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back to article IWF rethinks its role

Anger at aborted attempts by net censor, the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) to block material hosted on Wikipedia earlier this week may lead to radical changes in the way the organisation works - it has already changed the way the organisation is perceived. However, a campaign to turn the IWF into a classificatory system for …

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Mat

I am wondering

The new law will only catch material that would already be illegal under the Obscene Publications Act................

<rant>

SO WHY THE HELL INVENT A NEW LAW????!!!!??!?!!111111 etc..

</rant>

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Why the new law?

"Since the Ministry of Justice has repeatedly claimed that the new law will only catch material that would already be illegal under the Obscene Publications Act, a window of opportunity exists for people to refer material on sites outside the UK to the IWF, obtain an assessment as to whether it is obscene, and then act accordingly."

If the material is already illegal under existing laws, then why not prosecute or otherwise deal with the matter under the existing law? There's no need to introduce a new law, which marginalises and criminalises ordinary people going about their daily business.

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Extreme Positions.

"A spokeswoman for the IWF said: "Our role is that of an assessment and takedown body: we are not there to provide classification advice for the public"

One assumes that any such assessment and takedown follows specific guidelines/classification advice which it would be wise to share so as to avoid unnecessary ignorant third party action. To fail to do so, results in a gravy train feed loop resolving absolutely nothing.

The cynics would probably suggest that that is probably part and parcel of the no advice to the public strategy .... although it would also make them technically complicit in an act of omission that can lead to a prosecution?

In porn, to attack the Software Hosting side is a Useless Waste of Time and Effort whenever the Hardware Industry side remains Stronger than ever, and in all but what would be pretty obvious and/or grimly realistic Criminal Abuse cases, perfectly legal. However, whenever one supports and reports on war, a Perverse Pornography without Peer, it does render the argument somewhat hypocritical and therefore fundamentally flawed by reason of its subjective nature.

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Alert

The IWF did worse than is known

I didn't manage to get this across in Monday's media coverage - but here's what the IWF did:

1. Blocked the text page on en.wikipedia.org talking about the album - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virgin_Killer

2. Blocked the text page on en.wikipedia.org describing the image and its origin, copyright status, etc - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Virgin_Killer.jpg (now http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Virgin_Killer.jpg)

3. COMPLETELY NEGLECTED to block the image itself - http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/3/33/Virgin_Killer.jpg or http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/3/33/Virgin_Killer.jpg/200px-Virgin_Killer.jpg - note also that the MediaWiki software will create thumbnails of any size when a page requests it.

So they were not only hamfisted, but actually technically incompetent.

Apparently the notion of high-traffic websites serving images from a separate server is beyond their understanding, only having become common practice in 1997 or so.

There is no evidence to suggest they have *ever* blocked an image properly, because they never tell.

http://notnews.today.com/2008/12/09/internet-watch-foundation-crapland-closes-down/

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Anonymous Coward

We don't need to refer stuff to the IWF.

It's already blocking stuff that's out there. FOI request to Ukonline I think.

Anything you can surf to is likely to either...

Have been seen by loads of people, and reported, and not blocked, hence it's not extreme.

or

Have been seen by loads of people, and not reported, and by implication, isn't extreme.

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Anonymous Coward

‘approved by the IWF’

Well, first up the "Internet" bit should give the game away, the law will affect non "internet" material which is obviously outside the IWF's remit. My rectal hamster videos on my laptop which obviously won't be connected to the internet is also outside the IWF's remit.

Secondly, the IWF isn't a legal body, the defence in court that "The IWF said it was OK" is totally worthless. It's as useful as saying "NASA said it was ok" or "My mates in the pub said it was OK". Their opinion has no legal force, to rely on it in court would be reckless.

Clearly if I take a printed out photograph to the IWF and they say "It's none of our business, we look at internet stuff but phwoar it looks all right to me." I'm going to be properly in the shit when the police nab me for my extreme rectal hamster shots.

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Alert

A Better Legal Precedent?

Surely any law that leaves otherwise law-abiding people in fear of accidental offence is pernicious.

The problem is that something is either illegal or it isn't (even the old Scottish verdict of "Not proven" - if it still exists - doesn't quite cover this); there is no possibility of doing something in good faith - such as possessing an image whose legality is indeterminate - and not suffering adverse consequences if it is *subsequently*, lawfully, determined to be illegal.

How about this: no offence is committed by possessing an image that is not illegal beyond reasonable doubt (let the lawyers argue about the criterion/.threshold), i.e. if "guidance" is either unclear or absent there is no possibility of an offence; then, if that image is subsequently found to be illegal the possessor has a specified time to remove it, and only if the image is retained after that time - by which time illegality has been definitely established - does possession become an offence.

I for one would welcome a new overlord with some common sense.

