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Monday, February 23

What's the point of the IWF?

Rory Cellan-Jones reports on a small ISP which is challenging the Internet Watch Foundation's anti-paedophiles methods.

This is their idea of a black list, compiled from reports by the public, which ISPs are asked to use, somehow 'protecting children online'. The blacklist onto which a Wikipedia page found itself and was then withdraw after a justified uproar.

Zen Internet, a small Rochdale-based ISP, Rory reports, "has not yet implemented IWF's recommended system because we have concerns over its effectiveness. Our Managing Director, Richard Tang, is going to meet Peter Robbins the Chief Executive of the IWF to discuss these concerns."

Rory also says that children's charities are pressuring for the few ISPs who don't automatically follow the IWF's line to be forced to do so.

He quotes an IWF critic, Dr Richard Clayton:

"Everybody thinks they've done something by blocking this stuff but in practice it makes very little difference to who sees it and it's quite expensive."
The Wikipedia episode just highlighted what webbies already know - the blacklist is just a waste of time.
Why? Because most of this material is held abroad and the IWF is ineffective about getting it removed.
But it would obviously suit government to give into the children's charities and pressure ISPs because they would be 'seen to be doing something'. But the material and the pedophile networks exist on the 'dark net', a place you're unlikely to inadvertently stumble on. Those distributing it aren't going to have it in places where law enforcement might easily find it.

So this beggars the question which I made during the Wikipedia episode: 'what is the proven value of the IWF?'

What - exactly - are they achieving?

If you're trying to stop criminality and the exploitation of children, why aren't the police funded to do the job? Where else do you see amateurs, like the IWF, being presented - and being funded - as our best hope to 'protect children' ?

I think it's time for webbies to really step up and demand the government stops faffing about and that the IWF funding spent on this pointless blacklist goes to specialist police who can really challenge the distributors of material that exploits children.


Comment from another small ISP on Rory's blog, nailing the IWF's dodgy business interest:
1) They only provide a list of Child abuse Images hosted outside the UK. They issue takedown notices to anyone hosting this content in the UK but this has an interesting side effect, see later.

2) This list contains only a few thousand http urls - nothing more and an insignificant fraction of the amount of website urls in the world.

3) They don't provide any technology to enable this filtering, they leave the technical implementation to the ISP

4) They refuse to allow an open source implementation of the filtering because of concerns that it would allow the list to become public.

5) They charge a minimum of 5000 pounds per year for access to the list (going up to 20k+ for people who want to use the IWF approved branding etc).

6) There is no oversight on what goes on to this list, we only have the word of the IWF that it contains Child Abuse Images that infringe the appropriate laws. No ISP is going to risk looking at the sites on the list to check. There is nothing to stop them from adding sites critical of the IWF to the list, or for the scope of the list to be increased to block other types of sites.

7) The preferred method of blocking is to pretend the file could not be found and not to draw attention to the IWF list.

From this you can see that you are paying a significant sum for the list plus have to then spend additional cash and resources on a filtering system which then only blocks a tiny fraction of sites and adds overhead to every single page request.


* If you don't block these images you are supporting Child Abuse - How would your boss feel if we told him you supported Child Abuse (Direct quote from an IWF "saleswomen")


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