Belfast Telegraph

UPC to block child porn sites

Garda chiefs are trying to persuade a number of Ireland's main internet providers to block child porn sites after striking a deal with one operator.

Under a new agreement with the force, UPC will automatically refuse its customers access to any known websites distributing images of child sexual abuse.

In a move acting Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan has described as mainly a deterrent, UPC subscribers who knowingly or unwittingly visit illegal sites will be shown an advisory screen showing why they are being blocked.

UPC is the only provider in Ireland who has signed up to the protocol. Dozens more have not yet agreed to similar measures.

Ms O'Sullivan said the Garda is in ongoing discussions with other companies to persuade them to do the same.

It took "several months" to reach the agreement with UPC, according to the Garda chief.

"This initiative will play an important role in tackling the use of child sexual abuse material online and dissuade some people from accessing it," she said.

"However, we fully recognise that others who wish to view, distribute and make this vile material will use different means to access it and spread it online."

Ms O'Sullivan said the new measures would free up Garda time to focus on those who were more determined to access child porn, through the likes of the dark net, a hidden corner of the internet which makes it hard to track down user addresses.

Under the scheme, the Garda will regularly update UPC with a list of servers, known to be distributing child porn, so they can be blocked for customers.

Similar measures already exists in a number of countries, including UK, France, New Zealand, Australia, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Switzerland.

UPC said it will not store the details of the user who has been blocked.

Manus Ternsjo, chief executive of UPC, said it could only hand over details of a customer's internet activity on foot of a court warrant as part of a criminal investigation.

"We are adhering to international laws on this particular topic itself and I think it would be fundamentally wrong for UPC to start to act as a law enforcement agency or a government," he added.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has also urged other Irish internet providers to sign up to the new protocol.

"I hope that other companies will follow suit in this very worthy endeavour," she said.

"The blocking and removal of child abuse imagery from the internet in Ireland assists in reducing the likelihood of the inadvertent viewing of such material.

"Research suggests that inadvertent viewing may precipitate some people to pursue further such illegal material to their long term detriment and to the detriment of society as a whole. "

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