Vorderman attacks Net industry for porn apathy

Attitude of Internet industry and government to child porn attacked by high-profile TV presenter

In an unprecedented attack on the apathy of the government and the Internet industry, TV broadcaster Carol Vorderman lambasted both for failing to protect children from paedophiles operating online Tuesday.

At a heated debate of the Internet Watch Foundation's (IWF) first parliamentary meeting in the House of Lords, Vorderman stunned assembled members of the press and children's charities by accusing both government and the Internet industry of apathy fuelled by a desire to protect online revenues.

"It is time for those who make their money from the Internet to take responsibility for the content and images it purveys and allows to be purveyed," she said.

Pulling no punches, the broadcaster, who recently teamed up with Trevor McDonald to highlight the dangers of chatrooms, attacked the government's plan to give schoolchildren their own email address. "This is utterly incomprehensible," she said. "It is an open invitation for paedophiles to track children at school."

The Internet Watch Foundation, set up to monitor the activity of paedophiles on the Internet, also came in for a scathing attack from the presenter. "The IWF is not independent... While I acknowledge the good work the IWF does, it is under funded... We need a body with real power to protect children online," she said.

Using MSN's own UK homepage as an example of how little is being done to protect children online, Vorderman explained how on Monday evening she was able to visit the children's area, and "with one click be given a list of children's chatrooms that included 'UK Shag, Shag u babe, Oiled and ready' [and at least another half a dozen rooms with similar titles]."

A spokesperson to MSN told ZDNet: "In accordance with standard procedure on these matters we employ a notice-and-take-down policy."

Turning her attention to Yahoo! Vorderman was equally fierce, attacking the service for providing little in the way of protection for children, for fear of interfering with revenue streams.

Martina King, UK managing director of Yahoo!, told ZDNet that "we are taking all these issues very seriously and will continue to work hard to deal with this issue".

Vorderman's vitriolic condemnation received an enthusiastic response from the audience with the debate opening to calls from the Children's Charities Coalition for Internet Safety for all Internet users to be registered in the same way telephone companies register their users. Annie Mullins, of the Public Policy Unit at the NCH expressed deep regret at the IWF's reliance on ISPs for funding and called for an immediate rethink on how Internet users maintain their anonymity in the face of growing paedophile activity.

Vorderman has become a campaigner against online paedophiles since making a documentary about the issue last year for the ITV show Tonight with Trevor McDonald. The issue of child pornography on the Internet has long haunted the industry.

Earlier this month thirteen suspected paedophiles were arrested in what was the biggest swoop against online porn rings ever in the UK. Also in January seven UK men pleaded guilty to involvement in the world's biggest Internet porn ring -- dubbed the Wonderland Club. ZDNet News is currently campaigning for a more responsible attitude to the instant messaging service available on Yahoo!.

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