A plan by MPs to grant legal powers to the IWF (Internet Watch Foundation) has been met with anger and disbelief from industry figures as well as freedom of speech advocates.
The MPs, who form Eurim, the parliamentary advisory group on European Informatics and Telematics, is expected to recommend granting legislative powers, to the IWF in a report to be published shortly.
It is understood that Tory MP Ian Bruce, vice chairman of Eurim, wants the IWF to have "legislative teeth" so that it could take legal action against ISPs who fail to clean up illegal content on their servers.
David Kerr, chief executive of the IWF, expressed surprise at the plan: "Irrespective of what the report says, I don't agree with the idea of a legal body with either statutory or contractual powers. We have been going for a year now and we have met with complete co-operation from within the industry. We don't need legislative teeth."
The proposal has been slammed as "blatant censorship" by Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties. Yaman Akdeniz, who heads the group, said: "This is not self-regulation. It is privatised censorship."
James Gardiner, marketing manager at Demon Internet, a UK ISP, also attacked the proposals. "We don't need legislative powers. We encourage rating systems on sites. If the government accepts Eurim's call for legislative powers over ISPs we would oppose it."
Martin Turner, CompuServe's UK general manager, also rejected the idea of legislative bodies shadowing ISPs. "ISPs may not always be able to take action (against illegal content), but I am not aware of any ISPs who have not conformed with the law in recent times, so why would we need such a body?"
The industry's response is clear: the plan is irresponsible and it will not get their support.
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