The charity NCH Action for Children has accused the Internet industry of failing to protect children from pornography on the Net, and warned that free Internet services run the risk of attracting unsavoury characters looking for anonymity.
NCH Action for Children presented evidence garnered from the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) to the government last week, suggesting that the Internet industry had failed to find an effective solution to the problem of indecent material on the Internet, and was not giving enough financial support to the IWF in its bid to create a ratings system.
John Carr, Internet consultant at NCH Action for Children and a member of IWF's board, said: "The IWF hotline (for reporting child pornography on the Internet) is working fine. A whole other side is developing a ratings system, which has made very little progress due to lack of funding."
He argued that Internet and software companies spend millions of pounds each year promoting the Internet for commercial reasons, but have singularly failed to live up to their social responsibilities and contribute to a ratings system. "ISPs have the primary responsibility, as they are developing the industry," said Carr.
Carr was particularly critical of the new free Internet access services set up by BT and Dixons (BT's Click and Dixons' Freeserve) for their lack of requirements for proof of identity. "We understood that the Internet industry would reduce the possibility of the abuse of anonymity," Carr said. "The way BT (Click) and Dixons (Freeserve) have been set up increases the risk of abuse of anonymity."
NCH Action for Children has proposed a new organisation, to be called Internet Voice, according to Carr. "The IWF should focus on the helpline, but look at other areas as well as child pornography," said Carr.
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