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Porn watchdog toughens up

Regulator pushes zero tolerance on net indecency

The IWF (Internet Watch Foundation), Britain's online porn watchdog, today hit back at claims that its new measures to clean up the internet are heavy handed.

The recommendations, which coincide with the appointment of the new chief executive Peter Robbins, who takes up the post on 1 April, will mean all newsgroups and chatrooms that have provocative names or advertise paedophile content will be removed.

"This is a major step which allows us to investigate any [chatroom or discussion group] whose title is connected with porn," said David Kerr, the group's current chief executive.

Many fear that, under the new powers, sites which contain discussion groups could be ordered to rename or pull down innocent chatrooms simply because their titles fit the new criterion.

"The content of the [site] will be carefully monitored. We will not pull down a site just because it has a contentious name," said Kerr. "An intelligent human stage will be put into place, where we will take into account the content and its purpose."

The IWF previously operated a 'notice and takedown' policy where sites would be given chance to remove their own content before action was taken.

Over 40,000 items containing child pornography have been pulled from the web in this way but, says the IWF, a harsher approach is also needed.

"Under the old system it is impossible to go into every site and find specific 'illegal' material, this [new process] will help us locate areas where child porn images are stored much more quickly," said Kerr.

But some say the zero tolerance approach hasn't gone down well with members of the IWF, and recent resignations by some of the Foundation's board members have sparked rumours of disenchantment with the new strategy as well as criticism of so-called 'blanket rules' on content regulation.

Kerr hotly denies there's dissention in the ranks, saying reports have been blown out of proportion.

"One member of the board, David Hutty, did resign because he did not support what he called the 'blanket campaign' but other resignations, including mine, are not connected," said Kerr.

"All of our supporters have already removed such groups from their sites and are in support of the new proposals," he added.


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