ISPs and self regulation – not a black and white issue


7 Aug 2008

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Recent coverage of the ISPAI (Internet Service Providers Association of Ireland) has focused on the fact that Irish ISPs who have not joined this voluntary organisation are also by inference choosing not to support the ISPAI’s Hotline.ie service, which monitors and reports child porn on the web, but the issue is not so cut and dried according to Michele Neylon, MD of Carlow-based Black Night.

“This oversimplifies the matter,” said Neylon after much debate was sparked following a post by prominent blogger, Damien Mulley, who asked why an industry-run group is “tasked with logging reports about child pornography online”.

“The reality of it is this,” said Neylon: “Business colleagues of mine believe that certain companies which are not members of the ISPAI have meanwhile earned a significant amount of money through Irish businesses and Irish consumers but do not seem to have done much in return.”

That is to say, some firms are benefiting from the competitive ISP landscape without putting money or resources into regulatory development which, while not illegal, is not fair play, according to Neylon.

How does this affect Hotline and its role in reporting child porn to the authorities?

Neylon said unlike Europe we are at an advantage in that ISPs can self-regulate because these are the first points of contact when it comes to encountering and reporting illegal pornographic content before passing it on to the authorities.

“Ultimately, we [ISPs] are the ones with this landing on our abuse desks and we are dealing with it on a day-to-day basis. Law enforcement cannot work at the same speed.”

On the other hand, when dealing with and processing illegal content online, the buck ultimately stops with the law, so some feel this is where it should begin: “I simply think policing porn online is the job of the Gardaí,” said Stephen McCarron, MD of Hosting365.

Is it as simple as this? Join a self-regulating organisation or trust the authorities? Not by a long shot. Individual websites and developers can do their bit by tagging their content as safe with standards from long-established global organisations such as the Family Online Safety Institute, which is backed by companies including Microsoft and Google.

By Marie Boran