UPC becomes Ireland’s first fixed line ISP to restrict access to child abuse material

10 Nov 2014

Pictured: (from left) Minister for Justice and Equality Frances Fitzgerald TD, Garda Commissioner Noirín O'Sullivan and UPC Ireland CEO Magnus Ternsjö

Cable broadband provider UPC has become Ireland’s first fixed line operator to restrict access to domain names that contain child abuse material (CAM).

The operator has signed a memorandum of understanding with Ireland’s police force, An Garda Siochana.

Under the memorandum UPC will restrict access to domains or URLs containing CAM based on lists provided by the police.

If a user tries to access child sexual abuse material whether deliberately or mistakenly, a Garda advisory message will be displayed outlining the reasons why.

The move comes after years of lobbying by various groups including senators for fixed line ISPs to take a more firm course of action to restrict access to CAM.

Mobile operators as part of their membership of the GSM Association already block access to CAM over mobile networks.

The decision by UPC was welcomed by the Minister for Justice and Equality Frances Fitzgerald who described child abuse as a heinous crime and its depiction on the internet compounds the offence.

She commended UPC for being the first company to engage in this initiative with the Gardaí and hoped that other companies would follow suit.

Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan said the force worked with UPC on the initiative over a long period of time.

She said she expects other ISPs to also sign memorandums of understanding with them.

“This initiative will play an important role in tackling the use of child sexual abuse material online and dissuade some people from accessing it. However, we fully recognise that others who wish to view, distribute and make this vile material will use different means to access it and spread it online.

“As such, this restriction is just one of a range of measures that An Garda Síochána is using to combat the production, distribution and possession of child sexual abuse material on the Internet.”

Data protection

Above: What UPC users will see if they try to access sites containing child abuse material

UPC said that it adheres fully to data protection legislation and pointed out that the memorandum of understanding does not provide for any transfer of user data to the authorities.

“The rapid expansion of digital technologies, coupled with the changing needs of consumers, has brought considerable value to our global society, as well as unprecedented challenges,” UPC Ireland CEO Magnus Ternsjö explained.

“This partnership underlines our commitment to work alongside law enforcers, to help raise awareness of uniquely objectionable material while staying safe and fully enjoy the benefits of the online world. 

“We are pleased to work with An Garda Síochána and the Government on this important initiative.  The involvement of key stakeholders such as ISPs is a legitimate way forward for the Gardai to deal with such matters.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years