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Anonymous Coward

Serious incompetence from the MOJ

This whole act is a shambles.

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Paris Hilton

The problem with the Obscene Publications Act

The OPA requires that a jury examine the material and decide if it is obscene, i.e. liable to deprave and corrupt.

Now, in this day and age you'd hope that a jury would be sufficiently enlightened that it would be effectively impossible for even a majority guilty verdict to be reached, since it isn't anyone else's business what the individual wishes to look at (with very restricted areas concerning images of children).

What all this is undoubtedly heading towards is a situation where the OPA can be ignored (repealed even?) and these new Acts used to persecute anyone who comes to the attention of the authorities for any reason, and whose personal tastes can then be probed looking for ammunition to use against them.

Can't allow people to enjoy themselves now can we, whether it's sexually or by drinking and smoking?

Paris, she knows all about being probed.

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Limted use

This would only be of use for material that is already posted on publicly accessible websites. It won't work for material that requires a subscription to view. It won't work for material that is not available on the web. (I wouldn't risk publishing something that I don't own the copyright to and I'm unsure about the legality of.)

The IWF is as much use as a chocolate fireguard.

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2 points

1. @Why the new law?

the anser is simple the previous law only banded the "publishing or importing" of this stuff not the owning of it (IANAL) so with the internet you can get the mertail with out doing eather (importing needs to go throught a port) so a new law is needed baning ownership of the stuff to block the loop hole .... simple ........

well not realy cos the goverment have extended the law and changed parts of it and refused to give defnations to the turns they use like obseen and injury

2. asking the IWF was never the anser and the MOJ should have known this is this law covers images and movies of all types not just thouse on the internet the simple way to prove this is to send print outs of potentaly illagle pics to the MOJ and ask them if these would be illagle and see if then they want to get you to ask the

IWF

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Flame

Anarchy in the UK

I think that anybody trying to keep the Internet just this side of anarchy should go on strike until they're shown some gratitude. Yes, I think I'll turn off my spam control so that users can't find their email amongst the 67% spam I'm currently seeing at the server. Obviously anybody with kids won't want them finding anal sex and bestiality when they're looking for CBeebies, so the web will be out as an educational resource, too.

Basically I'm fucking sick of fucking "libertarians" telling me that I have to view their sick pictures and have to put up with them snorting coke and going mental and have to accept their shit into my inbox. Fuck the lot of you, I'm off to Montana with a gun.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Why the new law?

I think this question has already been answered several times. Here's what I understand: the OPA only criminalises publication; the new "extreme porn" law criminalises possession. That is a huge change and a massive invasion into everyone's privacy.

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Ah, yes.... A nice, healthy dose of censorship.

Don't you just love it?

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RE: Why the new law?

The new law is needed as it enables the government to prosecute the consumers rather than the suppliers

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@Neil Hoskins

That's a stupid comparison. Spam is universally unwanted, so filtering it is good - and even then, most email users could disable their spam filters and/or look in their spam folder if they wanted to. And if they can't, they can legally find an email provider that allows them to. Porn is wanted by some and unwanted by others, so the individual should be able to decide whether he wants it or not.

Also, you're missing the point. The debate isn't on whether to filter porn or not. It's whether it's good to have a law that doesn't clearly define what it applies to. Would you like to be jailed for having pictures of your own kids playing in the swimming pool?

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My take on a couple of comments

"the IWF isn't a legal body, the defence in court that "The IWF said it was OK" is totally worthless"

It's not totally worthless, it could be seen as expert opinion. An assessment made by a body that specialises in such assessments could well be taken as part of evidence. How much credence the courts subsequently give to that opinion is up to them.

"Why the new law?"

Because that unfortunate music teacher got killed by a nutter leading to some media spasms. Should have overhauled the Obscene Publications Act really, but that wouldn't have looked as good when reported back to Joe Public.

Just my 2 penneth.

Clam.

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@JonB

"I'm going to be properly in the shit when the police nab me for my extreme rectal hamster shots."

As, indeed, is the hamster, presumably.

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Anonymous Coward

@Neil Hoskins

----

Yes, I think I'll turn off my spam control so that users can't find their email ... blah blah blah

----

Feel free - I've got greylisting on my own mailserver anyway, I do not have (nor do I intend to have) any kids - the only person that uses my (home) PC is me; the missus has her own laptop... and to be honest, I think I'm big enough, old enough and ugly enough to go "eeeew - that's not what I was looking for" if I happen to click the wrong link when looking for information about "Cassia fistula" - the golden shower tree.

If you want to block stuff in the work-place, feel free, I can think of no reason for most people to have access to most of the Internet whilst at work (there are obvious exceptions)... but at home, if someone decides to check out some BDSM goth-horror-fantasy website, or look up the Scunthorpe tourist information board, they should be allowed, surely?

