Paul Durrant, general manager of Internet Services Providers Association of Ireland (ISPAI) hit back at claims that Irish ISPs were not doing enough to battle child pornography online, saying that responding to reported content was much more effective that blocking it outright.
Last week, it was revealed that a group of senators will put forward a private members motion urging Justice Minister Alan Shatter TD to put in place legislation that will require Irish ISPs to block child abuse material in Ireland. The motion will be brought before the Seanad this evening after which the motion will be brought before Cabinet.
Senator Jillian van Turnhout said that Irish ISPs were “not even trying” to block 100pc of child abuse material, pointing out that BT in the UK blocks 40,000 requests to access such sites each day.
However, Durrant told Silicon Republic that the notion that ISPs were doing nothing to stop child abuse material online was “complete nonsense.”
“We’ve been doing something which is in agreement with government since 1998 and that is the most effective thing. It is removing illegal content from our servers just as quickly as anyone can point it out to us. We have a hotline service to do that,” said Durrant.
“There is the insinuation that this is not effective. In fact, it is very effective because there isn’t a huge amount by any means of such material on Irish servers,” he said.
“What we’re saying as the ISPAI is that we in fact have been working strenuously and vigorously against this material all the time.
“We’ve been extremely successful that Ireland has very few incidences in the years we’ve been running.
“It shows that the material is just not being placed here so we’re doing something very right. For other material, we cooperate internationally through our in-house organisation Hotline,” he said.
Durrant pointed out that the figures from different countries on how much child pornography is blocked may not be accurate when investigated further.
“Just because the blocked site got hit that does not mean that is an IP address that could have contained something on the list. Numbers that cover what actually is illegal is very hard to come by,” he said.
He also pointed out that even if content is blocked, people can bypass these systems if they want to get access to this material.
While Durrant said that the ISPAI welcomed the debate on the issue, it felt that it should be done on a balanced, factual basis, as opposed to an ’emotional’ one.
“We feel that if this is to be debated, it has to stand not on emotional grounds, but on seriously factual ones and to look at the countries where they have actually implemented this and what it has really achieved rather than pushing out figures where, when you investigate them, they don’t actually show what the people think,” he said.
He also emphasised that if people come across this material while online, they should report it to hotline.ie.
“Every single report is assessed and when illegal content is found, action is taken, especially if it’s in this country, but we work immediately internationally with the country where it is actually hosted to get takedowns as quick as possible.
“We work in cooperation with law enforcement to follow up on those so if the police choose to investigate – and that’s the police’s choice, not ours –we’ll provide the technical data with the proper warrants to trace those sites to find out who is involved with them,” he said.