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UK Gov. Clueless About Own Internet Blacklist 203

spge writes "Computer Shopper magazine has interviewed the UK Home Office about its relationship with the Internet Watch Foundation and discovered that the government doesn't actually know what the IWF does, although it still plans to force UK ISPs to subscribe to the IWF's blacklist. The main story makes for interesting reading, but the best bit is the full transcript of the interview. Short version: the IWF investigates suspected child porn websites and adds any it finds to a list that ISPs can use to block these sites; wants ISPs to use this list; however, the IWF is not an official government organization, does not appear to have legal permission to view child pornography, and quite possibly is breaking the law by doing so."
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UK Gov. Clueless About Own Internet Blacklist

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  • by tacarat ( 696339 ) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @04:57AM (#27238455) Journal
    They're going to be getting some interesting job applicants, aren't they?
    • by badfish99 ( 826052 ) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @05:07AM (#27238519)

      If you value your children, don't go to live in Cambridge.

      The whole premiss of the IWF is that looking at this stuff makes you into a child-molesting pervert. The offices of the IWF (according to their website) are in Cambridge. So Cambridge must be full of child-molesting perverts working for the IWF.

      If I'm wrong and it is not, I'm sorry for the accusation. But in that case, the whole basis of what the IWF is doing is wrong, and so the organization is pointless and should be disbanded.

      • Wish I had mod points ...

        • by evilandi ( 2800 ) <> on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @12:03PM (#27242719) Homepage

          The answer lies in the snappily titled "Memorandum of Understanding [] (PDF) Between Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) concerning Section 46 Sexual Offences Act 2003".

          In short, anyone who is listed in advance by their employer, as an employee who performs IT security duties which may lead them to come into contact with child abuse images as part of their job, will not be prosecuted providing their contact with the images is kept to the minimum required to perform their duties.

          For example, responding to a user who has received an unsolicited child abuse image and:

          * Helping them delete it, or disconnecting their PC for subsequent investigation by the police is good, whereas

          * Making a copy to use in their own investigation is bad (investigation of child abuse must be left to the police).

          Obviously if you're in the UK, and you're in IT security, and you're likely to need to perform these kinds of duties, it is very important that you ensure your employer already has you listed as being so.

          The consequence is that, since most employers don't want to have PCs sitting around switched off waiting for the police to investigate them, the vast majority of child abuse image evidence is deleted on sight (literally).

      • by Archtech ( 159117 ) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @05:40AM (#27238645)

        No, no, no! You've got it all wrong. Looking at CP images makes you a pervert if you are a bad person. It's quite all right if you are a good person. The IWF - like the government, of course - are good people, so there's no problem.

        This is strictly analogous to the logic whereby terrorists who kill people are irredeemably wicked (and usually "mindless"), while governments who kill thousands of times as many people are good (although maybe a tad careless).

        • Old theme... One's terrorist is another's freedom fighter. Which form used is strictly dependent on who writes the history book afterwards.

        • This whole thing is ridiculous. How does looking at images of naked children cause harm? Is nudity "bad"? Is God some kind of pervert because he made-us naked without feathers or fur? C'mon people! If I take my family to a nudist resort, and I post our family photo, and I going to get drug-off in the middle of night as a child porn provider? Is nudism no longer acceptable? Sounds like 1984.

          And even if the images show sex, if those images are cartoon characters (think Japanese anime), who has been har

          • by torkus ( 1133985 )

            If there's no victim, there's no crime. At least that's how I think it should work.

            The problem is this would leave cops bored and forced to deal with "real" issues... and politicians, judges, lawyers and their ilk facing job cuts and lay-offs.

            The new stimulus plan - make everything a class A felony. Anyone who's not in jail after a year will be busy taking care of those that are or shortly will be :)

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            This whole thing is ridiculous. How does looking at images of naked children cause harm? Is nudity "bad"? Is God some kind of pervert because he made-us naked without feathers or fur? C'mon people! If I take my family to a nudist resort, and I post our family photo, and I going to get drug-off in the middle of night as a child porn provider? Is nudism no longer acceptable? Sounds like 1984.

