The rise and rise of the Internet Watch Foundation
By Clare Brown
The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) is a charity that has been working to remove child abuse images from the internet since 1996. People worried about certain images can report them via the IWF hotline, so they can be investigated, removed and, if appropriate, reported to the authorities for further criminal investigation. Over the past six months, there have been a number of changes that have raised the profile of the IWF and I’ve been watching with interest.
The Independent Parliamentary Inquiry into Online Child Protection (April 2012) provides useful background into the increasing importance of the IWF and its relationship with internet service providers (ISPs). It found that six companies — BT, Virgin Media, TalkTalk, Sky, Everything Everywhere and O2 — controlled more than 90 per cent of the market. Initially, their role was ‘transmission only’ whereby they provided unlimited web content and the consumer was responsible for blocking or restricting access to inappropriate content.
But when the police warned the UK ISPs that some indecent content contravened the Protection of Children Act 1978, they had to do something. They needed to combat the hosting of such content in the UK, while ensuring they wouldn’t be held criminally liable for providing access to the content…
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