BT, Lycos, EU and Vorderman vie for villainy crown

The shortlist for the Internet Heroes and Villains of 2005 is out - and there is the odd surprise

BT, the European Union, Lycos, Carol Vorderman and the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) stood accused on Thursday of hampering Britain's Internet sector.

All five have been shortlisted for the prize of Internet Villain, which will be awarded by the Internet Service Providers' Association (ISPA) next year.

Lycos is in the frame for launching its 'Make Love Not Spam' screensaver, which directed Internet traffic at the Web sites of spammers in an attempt to disrupt them.

Lycos claimed that the tool -- which was withdrawn after just a week after creating a storm of controversy -- did not create denial-of-service attacks, but the ISPA isn't convinced. Lycos has been nominated "for encouraging Internet users to participate in denial-of-service attacks".

BT has been slammed on two counts. ISPA is unhappy about its recent wholesale broadband price rises. It also accuses the telco of "greatly exaggerating" the number of people who try to access child pornography, at the launch of its Cleanfeed service.

ISPA does have some praise for Cleanfeed, which blocks access to paedophilic content. It is also nominated for ISPA's Developments in Online Safety award.

The IFPI is the global voice of the recording industry. Its sin, in the eyes of ISPA, is providing "insufficient support for music download services" and a "lack of understanding of the online community".

The EU stands accused of "threatening the Country-of-Origin" principle. This states that service providers should be subject to the laws of the country they are based in rather than the country in which they provide a service.

Perhaps ISPA's most damning condemnation was reserved for Carol Vorderman, the former Countdown presenter. In recent years Vorderman has spoken out about the issue of online child pornography, and also had a column on the Web in the Daily Mirror.

ISPA, though, believes her "uninformed comments on the Internet industry" mean she could soon be wearing the Villain's crown.

The nominations for the rather more coveted award of Internet Hero have also been released. They are the offices of the All Party Internet Group, former e-commerce minister Stephen Timms, communications regulator Ofcom, the not-for-profit European Internet organisation RIPE and David Blunkett, who has just resigned as Home Secretary following revelations surrounding his affair with Spectator publisher Kimberly Quinn.

At first glance Blunkett's nomination is a surprise, given that the Home Office has usually found itself among the ranks of the Villains in previous years. But ISPA hasn't suddenly gone soft. Blunkett -- who has angered civil liberty advocates through his enthusiasm for ID cards -- is being recognised for his "self-imposed lesson on the value of privacy".

The winners will be revealed at the ISPAs awards ceremony on 24 February 2005.

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