            "If God wanted us to be naked, we would have been born that way" -- Oscar Wilde.
            The sick social attitudes towards nudity that you allude to are not prevalent in all parts of the world. For example, in Finland it is considered quite normal for a whole family to go skinny-dipping together or to go into the sauna together. BTW, towels are NOT worn in the sauna - that would be considered wierd.

      • by who knows my name ( 1247824 ) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @06:40AM (#27238877)

        Hey, I live in Cambridge and I'm not a child-molesting... damn. But seriously, we were going to paste pictures of Virgin Killer all over their building at the end of last year, but everyone had gone home :(

        • I like your protest idea, but I think the choice of "Virgin Killer" might not be appropriate.

          A better idea is to just grab a couple random images from a nudist beach or website, add the caption "Does this look like a crime?" and past it to wherever you can find a spare pole. Most intelligent people will say, "No nudity is not a crime." It will get people to start thinking about the issue.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            It was more the irony of the situation. It was just after the wikipedia/IWF Virgin Killer furore; and we thought that it was absurd that since owning the image in paper form (on the album) was legal, that they should block it online. Hence cover their building in a legal 'child-porn' image...

      • by chthon ( 580889 ) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @07:03AM (#27238985) Homepage Journal

        This story has already played out in Belgium : a so called child pornography searcher did not have an exactly clean slate regarding child abuse.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mdwh2 ( 535323 )

        Indeed. On a similar note, when people call for things to be censored or banned (as with the recent law criminalising possession of "extreme" images of adults), a common tactic is to wheel out the story of how traumatic it is for the poor liddle IWF employees and police officers who have to look at this material, as an argument for it to be banned.

        So um, who asked them to look at it? It's one thing when we're talking about police officers investigating a traumatic crime (such as with child abuse), but here

        • The premise of government is that becoming part of it transforms one into a morally superior being qualified to determine what is in the best interests of the citizens.

        • Maybe I should take that job. Images don't traumatize me.

          Unfortunately that might automatically disqualify me for the job, because I'd not censor anything. I'd say, "I see nothing wrong with that," and let it all remain uncensored. And that's not what the government wants.

    • by Sobieski ( 1032500 ) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @05:08AM (#27238523)

      Especially from people who think about the children, alot.

    • by dotancohen ( 1015143 ) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @05:10AM (#27238535) Homepage

      They're going to be getting some interesting job applicants, aren't they?

      I've already applied. It's what I do all day anyway. Well, that and /..

    • Who watches the watchers? I used to. But then they started watching me. So I was watching them watch me. And they were watching me watching them watch me. And I was watching them watch me watching them watch me. And then we all went cross-eyed.

  • by cb95amc ( 99589 ) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @05:17AM (#27238563)

    You could just get away with:

    "UK Gov. Clueless"

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @05:19AM (#27238573)

    How do you report a crime without self-incriminating yourself since viewing said crime is a crime?

    • by LilBlackKittie ( 179799 ) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @05:24AM (#27238595) Homepage
      I believe that ACPO (the Association of Chief Police Officers) have written a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in which they state that IT technicians investigating the matter will not be prosecuted... even though technically they are still breaking the law. Not a good set of circumstances at all!
      • by Xest ( 935314 ) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @06:46AM (#27238905)

        "I believe that ACPO (the Association of Chief Police Officers) have written a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in which they state that IT technicians investigating the matter will not be prosecuted"

        Well, at least until you start demonstrating how careless the police are being with the law, suggesting that evidence of a system downloading something is evidence of a person owning the system being the one using it at that time: []

        Personally, whilst the idea of working for the police in the past has interested me when they've complained about a shortage of people skilled to do the job, I'd now keep well away. If they arrest you and try and label you a criminal when you're actually doing the right thing and trying to ensure justice is done then that's not somewhere I'd ever want to work. Effectively they're saying, look we wont arrest you for helping us find people loosely related to these crimes as long as you side with us against these people even if innocent.

        As Slashdot likes it's car analogies, it's akin to a vehicle crash expert being arrested for pointing out the innocence of a guy who has been arrested for manslaughter because his car was stolen whilst he was at work and used to run someone over.

