Thursday, October 15, 2009

apComms come out for worldwide IWF system; against mandatory internet filtering

apComms - the influential UK All Party Parliamentary Communications Group - have now issued the Report from their inquiry "Can we keep our hands off the net?". This inquiry commenced in April and focused on five questions:
#1 Can we distinguish circumstances when ISPs should be forced to act to deal with some type of bad traffic? When should we insist that ISPs should not be forced into dealing with a problem, and that the solution must be found elsewhere?
#2 Should the Government be intervening over behavioural advertising services, either to encourage or discourage their deployment; or is this entirely a matter for individual users, ISPs and websites?
#3 Is there a need for new initiatives to deal with online privacy, and if so, what should be done?
#4 Is the current global approach to dealing with child sexual abuse images working effectively? If not, then how should it be improved?
#5 Who should be paying for the transmission of Internet traffic? Would it be appropriate to enshrine any of the various notions of Network Neutrality in statute?
The full report is an interesting document, and is squarely at odds with current government policy in several areas. Here's what it has to say on filesharing, for example:
We do not believe that disconnecting end users is in the slightest bit consistent with policies that attempt to promote eGovernment, and we recommend that this approach to dealing with illegal file-sharing should not be further considered.
What interests me most is what apComms have to say about dealing with online child pornography. Here they've adopted what seems to be a sensible approach (no doubt influenced by their advisor, Richard Clayton) warning against over-reliance on filters, rejecting government policy to introduce mandatory filters and instead recommending an international extension of IWF-type voluntary cooperation on notice and take-down systems:
We recommend that the Government does not legislate to enforce the deployment of blocking systems based on the IWF lists. This has the potential to damage future attempts to fix problems through self-regulation, and will thus, in the long term, be counterproductive...

It seems quite clear from the evidence that we received that a great deal more could be done to promptly request ISPs to remove child sexual abuse image websites. The IWF are clearly doing a good job along these lines within the UK, but they tell us that they are unable to extend this activity to key countries such as the US and Russia.

In our view, this is an unacceptable situation. If the IWF are unable to perform this important function on a global basis, then some other organisation will need to be given the task. Although there is no particular reason why such a global body should be UK based, the long history of leadership in this area makes the UK a natural candidate to develop a new approach.

We recommend that the Government, in consultation with the EU Commission, establish whether the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) should extend its “notice and take-down” mechanisms to the whole world, and if not, work to establish such a global system.
More from Andres and The Register.

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