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Child porn blocking won't work, say Euro ISPs

EU directive comes under attack

The EU's attempts to get all member states to block porn at ISP level would do little to stop the problem, says the European Internet Services Providers Association (EuroISPA).

According to EuroISPA president Malcolm Hutty, the blocking measures in the directive on child exploitation, due to be voted on by the Parliament next month, would only distract from the bigger issue of removing the imagery from host servers.

"In order to make the directive as strong as possible, emphasis must be placed on making swift notice and take-down of child sexual abuse material focused and effective," Hutty said.

"Blocking, as an inefficient measure, should be avoided. Law enforcement authorities' procedures for rapid communication to Internet Hosting Providers of such illegal material must be reviewed and bottlenecks eliminated."

Critics have pointed out that blocking, currently used by all large ISPs in the UK from a list of child porn websites maintained by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), can be circumvented by paedophiles in a number of ways, including undocumented websites, FTP servers and P2P networks.

The problem is that the alternative approach suggested by critics - tackling the source servers and the networks themselves - requires more police time and, when servers are not in the EU, government involvement. The proposed EU directive acknowledges this in Article 21 without specifying how it will be achieved.

Digital rights groups have also expressed concern in recent days about possible unintended consequences of the proposals. Interestingly, Swedish company NetClean has been marketing an alternative to flawed site list blocking in the form of its ProActive system, which fingerprints, identifies and blocks individual known images linked to a police database.

This has to be implemented at the gateway level and so is designed to work in a business rather than ISP. But the idea behind it might offer a possible future avenue for blocking of illegal images, namely the blocking of real images rather than the sites assumed to be serving them.

See also: ISPA says gov't porn plans are not feasible


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