      • by permaculture ( 567540 ) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @07:01AM (#27238975) Homepage Journal

        I was quite shocked recently to find out that ACPO is a private company. []: "The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) is not a staff association ... The Association has the status of a private company limited by guarantee."

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          A private company limited by guarantee is quite different form an ordinary private company. It's not a business, if that's what got your knickers in a knot.
        • by mikeb ( 6025 )

          It's absolutely standard practice in the UK for clubs, associations and other similar bodies to be companies limited by guarantee. The risk would be that if they were not, the members would be seen in law as a partnership which is BAD for the members as partnerships by default have unlimited liability and each member is liable for all debts that may be incurred. You wouldn't want to join a trade body, have it sued and then find you lose your house and savings.

          This is completely normal. Note that it's not a

          • by smoker2 ( 750216 )
            A standard limited company does not trade shares (Ltd) they can own them or sell them but not on the stock market. A public limited company trades shares (PLC).
            I don't believe £1 is the limit either. I thought it was limited by the amount of investment. If you haven't paid in full for your shares, then you are liable to the company for that difference in value.
            Or from the FSA []

            Private Limited Company

            An entity incorporated by registration under the

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      How do you report a crime without self-incriminating yourself since viewing said crime is a crime?

      Use doublethink [], which is a very British thing to do.

    • by L4t3r4lu5 ( 1216702 ) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @06:12AM (#27238767)
      I've posted about this before, but i'll post it again.

      A guy in my local had an indecent image of a child emailed to him from an address unknown to him. He didn't know what the email contained, and it was obscured with content which wouldn't identify it as being CP in any way (subject and body were innocuous). He called the local police station and a PC came down to check it out.

      Apparently, the PC saw the picture, turned to the guy, and said (paraphrasing) "I'm going outside for a smoke. You're going to delete that email and the picture before I come back in, or I have to arrest you for viewing an indecent image of a minor. That's just how the law is written."

      Moral of the story? If you're in the UK, don't report ANYTHING to the police. Ever.
      • by Bloke down the pub ( 861787 ) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @06:46AM (#27238907)
        I'd say kudos to the bobby for 1) applying some common sense and 2) knowing that those higher up the command chain don't have any.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @07:44AM (#27239217)

          Of course, that was simply dumb luck. Rule of thumb: NEVER go to government with bad OR good news, because if you do, you are putting yourself at risk. At the very least you are in for a hassle, and at the worst, you can probably guess. Let government come to you. Just don't deal with them until you absolutely have to.

          On the most basic level, government's only interest in you, as a citizen, is (1) taking your money, and (2) determining if you are a criminal. To be clear, government is NOT interested in minding their own business, because their business is minding YOUR business.

          Again, let government come to you, and your life will be easier.

      • by u38cg ( 607297 )
        I think that your friend was telling stories. One, nobody spams strangers with CP. Too easily traced. Two, if it did happen, then no cop would arrest him; even with the magic words child porn any competent journalist could have a field day. Three, accidentally viewing such images is not a crime; possession and redistribution are, but accidentally catching a glance is not. If it were, 4chan would have got an awful lot of people in trouble by now.
        • by L4t3r4lu5 ( 1216702 ) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @08:10AM (#27239355)

          Check out the Protection of Children Act 1978 []. From the Wikipedia article [] on the subject:

          "In the United Kingdom, it is illegal to take, make, distribute, show or possess an indecent image of a child. Accessing an indecent image is considered to be "making" the image, meaning that a defendant can be charged under the Protection of Children Act if he accessed an image without saving it."

          It is illegal to view the image. It's just how the law is written.

          • To play catchup with some of the other posts, by deleting the picture, that doesn't absolve you of the fact that you previously possessed it. That can be applied to anything. You had a stolen TV, but got rid of it. That doesn't mean that you did possess it, it just means you don't currently have it.

            Hopefully most people look at the intent. I've downloaded all the binaries from particular newsgroups, that were suppose to have nothing but regular stuff. Various other things

            • But what's to stop a person of suitable intelligence and malicious intent from subverting your system?

