Irish telcos agree to block almost 2,000 sites spreading child abuse

11 Feb 2020

Image: © Paolese/

Almost 2,000 websites on Interpol’s ‘worst of’ list for child abuse will be blocked by Ireland’s internet providers.

BT Ireland, Eir, Sky Ireland, Tesco Mobile, Three Ireland and Vodafone Ireland have signed a memorandum of understanding that aims to block some of the internet’s worst portals for disseminating child abuse material.

According to The Irish Times, the agreement was reached between internet providers and An Garda Síochána. When a person visits one of 1,857 sites on Interpol’s ‘worst of’ list, they will be redirected to a Garda page informing them that they are trying to view illegal material.

The Interpol list includes websites that distribute some of the worst child sexual abuse material found on the web. Those who monitor these sites have said that they feature “severe” abuse of children, including children who look younger than 13.

Data tracking

The data of anyone who attempts to access these sites will not be tracked by the Gardaí, however, the internet service providers will be allowed to record the number of attempts at access, at their discretion.

Gardaí will not be allowed alter the list, but said its implementation will aim to prevent the further spread of child abuse material that could be seen by both adults and children.

“Child abuse material on the internet is an exploitative and demeaning crime. It is a child abuse offence, which has pathways to the contact offending of children,” said Declan Daly, detective chief superintendent of the Garda National Protection Services Bureau.

“The continued introduction of blocking child abuse imagery in Ireland protects children in our communities by reducing demand, it increases their protection and facilitates a concentration of policing resources towards those who seek to harm children online.”

‘A wake-up call’

The director of Telecommunications Industry Ireland, Torlach Denihan, welcomed the news: “This builds on current practice and reflects the partnership approach to this heinous issue involving the telecommunications industry, An Garda Síochána and the Department of Justice and Equality.”

Meanwhile, as part of Safer Internet Day (11 February), children’s charities have called for a five-year digital strategy for better internet safety to be implemented by the next Government.

Its recommendations include the establishment of a digital safety commissioner, a digital literacy programme in schools and youth groups, as well as conducting a review of the resources Gardaí have to investigate child sex abuse claims.

Alex Cooney, CEO of CyberSafeIreland, said: “The fact that our latest survey data reveals that almost a third of young children have been upset by material encountered online should be a wake-up call to whoever emerges in Government after the general election that we must get to grips with children’s internet use and access.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic