IWF crackdown on Net paedophiles gets £100,000

Internet Watch Foundation to act immediately on government report recommendations

The UK's online pornography regulator the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) announced over £100,000 of additional funding on Monday to help implement some of the recommendations contained in the government-backed Chat Wise, Street Wise report.

Home Office minister Lord Bassam challenged the Internet industry two weeks ago to make the UK the safest place in the world for children to go online. The new funding will increase the IWF's budget by 30 percent for this year, and will be used to "immediately" follow up on recommendations from the Internet Crime Forum report.

The London Internet Exchange continues to be the largest sponsor of the IWF. British Internet service providers (ISPs) Demon, BT (quote: BT) and UUNet also remain in the "super ISP" category, with AOL additionally increasing its contribution to this "gold membership" level. New IWF members at the large ISP level of subscription (£20,000 to £30,000) are Microsoft, Yahoo! UK and Energis Squared (quote: EGS). The European Commission supports 50 percent of the costs of the hotline set up by the IWF for members of the pupils to report illegal content on the Net.

The IWF was set up in the autumn of 1996 to look at the growing problem of child pornography on the Internet. Ruth Dixon, chair of the IWF, is also a member of the ICF sub-group on chat, which recommended in its report that "a user-friendly reporting mechanism should be available to facilitate the prompt reporting and investigation of incidents in chatrooms".

At the launch of the ICF report, David Kerr, chief executive of IWF, revealed plans for the organisation to act more as a mediator between ISPs and the police, providing law enforcement authorities with intelligence of online paedophile activity. "One of the possibilities for building on logistics that we have as an Internet hotline is acting as a conduit for public reports of criminal intelligence," explained Kerr.

The study also concluded that education and awareness are key elements in helping children and their parents to protect themselves online, and recommended "awareness materials should be provided by a broad range of agencies". Forty thousand pounds of the IWF's additional funding will be used to fill a new education and awareness post, due to be advertised next week. "The candidate will need marketing experience to concentrate on presenting and publishing safety messages to parents, which will initially address the issue of Internet chat," said Kerr.

The IWF will also assume responsibility for devising a kitemarking tool for chat services that will empower parents to choose appropriate services for their children's use.

A summit has been scheduled for July, when home secretary Jack Straw will review the industry's success at implementing recommendations made in the ICF report. After a meeting with Home Office officials on Tuesday, the IWF has additionally decided to organise a conference in June looking at enforcement of the report. "Invitations will be sent to a wider range of people than those who attended the taskforce summit last week... main content providers will be included as well as the retail sector," said Kerr.

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