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Internet Watch Foundation Granted Greater Power And £1m Boost

Tom Brewster is TechWeek Europe's Security Correspondent. He has also been named BT Information Security Journalist of the Year in 2012 and 2013.

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The Internet Watch Foundation will now actively seek out those creating and sharing illegal content on the Web, Maria Miller announces

Following a meeting this morning with major Internet companies, culture secretary Maria Miller announced the Internet Watch Foundation will be asked to do more to find child abuse images, whilst the not-for-profit group will receive another major funding boost to support the work.

For the first time, the IWF will be asked to actively seek out illegal images of child abuse on the Internet and will work closely with the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP).

Previously,the IWF took more of a reactive stance, acting on reports of illegal images. Now it will look to track down individuals that create and distribute the content.

child abuse - Shutterstock - © Dirk ErckenMore money for the Internet Watch Foundation

BSkyB, BT, TalkTalk and Virgin will commit £1m extra to back the “new proactive approach” of the Internet Watch Foundation, the Department for Media, Culture and Sport said today. Just last week, Google handed the Internet Watch Foundation £1 million, almost enough to run the charity for a year at its current level of operation.

Participants, including Facebook, Google and Microsoft, as well as all major UK mobile operators, said they would adopt a “zero tolerance” approach to such images on the Internet, according to the DCMS. They will also be asked to set up “splash pages” to warn visitors to certain websites that the page may contain indecent or illegal content.

“We will continue to work closely with government and other parties to prevent access to this illegal content,” read the “zero tolerance statement” signed by those present.

“This will mean more images of child sexual abuse will be tracked down and acted against,” Miller said. “This agreement will mean these organisations will no longer be limited to reacting to reports received. They will now have the remit and the resources to take the fight to the criminals perpetrating these vile acts.”

The meeting came after a slew of cases, including the murder of five-year-old April Jones. Murderer Mark Bridger was found to have had access to child abuse images, including a cache of images of children being raped and abused.

Despite Miller’s concerns surrounding extremist material and copyright theft,  it appears little was agreed on during this morning’s brief meeting.

Many remain unconvinced by Miller’s tack in dealing with the child abuse problem. “Let’s be clear, regulating the Internet in the home is a very different issue from child exploitation and personally I prefer to take responsibility for how my children use the internet, rather than outsourcing it,” said Andy Halsall, Pirate Party campaigns officer.

“The rush to blame the Internet won’t solve complex social problems.”

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