Illegal Internet porn on the increase

Stop

Interesting to see on the TV this morning that paedophile Internet Web sites are on the increase, surging 37 per cent during 2005.

It's good to hear, though, that the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) reports that just 0.4 per cent of child abuse images are hosted in the UK on the Net, compared with 18 per cent back in 1997, when the IWF was in its infancy.

I've nothing but praise for the IWF, which works closely with ISPA and other organisations, including Interpol and the police, in passing along reports of potentially illegal Web sites.

I remember attending a BCS conference a few years back at which an IWF senior was speaking and explaining how the IWF works. The biggest problem, the IWF said back then, was the number of Russian Web sites hosting paedophile material.

According to today's news reports, it's those same sites that continue to be a problem today, although it's surprising that US hosted sites are also a major problem for the IWF.

The IWF does a lot in stamping out this highly undesirable aspect of the Internet, but I think ISPs could do a lot more. Some ISPs are more approachable than others, but informal conversations I've had with the police at conferences over the years suggests that most ISPs do little to check what information they are hosting.

With ultra-low cost hosting services - which feature almost totally automated hosting systems - now available, I can understand the problems that such ISPs face.

But they also have a moral duty of care towards users of the Internet.

If they have to charge a couple of quid a year extra to police the sites they are hosting, so be it.

I suspect that, if ISPA doesn't move on this front soon, then the government will have to legislate.

It has to be remembered that the 0.4 per cent of sites based in the UK that the IWF refers to in its annual report represents the number of sites caught offering paedophile and similar material.

There are, I'm sure, a number of what appear to be legitimate sites, but who offer SSL or encrypted file access to illegal material. Come on ISPA - get your skates on...