              Check this article [] on MD5 collisions in speed camera captures from 2005. This was applied to a database of images where the public didn't have access.

              You want to apply the same theory to images on the internet? Goodluckwiththat.
              • Well, it's good that I'm not working in it. I'm already aware that it requires human review.

                I have had excellent results using MD5's to identify photographs. With hundreds of thousands of images, we didn't have a single collision. They were all very much unique. The identified duplicates were really duplicates. On something like a single traffic cam, I wouldn't be surprised that they had collisions. I used md5's to watch for duplicate frames from a webcam for a while. Du

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          Sir or madam, people spam for _everything_. Read []: while the article is a few years out of date, there's a commercial notification from a security company that it does occur.

          Now, the policeman's behavior was one of making sure he didn't have to do any work and deal with the complaint, not one of actually dealing with the porn. That matches FBI behavior in the US, whose actual response to spam and fraud remains, basically, 'hit the D key', d

        • by pbhj ( 607776 )

          One, nobody spams strangers with CP. Too easily traced.

          Yeah that Nigerian internet cafe using a swedish anonymising proxy to connect via tor to a botted computer to send emails, that cafe keeps meticulous logs of users names and addresses ... seriously I can give you my IP address, you still can't tell me who's using this computer.

      • by syousef ( 465911 )

        Fucking idiots. They've got a bunch of criminals so stupid that their crime routinely involves them photographing themselves in the act of committing it and posting it online. Not to be outdone for stupidity, the government then has to come up with a way to make it so that reporting the crime makes you the criminal, thereby making it much easier for the self incriminating child molesters to get away with it. They should be focusing their effort on preventing the production of child porn in the first place -

  • ... Media Sentry found itself a new niche after all.
  • by Kawahee ( 901497 ) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @05:38AM (#27238641) Homepage Journal

    "UK Gov. Representative Clueless About Own Internet Blacklist"

    I'm well aware that the representative is meant to represent the views of the entire UK Home Office but I think in this case it appears he is most likely a PR man armed with some talking points. I don't think it's reasonable to expect a PR man to understand the finer points of internet censorship, or to respond to questions perfectly from what appears to be a much more technically able interviewer.

    I do think it's reasonable to expect the policy makers and the people pushing this policy to understand how it works.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It would have been the spokesman's responsibility to say "I am not in the know about this, let me check back with the relevant departments first".

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      No, here in the UK we like to appoint people without any technological clue into jobs where they're making technical decisions.

      If the representative they send is likely to be representative of the people in charge: technologically incompetent.

    • by krou ( 1027572 ) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @06:11AM (#27238763)

      If they're speaking in the name of the Home Office, then the title is spot on. Also, the transcript explicitly states that all questions were sent to the Home Office a full day before the interview "to give them plenty of time to prepare". If they can't even prepare properly, then not only is the Home Office clueless, but the PR man is useless at his job.

      Regardless, what you said is exactly what's wrong with the UK government*: too many f*cking PR men with their dial set to constant spin-cycle. (Never mind too many unelected officials making decisions and influencing policy).

      Who are these nameless idiots anyway? "A home office spokesman", doesn't (s)he have a name?

      * Likely to continue under the Tories as well.

      • It was a PR spokesman they are speaking "on behalf" of the Home Office, the only person who can speak "for" the Home Office is the Home secretary, everyone else is a junior minister or a public servant and cannot make policy*

        The problem with the IWF is that they are really there to stop the ISPs getting prosecuted not to police the internet, they don't care if something is "offensive" or not just if their clients (the ISPs) would get prosecuted for hosting it, they are not a government body or government co

    • by PhilHibbs ( 4537 )

      From TFA:

      "We sent our questions over to the Home Office a day before the interview took place, to give them plenty of time to prepare."

      • by Kawahee ( 901497 )
        I should imagine the person involved in coordinating this interview would have forwarded "Interview Questions" to the PR man to get his talking points ready, rather than the system administrators (if they have them).
  • by Tx ( 96709 ) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @05:47AM (#27238677) Journal

    is what it's about. If they don't know what the IWF is actually doing, then when it goes wrong, they can say "wasn't us". That is standard practice for the current UK government. Fred Goodwin's pension? We didn't know about that. UK residents being totured by the CIA? Wasn't us. 400 needless deaths in a hospital? We've given local health authorities responsibility for maintaining standards. Etc etc.

