As Telstra and Optus prepare to begin the voluntary blocking child pornography sites based on a blocklist compiled by Interpol, the Internet Industry Association (IIA) has released a detailed framework to underpin the code of practice on child abuse for the industry.
The voluntary code of practice for ISPs in Australia would involve the blocking of child pornography sites, relying on a blocklist compiled and supplied by Interpol, in co-operation with the Australian Federal Police (AFP).
Commenting on the code IIA chief executive, Peter Coroneos, said a number of major Australian ISPs had confirmed their support for the code of practice.
"We anticipate that we will have ISPs representing between 80-90% of the Australian user base complying with the scheme this year," Coroneos said in a statement.
The scheme will be limited to child abuse sites supplied by Interpol and its criteria include:
- The children are real. Sites containing only computer generated, morphed, drawn or pseudo images are not included.
- The ages of the children depicted in sexually exploitative situations are (or appear to be) younger than 13 years.
- The abuses are considered by Interpol to be severe constituting the "worst of the worst" activities involving children.
According to the organisation, ISPs that block access to sites would be doing so in accordance with a legal request for assistance under Australia's existing Telecommunications Act and no new laws will be required to implement this scheme.
Under the scheme, browsers that attempt to access blocked sites will be directed to an Interpol page explaining why the site has been blocked. Due to the possibility of accidental access to blocked sites, users will not be tracked or reported under the scheme.
The list has been compiled on the basis of manual checks by police, whose experience shows that child sexual abuse material is normally not co-hosted with legal material but instead usually exists on specific domains created for the sole purpose of distributing the files.
Users who believe a page is incorrectly blocked can refer the site to AFP or Interpol for review. The Australian Communications and Media Authority’s (ACMA) role in receiving complaints from Australian users will continue.
Despite acknowledging the code will not eradicate the distribution of child abuse material, the IIA is optimistic it will limit “revictimisation” of children whose images have been circulated on the Web, and hopes it will free police resources for victim and criminal identification and delete the material from the hosting service.
The IIA also hopes to prevent the accidental and unwanted exposure to child abuse materials, the possession of which is a criminal offence in most jurisdictions including Australia, make deliberate access to illegal web based material more difficult, and bring Australian into line with international best practice.
“While we fundamentally maintain the internet is predominantly safe and useful, we acknowledge community and law enforcement concerns about access to illegal materials online, particularly child pornography and so we are taking these practical steps to help make a positive difference.
“We have considered the alternatives and have come to the view that a voluntary industry code by which ISPs agree to block child pornography sites once notified by the police is the best way forward.”
According to Coroneos, the code will align Australia with the likes of Scandinavia and Europe as well as complement work done by individual companies in the area of online child abuse.
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