In the first European conference on combating violence and pornography on the Web, activists, politicians and corporates spoke with a single voice to raise the awareness of the dangers associated with Internet use.
Since the rush of media coverage highlighting some of the more worrying aspects of Web use last year, corporates have united to act against content that causes concern. Leading the conference was BT, which has launched a taste and decency policy to try and clean up the Net.
As part of the new policy any illegal material found through its access to the Web is reported to the Internet Watch Foundation, set up last October.
Janet Henderson, a lawyer for BT, said: "We acknowledge there are some problems on the Net and we want to do something positive to deal with them."
Raj Kanthan, product manager for Internet access in BT's multimedia services division, said: "We don't want to take on the role of Big Brother, but there are guidelines we have to follow. We have to follow the law and allow it to deal with this type of problem."
The Internet Watch Foundation passes on information about illegal material to the police, and is pushing for legal material to be classified. Classification, it says, would provide an easy route to blocking illegal content using standard filtering software.
Technically, tracing users who do post illegal material on the Web was agreed at the meeting to be an impossible task. As one speaker said: "It's going to take a lot of hard work and perseverance" before the Web can be rid of illegal material.
The call by the Internet Watch Foundation to classify Web content is an interesting one, with many far reaching implications for the UK and the rest of Europe. But agreeing on what is legal and illegal across so many boundaries is sure to be a slow process.
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