    • by badfish99 ( 826052 ) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @08:07AM (#27239345)

      The way this works with the IWF is that they say "we don't censor anything: we just supply a list of web sites to ISPs; if the ISPs choose to censor what is on that list, that is up to them".

      The government says "we don't censor anything; if the ISPs choose to get a list of web sites from the IWF and then block them, that is nothing to do with us".

      And the ISPs say "it's not our fault: the IWF gives a list of web sites to block: we've got no control over that list, and if we didn't block them, the government would make a law forcing us to do so".

      So nobody has any responsibility for anything that happens.

      • I had this conversation with my own ISP and it was something like:

        1. They won't take the IWF list unless forced
        2. If they are forced to pay for it they won't use it
        3. If they are forced to use it they'll provide workarounds

        The IWF won't tell *anyone* what's on the list - not even ISPs that are supposed to be using it, and not the websites that are potentially blocked. It really wouldn't surprise me if there were a few on there for political reasons.

  • by captainpanic ( 1173915 ) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @06:00AM (#27238729)

    Quite a large population "guesses that the government does an adequate job"... and anyway, it can't be changed.
    The government "guesses that the advisors do a good job", and anyway, it can't all be checked, and we're better off with than without them.
    I guess that my boss is doing a good job, but anyway, I cannot do his job, and I am clueless what he actually does all day.
    I guess that the news agencies are telling the truth, but anyway, I can't go out to check it all myself.
    And apparently, the UK government guesses that the IWF's blacklist is a good thing... and anyway, it's already there and its use can't be checked (easily by PM's themselves).

    We're all guessing, and the system is easy to hijack. And we're all convinced that it cannot be changed, and therefore we're stuck.

    I guess you all knew that already, didn't you?

  • UK gov. clueless

  • Who watches the watchers?

    Err... no-one

  • We seem to be viewing this as a web site is speech issue, but I question whether that premise is valid. Is a web site merely speech? I think the interactivity means that the answer is no.

    A web site is more than speech, that's the thing. A web site is a vehicle for organizing like minded people and as such its a conspiracy aid - especially if you put a forum on it, or allow you to reach out to other people who are also on the site.

    I think in this case, the Hitler test is in fact non-Godwin-able. It's one t

    • by Shakrai ( 717556 )

      It's one thing to dress up as Hitler in Illinois and declare yourself a hater of the various races, but, its quite another to create an instrument where like minded people can congregate and organize

      What's wrong with said instrument as long as it's not being used to plan violations of the law? Like minded people congregating is not and should not be a crime merely because we disagree with the opinions that are causing them to congregate.

      Even now, there is project underway on some sites where a bunch of Nazis are organizing to move to a small state in the USA so they can essentially cleanse it and hijack it


      • by smoker2 ( 750216 )
        So if they congregate, plan and then physically get together en mass with legal weapons and legal armoured cars and other legal non-essential items in order to march legally on a city, does it matter if it's all legal ? Do you have the right to stage a coup in the US ? Do you have the right to stage an unsuccessful coup in the US ? What price democracy ?

        Do you admire Somalias freedom to assemble ? Fucking Nazis are fucking Nazis. They are not, by definition, peaceful people. Yes they can talk all they like
        • by Shakrai ( 717556 )

          So what your really saying is that free speech is dangerous and must be controlled? Good to know where you stand.

  • Computer Shopper are misinformed in their claim that IWF have no licence to contravene the law to view child pornography. In actual fact, there is a published CPS Memorandum of Understanding [] between the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) and ACPO (Association of Chief Police Officers - another conveniently non-governmental body that still manages to assume magical quasi-statutory powers).

    These bodies are, of course, not subject to the Freedom of Information Act. Which no doubt at least partly explains the ever

  • This would be a great way to run black ops, with all the benefits of plausible deniability.

    Oh wait, this is about the UK? It's a cock-up. ;^)


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