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EU Council Demands Global Alliance to Block Child Abuse Websites

Saturday, Jun 9th, 2012 (8:20 am) - Score 423

The Council of the European Union (CEU), which is where government representatives from EU Member States’ (e.g. UK) sit down to make new laws, has unanimously moved to promote a Global Alliance against child sexual abuse online that would require ISPs around the world to block websitescontaining child pornography“.

The new alliance seeks to pressure both foreign and domestic governments into “obtaining political commitments” to tackle the problem of child sexual abuse online by requiring counties to agree to a series of “policy targets“. At present Europe only encourages voluntary blocking, although the targets suggest that this could soon become mandatory.

The Core Global Alliance Policy Targets

1. Enhancing efforts to identify victims, whose sexual abuse is depicted in child pornography, and ensuring their assistance, support and protection;

2. Reducing as much as possible the availability of child pornography online, [among other things] by facilitating measures to remove or, where appropriate, block websites containing child pornography, and reducing as much as possible the re-victimization of children whose sexual abuse is depicted in child pornography:

3. Enhancing efforts to investigate cases of child sexual abuse online and to identify and prosecute offenders;

4. Enhancing efforts to increase awareness of the risks posed by children’s activities online, including grooming and self-production of images that

The UK already has a similar system setup under the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), which works with most consumer broadband ISPs to block websites that contain child sexual abuse content. Web blocking is often a contentious issue but few object to its use in the context of helping to stamp out child abuse imagery. It’s also good to see the EU finally looking at the issue with a more global perspective, which is critical because most of this material is hosted outside of the EU.

But both the European Parliament (EP) and the European Internet Services Providers Association (EuroISPA) have in the recent past warned that removing abuse material at source is the “only” effective “technical measure” that can actually work. Web blocking is of course incredibly easy to circumvent and thus allows the content to remain readily available for anybody who goes actively seeking it. It can also end up blocking legitimate sites and doesn’t come cheap, especially if you’re a smaller ISP.

Jérémie Zimmermann, co-Founder of citizen advocacy group La Quadrature du Net, said:

It is baffling to see that no EU government opposed the adoption of these conclusions, which legitimize Internet censorship across the world and will therefore have disastrous consequences for freedoms online. In spite of the strong reservations expressed by the European Parliament, governments choose to force through website blocking with the adoption of this document.

Such censorship is ineffective for its stated aim and paves the road for other damaging attacks against the free Internet. Only through citizen mobilization will we be able to make our governments accountable and eventually safeguard a universal Internet.”

Malcolm Hutty, President of EuroISPA, said in January 2011 (here):

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.”

The CEU will on 20th June 2012 begin seeking support for its new “framework” first from US authorities.

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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