There’s been a lot of commotion in the past week over a small minority of ISPs in the UK not blocking a blacklist of child pronography websites supplied by the Internet Watch Foundation. The NSPCC and Children’s Charities Coalition on Internet Safety (CCCIS) have expressed their “serious concerns” that up to 700,000 UK homes are on an internet connection that doesn’t block these sites, stating that “self-regulation on this issue is obviously failing – and in a seriously damaging way for children.”
Rory Cellan-Jones from the BBC has written an insightful blog post about the subject. In which he points out the work of Dr Richard Clayton:
He told me that, if the aim was to stop people coming across these images by accident, then the system was a failure because that didn’t happen anyway: “This material tends to be held on paid-for sites or is held by people who don’t publish it to the world because they don’t want to get arrested.”
Dr Clayton’s view is that the big ISPs use the system because they’ve been pressured to adopt it, but smaller firms are perfectly justified in opting out. “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.”
What the article and charities fail to mention is that to side-step the blacklist is as simple as accessing offending websites through an anonymous proxy, of which there are thousands. And all of this can be done with minimal technical knowledge.
Fortunately the government has seen sense, and is accepting the 95% adoption rate by ISPs. It’s unlikely that calls from children’s charaties to bring in legislation will be heeded, as that can been seen as the first step in a slippery slope to over-regulation and perhaps even government censorship.
All for something that doesn’t even work.