We're two steps away from having Boris Vallejo book burnings - so remember folks, if Liberalism (left wing) equates to socialism/communism then it follows that Conservatism (right wing) equates to Dictatorships, Police States and "Nazi-ism" (as well as the Jews, Hitler went for the Socialists and the Trade Unions btw).

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so, the IWF really ARE...

in effect, NuLabour Government appointed/approved internet CENSORS.

"Our role is that of an assessment and takedown body: we are not there to provide classification advice for the public."

And just how long do we think their remit will be 'limited' to child pornography?

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re:Anarchy in the UK

I dought I will be the furts one to reply to this but here gose

you sir are a cirtfible loon your comments are not only wrong headded and your anoliges bad but the points you are making are so confused I can not even tell if you are being serious or scarcastic

"I think that anybody trying to keep the Internet just this side of anarchy should go on strike until they're shown some gratitude."

I assume you are a system admin and are not finding enought xmas cards delivered to you?

"Yes, I think I'll turn off my spam control so that users can't find their email amongst the 67% spam I'm currently seeing at the server"

and I will take my self of the telephone prefrance servace and open all my junk mail for the same reasions 50% spam is about normal for daily life live with it

"Obviously anybody with kids won't want them finding anal sex and bestiality when they're looking for CBeebies, so the web will be out as an educational resource, too."

that must be a very intresting search enging you use but realy anyboady who lets there kids use the internet unsupervised might as well let there kids play in parks at nite or real all the magisnees in a news agent (especley thouse ones on the top shelf) just cos it is in your home on your computer dose not make it yours

"Basically I'm fucking sick of fucking "libertarians" telling me that I have to view their sick pictures and have to put up with them snorting coke and going mental and have to accept their shit into my inbox."

and I am fead up of you controlling pepol telling me what I can not have in my inbox gess we will both have to live unsatified. seriousley if you do not want to see pictures in your inbox stop sineing up to thouse sites. reguardless this law will not stop you reciving thouse pics it will just make you a criminal when you do

"Fuck the lot of you, I'm off to Montana with a gun."

I thought you where not into the kinky stuff?

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Mat

Following the answers to my original question..

This government really are a complete shower of turd!

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Re: Why the new law?

"I think this question has already been answered several times. Here's what I understand: the OPA only criminalises publication; the new "extreme porn" law criminalises possession. That is a huge change and a massive invasion into everyone's privacy."

"a massive invasion into everyone's privacy" - no, not really. When the OPA was created in 1956 telephone mail order didn't exist, let alone online delivery of a publication. You needed to visit a shop or sent payment in the post. The OPA effectively blocked the opportunity to obtain obscene material.

Technology has bypassed the need to visit a shop. While it would be possible to amend the OPA to cover online sales and delivery it's not clear how the enforcement would work. It isn't sensible to try and prosecute an ISP for allowing the data into the country - in the same way it isn't sensible to try and make ferry companies liable for the pile of magazines in the boot of a car.

With electronic copies it's very difficult to identify the publisher or importer. This means criminalising the possession of obscene material as the obvious reaction. Perhaps was flawed and should have always included possession as well as publication.

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This post has been deleted by its author

Stop

Quango

And who elects the IWF again...?

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Corruption

One problem I always have with stuff like this is ...

If this material is so corrupting that looking at it makes you a slavering paedo, how come the staff at IWF are somehow immune ?

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again 2 points

@dennis

"When the OPA was created in 1956 " attudes where very diffrent so I think it is hi time it was updated it seames ludicrous that we are regesssing to a 1950's lvl of morlles

@shaggydoggy

"If this material is so corrupting that looking at it makes you a slavering paedo, how come the staff at IWF are somehow immune ?"

cos they have the "right" mental attude when they look at it it is like how pictures of naked pepol are of as long as it is for "art" so as long as you are thinking "art" or "just doing my job" when you look at it you are ok...eather that or they all take non crouption pills

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@ SO WHY THE HELL INVENT A NEW LAW?

Because they can, and it's what they do. In total, the Government has brought in more than 3,500 new offences since May 1997. Significantly, more than half of these laws were introduced by means of secondary legislation such as statutory instruments and orders in council which are never debated in parliament.

This neatly reflects the barely concealed contempt that Tony Blair (lawyer) had for parliamentary democracy, and mirrors the contempt his Neocon allies had for the constitution of the United States.

Even while they were busy upending a bucket load of legislative shit on the citizens of the UK, New Labour still found time to push ahead with their main project which ironically consisted of having a bonfire of regulations and laws that restrained the worst instincts of businesses and markets. Rip Off Britain and Greed is Good were the new cornerstones of economic policy.

