Ofcom won't ban spam

An MP has called for action against the rise of pornographic email, but Ofcom looks set to keep well away from Internet regulation

An attempt to force Ofcom, the new regulator for Britain's telecommunications and broadcasting sectors, to take action on pornographic spam is likely to be unsuccessful.

Speaking in the House of Commons on Tuesday evening, MP Derek Wyatt said that Ofcom should make Internet Service Providers (ISPs) tackle the issue of unsolicited pornographic emails. Wyatt also wants a law brought in to protect children from such material.

However, senior officials at Ofcom have insisted that they will not regulate the Internet.

Wyatt -- a committed anti-spam campaigner -- warned that the problem of spam is becoming increasingly serious, and wants Ofcom to have the power to force ISPs to bring in effective filtering software.

"We are not addressing the issue, and I want to see a much tougher power for Ofcom included in the Bill. We must tell the Internet Service Providers that they must either accept a charter given to them by Ofcom, or be charged a licence fee. They would choose a charter pretty quickly," said Wyatt.

"If they were not prepared to, Ofcom should be allowed to require the installation of screening software to ensure that all ISPs screen for pornography, especially child pornography, which is appalling and disgusting," Wyatt added.

Ofcom will begin its regulatory role once the Communications Bill passes into law, probably in the second half of next year.

Its duties includes protecting consumers from broadcasting content that could cause "harm and offence". This remit, though, does not extend to material delivered across the Internet.

The Department of Trade and Industry -- which is overseeing the passage of the Communications Bill through parliament -- told ZDNet UK that online content is already covered by many existing laws, including those regarding obscenity.

It has been suggested that Ofcom's stance on Internet regulation will come unstuck as broadband networks allow more broadcasting via the Web. Officials at the regulator have indicated, though, that they do not think this will be a problem within the next ten years.

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