watchdog received more than 2,500 reports of suspected child porn last year, it was revealed today.
It is a rise of 62% on the previous year and operators of hotline.ie said the kind of material being brought to their attention was becoming more and more disturbing.
Analysts warned they were seeing extremely explicit photos and videos of the rape and sexual abuse of children far more frequently than in previous years.
The website is run by the Internet Service Providers Association of Ireland (ISPAI) to allow anonymous reporting of suspected illegal material.
But Paul Durrant, general manager of ISPAI, said staff were worried that the public rarely complained about or reported illegal content linked to file-sharing.
“Some of the most disturbing material the analysts saw last year was found on peer-to-peer (P2P) services,” he said.
“Many children use file-sharing and I appeal to the public to help rid P2P of such material by reporting suspiciously named files when they come across them.”
Hotline received 2,590 reports of suspected illegal material last year but none of these images, videos and other material was being hosted on Irish internet servers.
Mr Durrant said the work of ISPAI members and gardaí, supported by the Government, has deterred criminals and paedophiles from using Irish-based internet facilities to harbour the illegal images.
The organisation revealed, however, that many Irish internet service providers have refused to join ISPAI. This means they do not formally commit to a code of practice and ethics or contribute financially to Hotline’s work.
The group warned that combined and cohesive efforts of all those in the internet industry were needed to keep child porn off Irish servers.
“Anything less is nothing short of irresponsible,” Hotline said.
Dermot Ahern, Justice Minister, said he was concerned a number of Internet Service Providers (ISP) were refusing to sign up for the code of practice.
“My message to them is clear and straightforward – join,” the minister said.
Mr Ahern said he supports self-regulation but also warned he was prepared to bring in laws forcing ISPs to sign up to the code.
“I will not hesitate, should it become necessary, to introduce a statutory compliance model in the interests of the safety of our children and other vulnerable users of the internet,” he said.
Mr Ahern also urged public services with a high profile on the internet or groups working with child safety to add the Hotline logo to web-sites.