On Tuesday, the British Government announced a series of measures that they have agreed with ISPs in a bid to respond to concerns about pornography and the Internet.  The meeting between the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, the big four UK ISP providers (Virgin, BSkyB, BT and TalkTalk) search engines, mobile operators and social media companies agreed the following:

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  • A new proactive role would be taken on by the IWF, working with CEOP – industry funding will increase to reflect this new role with £1 million more provided by the four major ISPs over the next four years to tackle child sexual abuse material online;
  • Any relevant organisation which does not yet operate ‘splash pages’ will introduce them by the end of the month so that when someone tries to access a page blocked by the IWF, they will see a warning message (a ‘splash page’) stating that the page may contain indecent or illegal content;
  • All present would sign up to a ‘zero tolerance’ pledge towards child sexual abuse content on the internet;
  • The industry will report to the Culture Secretary within a month on how they can work to support the new proactive approach being taken on this issue through the use of their technology and expertise.

The full press release can be viewed here.  Although the event was apparently in response to a growing media – and some would argue, public – demand for a response to the accessibility of illicit imagery, particularly ‘violent’ or ‘extreme’ pornography, and – the focus of this press release – images of child sexual abuse.  I was travelling back from London when the press release was issued and tweeted a number of thoughts and questions which immediately occurred to be in response.  I’ve reproduced them below in a slightly edited form.

1. ‘Child sexual abuse imagery’ is a narrower category than ‘child porn’.  The focus is welcome but has implications for how we think about the appropriation of images which were never designed to be for sexual arousal (the parent talking a photo of their naked child in the bath for example) but which can be positioned in larger collections and through their re-positioning, can provide a stimulus for those who are sexually attracted to children.

2. What will the extent of this pro-active remit for the IWF take? Will it include agent provocateur tactics, for instance via social media?

3. How has the £1million figure been arrived at for additional funding. Will it serve to define the extent of ‘pro-active’ measures? Of course, it it is logical to assume that each of the ISPs agreed to throw a quarter of a million in the pot, but there could be transparency about this.  Why £1 million (beyond publicity, an easy to arrive at figure)?

4. If it proves insufficient, what gov/ISP would turn down further funding? This could therefore be start of major growth for IWF/CEOP

5. What will constitute ‘family friendly’ wi-fi – what content EXACTLY will be blocked in public spaces?

6. What about those who create their own hot spot in a ‘family friendly’ wi-fi zone or access verboten content over 3G/4G services, or use a proxy to avoid ISP limits in a public space?

7. Will the obligation to deliver child controls to ISP customers also include childless homes? If not, how will the ISP know? If yes, why?

8. Will these new controls apply only to images or will it also extend to other content? The press release is titled ‘images’ but would that satisfy media/public demand?  (links to question five)

9. Given the new pro-active remit of IWF, will there be additional checks imposed on them. If yes, what? If not, why not?

10. What are these assurances the IWF need from the DPP?  This is linked to question two above.

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