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Hotlines unite for a EC crackdown on cybercrime

But can they transgress differing legal standards?

The Inhope Association will be launching a new Web site next Wednesday designed to encourage a global crackdown on Internet child pornography.

The Web site, developed by the Association of Internet Hotline Providers in Europe, will coordinate country-specific hotlines for reporting child pornography and racism on the Net. Despite the initiative originating from Europe, the site is also intended to accommodate American and Australian regulators on an associate basis.

A European approach towards cracking down on cybercrime is often hindered by differing legal standards between countries. Child pornography is illegal in every EC country, but racism is dealt with very differently in local law. Germany for instance has strict laws to deal with holocaust denial online, whereas the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) in Britain is only able to deal with racist content in a minor way.

"The difference in laws is a problem that we can't get around -- each hotline will act according to its own legal guidelines on what is illegal," said David Kerr, chairman of IWF. "The Web site will be used to speed up the hotline process -- if we come across content that is illegal in another country, we will be able to pass it on directly to their hotline."

While a European coordinated approach to cybercrime is important, Inhope has also recognised the need for child protection initiatives to be dealt with on a worldwide level. Hotlines such as the US CyberTipline which deals with the sexual exploitation of children on the Internet, have been invited to join the scheme as associate members.

"The Inhope Web site will pave the way for international cooperation on these issues -- hotlines are now talking to each other on how to deal with child pornography and racist propaganda on the Net," said Nigel Williams, director of Childnet International who has been involved in the initiative.

See also: ZDNet UK's Net Crime News Section.

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