Hotline sees rise in reports of child porn on internet


28 Feb 2006

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The internet service providers association of Ireland (ISPAI), which operates the Hotline service aimed at curbing child pornography online, has said that there has been continued strong growth in the rate of reports to its website.

The group’s third report, issued yesterday, said there had been a total of 5,102 reports sent to www.hotline.ie over the 30-month period from July 2003 to December 2005.

The Hotline was established primarily to combat illegal child pornography being distributed on the internet and this is reflected in the balance of reports to its service. According to the ISPAI, some 4,469 reports (87.6pc) cited or implied the discovery of child-related illegal material online. Other illegal content was implied in 78 other reports; 48 involved complaints about adult pornography and 23 related to computer problems such as viruses or hacking.

The average number of reports received every month calculated over each half-year grew almost consistently, from 154 per month between July and December 2003 to 195 per month during the latter half of last year.

The ISPAI attributed the rise in reporting figures to two factors, the first being the growth in the number of people using the internet and the second being a greater awareness of the Hotline as a service to which the public could report suspicious content.

Reports to the Hotline often involve concerned members of the public who have encountered websites offering access to child pornography for payment, the ISPAI said. Such pay sites typically show some free preview pages purporting to show a sample of the kind of material that could be obtained from the site once a payment has been made.

Over the course of the most recent reporting period, Hotline analysts said that the imagery and descriptions provided on the open preview pages of these sites has become increasingly blatant. “The majority of pornographic images of children used are most definitely illegal under Irish law,” the report said.

In the report’s executive summary, the ISPAI noted that the reporting period saw massive growth in internet use. Although this means there is a greater chance that someone could access illegal content by accident, the greater level of reporting should not be interpreted as meaning that there has been a large increase in the total amount of legal content online. It may even be falling, the group suggested.

“Analysis of reporting over the past five years shows there may be a reducing trend overall,” the summary stated. “While absolute numbers of both reports and confirmed illegal material have risen, the rate of increase of Hotline-confirmed illegal content is considerably less than the rate of increase in reporting.”

By Gordon Smith