Readers may wish to be aware of more recent events related to this area detailed in the Internet Censorship article
In October 2005 a Ten Minute Rule Bill was introduced to parliament by Margaret Moran that would require anybody who provides an 'electronic communication network' (which given the current definition would include home networks) to declare whether or not they have made provision to prevent access to child pornography websites.
The ISPA, the industry body that represents the majority of ISPs in the UK provided a response which echoed the Government's own position that the Internet industry should be self-regulating.
Text of the Bill
The long title reads:
A Bill to require internet service providers and other commercial organisations providing access to the internet to declare whether or not they have taken steps to prevent access to web sites containing indecent images of children; and for connected purposes.
The Bill is quite short, and therefore the full text is provided here:
1 Blocking access to web sites containing child pornography: public declarations
(1) Owners of electronic communications networks which provide access to the internet shall be required annually to declare publicly whether or not they have taken, or are taking, appropriate technical steps to block access to web sites that contain child pornography.
(2) The declaration referred to in subsection (1) above shall be made in a manner to be determined by the Secretary of State and prescribed by regulations.
2 Validity of public declarations
The Secretary of State may by order prescribe any government department or agency ("a prescribed body") to assess the validity of the declarations made under section 1 above.
3 Appropriate technical steps
A prescribed body under section 2 above shall, within six months of the commencement of this Act and at least annually thereafter, publish guidance on what may constitute "appropriate technical steps" for the purposes of section 1, which shall include--
(a) a list of proprietary software which, if correctly implemented, would satisfy the requirements of section 1; (b) advice on the implementation of proprietary software; and (c) information about how bespoke software may be assessed by the prescribed body to establish whether or not their correct implementation would meet the requirements of section 1.
(1) It shall be an offence for an owner of an electronic communications network which provides access to the internet knowingly to make a false declaration under section 1. (2) An owner of an electronic communications network found guilty of an offence under this Act is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum.
In this Act--
- "child pornography" means any indecent or pseudo-photograph of a child, in accordance with the Protection of Children Act 1978 (c. 37); - "electronic communications networks" has the meaning given by section 32 of the Communications Act 2003 (c. 21); - "prescribed" means prescribed by regulations made by the Secretary of State.
6 Regulations and orders
(1) Any power of a Minister of the Crown under this Act to make regulations or an order is exercisable by statutory instrument. (2) Any regulations or order made under this Act (other than an order made under section 8) shall be laid before Parliament after being made and is subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament. (3) Every power conferred by this Act on a Minister of the Crown to make regulations or an order includes power-- (a) to make different provision for different cases; (b) to make provision subject to such exemptions and exceptions as that person thinks fit; and (c) to make such incidental, supplemental and consequential provision as the person making the regulations or order thinks fit.
There shall be paid out of money provided by Parliament any expenditure incurred by the Secretary of State for or in connection with the carrying out of any functions under this Act.
8 Short title, commencement and extent
(1) This Act may be cited as the Control of Internet Access (Child Pornography) Act 2006. (2) This Act (apart from this section) shall come into force on such day as the Secretary of State may by order appoint. (3) This act extends to Northern Ireland.
Control of Internet Access (Child Pornography) Bill
A BILL To require internet service providers and other commercial organisations providing access to the internet to declare whether or not they have taken steps to prevent access to web sites containing indecent images of children; and for connected purposes.
Ordred [sic] to be brought in by Margaret Moran, Anne Snelgrove, Helen Goodman, Kitty Ussher, Sandra Gidley, Ian Stewart, Judy Mallaber, Lynda Waltho, Ms Sally Keeble, Mr Paul Burstow, Sir George Young and Martin Salter.
Ordered, by The House of Commons, to be Printed, 26th October 2005.
- 'Owners of electronic communications networks which provide access' includes all phone companies, and anybody who owns a publicly accessible server that is used for the 'conveyance... of software and stored data'.
- We don't expect the Royal Mail to prevent the sending of pornography via the postal service (despite that also being illegal), so why should ISPs have to take on a burden that we don't expect of any other distribution network system?
- To be effectively compliant with the notion that they should be preventing access to child pornography, ISPs would have to proxy off SSL connections to intercept the traffic to make sure it doesn't have any child porn payload in the encrypted stream, which means your ISP gets to see all your credit card details when you go shopping, gets access to your bank account...
- Every filtering system built can be circumvented when applied to the Internet. The only way you could enforce such a filtering system is to provide some kind of ID card for web publishers
- Most child pornography is not available via the web, and this legislation suggests that Parliament is massively in need of expert advice in this area. The Web != The Internet. This act, if it encourages ISPs to install blocking software, will not achieve anything other than remove maybe 5% of the child pornography out there. If they wanted to really stop child porn floating around, maybe they should ask those of us who know how the Internet works how we might go about it. Short answer: you can't, come up with a policing strategy to reduce child abuse. If you're desperate, teach CID officers how to cancel other user's Usenet posts and track offenders on IRC.
- There is some discussion about using such a system for preventing access to plans on making bombs, or information "useful to terrorists" once we invest in a multi-billion pound agency to stop child porn, why not let them censor anything else the Secretary of State doesn't like too?
- Satellite phone providers, telex companies, ham radio operators and anybody with a web server will now have to make a declaration under section 1. If you own or run a web server or have a home network, you're a provider of an electronic communications network under section 32 of the Communications Act 2003. You may have to install 'proprietary software' provided by the Government to make a declaration that you aren't spreading kiddie porn to stay legal.
- Such a filtering system would be hideously expensive and therefore ISPs would face the choice of having to make a declaration that they aren't providing filtering, or it would probably raise the price of broadband on average by around £10/month. The only system that has been deployed on a national scale is in China (used to suppress information on democracy, Falun Gong, etc.) and requires tens of thousands of state officials. A system to prevent child pornography would be much harder (and therefore more expensive) to implement. It should be noted that even the relatively impressive Chinese system is regularly circumvented with ease by those who wish to do so.
An alternative solution
Whilst there must be provision to prevent child abuse and the p0rnography industry that endorses, promotes and encourages it, legislative bodies need to understand that the Internet is just another version of brown envelopes posted around, which is how paedophile rings historically operated. This is badly worded legislation that will not cause any decrease in the amount of child p0rnography made available via the Internet. What is needed is Government commitment to a new policing strategy working in liaison with ISPs to help catch and prosecute paedophiles.
- 2005-10-26 - BBC - Internet child p0rn block calls
- Summary: Internet service providers have been urged to publicly declare whether they block the use of websites containing child p0rnography. Labour MP Margaret Moran says she has support from MPs of all parties for a law compelling such companies to publish their policies.