U.K. clamps down on online child porn

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The number of web-based child abuse images hosted from U.K. servers has plummeted from 18 percent of all child abuse images found on the internet in 1997 to just 0.4 percent today, according to the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) 2005 Annual Report.

However, Amanda Jordan, chairperson of the IWF, warned today that though there has been a sharp decline in obscene material hosted in the U.K., the problem has moved overseas: "The test will be to bring the same commitment and effectiveness to other countries, particularly Russia and the U.S. where the majority of child abuse content appears to be hosted. Meanwhile, the IWF will ensure the U.K. remains a hostile place for those who engage in illegal activities online to the detriment of the majority."

During 2005 the IWF processed around 24,000 reports from the public and reported a record 6,000 cases of child abuse images hosted abroad. Some 40 percent of child abuse content was traced to the U.S., 28 percent was traced to Russia, 17 percent to Asian countries and 13 percent to Europe.

Peter Robbins, chief executive of the IWF, said: "U.K. internet users deserve to know that the U.K. has an excellent track record of successfully combating online child abuse images."

"On those rare occasions when potentially illegal online content is hosted in the U.K., the content service provider is swift to have the content 'taken down' and the police are quick to have the publisher investigated. This outstanding situation has not happened by chance."

The report noted that, during last year, there were 23,658 reports from the public processed by IWF and 6,128 reports made to law enforcement agencies. In addition, the organization recorded 156 intelligence reports relating to UK offenders that it passed to police.

IWF believes that this increase in public reports can be attributed to a number of factors, including the public intolerance of child abuse content online combined with increased awareness of the IWF's role in combating it.

The IWF study also notes that 211 newsgroups are now listed as potentially illegal in the U.K. Some 226 notices were issued to internet service providers to take down a further 12,777 images that were published in newsgroups.

Alun Michael, minister of state for Industry and the Regions, DTI, said that U.K.'s alliance between the IWF, the police and industry has "achieved more in a year without legislation than we could have achieved in five years through legislation alone."

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