As we all now know, and many predicted, it all ended in tears. But do not despair, the boys and girls at GovUK have an explanation and a plan: It was a global crisis, nothing to do with us, guv. We will hand out billions of pounds of your money to the greedy bastards who caused the problem and make sure it never happens again by kicking the shit out of all those single parents and malingering disability claimants.

Pass the sick-bucket.

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Boffin

...why the new law?

@Dennis

You're making the mistake of believing that anyone has any right to prevent people looking at anything they want to (with the one exception of kiddie porn). No one else has to look at it, but telling people they can't see what they want as an adult is just one more attempt at mind control.

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Anonymous Coward

What puzzles me...

Is the circuitous and clearly bogus arguments:

"The OPA requires that a jury examine the material and decide if it is obscene, i.e. liable to deprave and corrupt."

So, if we the taxpayers get a jury to sit through a trial during which they are exposed to the by definition, most awful porn, then why don't they all turn into raving mad pervs and sue the state for causing them damage?

I'd like to see the figures for how many previously conviction free jury members have subsequently gone on to become pervs following a porn trial.

Mary Whitehouse used the same argument, that exposure to porn corrupted. Except for herself of course, and the police, who were continuously exposed to the muck, oh and the jury, the prosecutors, court clerks, public in the gallery...

Apparently it can only affect people who not narrow minded bigots.

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Paris Hilton

@ Fifi

"There's no need to introduce a new law, which marginalises and criminalises ordinary people going about their daily business."

Paris is confused about what daily business ordinary people are getting up to. Perhaps she is closer to the "normal folk" than she ever thought ...

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Silver badge

Hello Left Hand...?

... this is Right Hand. Do you have any idea what I'm doing, because I don't!

@Neil Hoskins: Basically I'm fucking sick of fucking "libertarians" telling me that I have to view their sick pictures

And I'm sick of people like you using Straw Man arguments like this! You do *NOT* have to view these pictures, nobody is forcing you to view anything. You, however are telling everyone else that because *you* consider these images to "sick pictures" *THEY* should not be allowed to look at them which is bullshit. Your personal tastes (or those of Wacky Jacqui et al) should not govern what anyone else is allowed to look at "just in case it might make them think about doing something nasty".

@Dennis: "criminalising the possession of obscene material as the obvious reaction. "

No, it was a ridiculous over-reaction, especially since it is still entirely unclear as to what will be criminalised and what won't because such decisions are going to be based on the *subjective* opinions of the Police/ CPS/ DPP/ Magistrates...

But you're right, the OPA was flawed, is flawed, and always will be flawed and the best way to fix the problem is to get rid of it entirely.

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Anonymous Coward

IWF =

IWF = I Will F***ing decide what may or may not corrupt you imbeciles. It's OK for me to read/view because I am incorruptible, unlike you oiks who have no idea what sterling work I am doing, and christ-like suffering I am enduring, on your behalf out of the goodness of my heart.

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@ShaggyDog

"If this material is so corrupting that looking at it makes you a slavering paedo, how come the staff at IWF are somehow immune ?"

What proof do you have that the IWF is not staffed by slavering paedos?

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Re: Why the new law?

@Dennis:

"Perhaps was flawed and should have always included possession as well as publication."

No, we should have never criminalised publication, if the intent was to prevent people getting hold of it who wanted to get hold of it. The intent of censoring material under the OPA is out of fear of corrupting others. Who is corrupted if someone possesses an image? Who is the victim? The implication is that we need protecting from ourselves.

Whatever its intent, I think the only reason people tolerate the OPA is because the material might be seen by other people unintentionally, and some control on *publication* is seen as acceptable. Criminalising mere possession - taking that to even private images - is a whole different matter.

It is reasonable perhaps that someone seeking to publish should be aware of what would be illegal, and to have the work classified by the British Board of Film Classification. It is far less reasonable to expect an individual to be aware of what images are and aren't legal, when browsing the Internet, importing an unclassified film, or taking a private photo with his or her partner, nor is it reasonable or practical to have to subject every such image for classification.

And what happens if you submit an illegal image to the BBFC? Currently, they just ask you for cuts, but now you will already have been breaking the law from the moment the image was made!

Another problem is that a ban on possession means that the material must be destroyed. Even if some draconian laws on what is allowed are temporary, the material that is banned is forever lost, unless someone takes the risk of storing it. A ban on publication simply means that it can't be published for that period.

Imagine if obscenity laws had banned possession from the start - think of all the books that would have been burned, and lost forever!

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Re: Corruption

Indeed, and if material is so corrupting, and if a certain recent image was really child porn, does that mean there are now a million more pedophiles? ( http://stats.grok.se/en/200812/Virgin_Killer )

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Paris Hilton

nothing interesting but

it is nice to see that amanfromMars' universal translator is now working. ;o)

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