back to article BT blocks up to 40,000 child porn pages per day

Between 35,000 and 40,000 attempts to access child pornography sites via BT Retail's broadband network are blocked every day, it was revealed today. Extrapolated to the entire UK broadband market*, the figures mean there are more than 58 million attempts to access sites on the Internet Watch Foundation's (IWF) blocklist annually …

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Anonymous Coward

How many of those are Wikipedia?

How many of those were Wikipedia? How many of those are Poker sites ?

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Pop-ups?

How often do we surf the internet and get pop-up after pop-up trying to sell us everything from mobile phones to zebra's? I'm sure if you hit certian adult entertainment sites it's only a mater of time before you get a pop-up for something cp related. What happends then? Is it the originating site who gets investigated or the end user? Oh yes. It's the end user. After all, there so much easier to track down.

Add to this the number of spoofing tools available and before you know it we're ALL suspects (actually, we ARE all suspects, but ho-hum).

I see another sticking plaster for the symtom here... not the cause.

AC for obvious reasons.

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Bronze badge

How many blocked sites...

I'm curious, has anything been revealed as to whether sites that are blocked are also reported to the police as a matter of course?

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Stop

Fair enough

Most of the time the IWF is doing useful stuff then. But I'd feel a lot better if someone were actually going out to shut down the sites on the blacklist, rather than the "LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU" approach of filtering.

But then actually stopping commercial child abuse like this would cost more money.

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Paris Hilton

Yes but

I think the blocking of such material to prevent casual drive-by browsing is valid. What concerns me is the lack of transparency of the list contents. I'd like to think the IWF is above any government coercion to include sites that might be outside its remit but in this day and age I do wonder.

As to going after the sites, that's fine whilst they're in the civilised world as it were but the back end of eastern Europe is out of reach of our authorities unfortunately. And what about where the age of consent is lower than the UK?

Paris, 'cos she's not underage, just juvenile.

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Black Helicopters

telling us?

Do the people who have sites blocked get notified? Doesn't look like it.

So for instance you are browsing some reputable pr0n site and a pop-up or link ends in a 404, you, the user are not notified that it was a IWF / cleanfeed block. So you keep going back to said reputable site (since they are still reputable to you) .... then with Jaqui's uber base you get a summons for repeatedly trying to access CP.

Unless all of us are more open about this then it will just become more underground and more people will be in trouble wrongly.

Why cant the IWF list be published and more effort put into investigating and closing down these sites (and hopefully arresting the people who run them and who cause so much harm to children).

As for the figure of 40,000 per day.... that sounds like a big number, are they all CP and how do we know....

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Not all child porn

The IWF blocks anything they don't like the look of - they've even blocked sites critical of the IWF.

To say that 40,000 sites were blocked by them has *nothing* to do with the amount of child porn being accessed.

For all we know they could be blocking political sites (and I strongly suspect they are, and religious sites, and anything the basically don't get on with.. they're the Daily Mail's wet dream personified).

They should be legally obliged to publish the list. Anything not confirmed *independently* as illegal child porn should be removed.

Allowing unelected unaccountable bodies to censor the internet is a really, really, bad move.

All we can do as consumers is avoid ISPs that use it - my own ISP has stated publicly that they will never do so and don't believe in censorship (and if forced will give us means to bypass it).

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MnM
Coat

Proof at last

A spokesman for BT said: "The number has stayed roughly the same [in recent years] even though use of the internet has increased."

So paedos are early adopters?

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Stop

RE: Pop-ups?

"it's only a mater of time before you get a pop-up for something cp related"

People who abuse children don't buy pop-up adverts to announce the fact that they abuse children.

Conflating "adult entertainment" with child abuse simply means that resource gets thrown at targeting the wrong people, and fewer child abusers get caught.

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No record made

"No record of the attempt to access a child pornography site is made or reported to authorities."

And I have this nice bridge to sell you.

Even if they don't currently make a record, how long will it take NuLab to add that in?

"the power to force ISPs to implement child pornography blocklists."

And entirely coincidentally price the small ISPs out of the market by forcing them to pay for it.

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Anonymous Coward

Not a big number

40,000 a day is not a big number. With a few million web browsers, then that is (on average) maybe one per hundred people every day. Add into that people stumbling across links, attempted retries, malware and so on then the percentage is very small. If you divided this by the total number of web page reads then it is going to be a very small percentage indeed.

Of course the individuals who do have something to hide on this are very unlikely to be going to open websites. Personally I'm happy enough that I don't stumble across this sort of stuff by accident, although I'd prefer a filter error message rather than a 404.

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Anonymous Coward

Yeah right

So they are saying they have an officer (or officers) actively going over every page of the blocked sites to verify that they have CP on it? I wouldn't be at all surprised if it turns out that law enforcement groups are responsible for two thirds or more of the traffic and revenue generated from these sites. They have to pay to get in I would imagine. Where do you think that money comes from? That's right your tax dollars going into the coffers of the purveyors of CP. Many of whom they can't pursue cause they are in another country or are untraceable.

If they are not paying to get in then are they hacking their way in without warrants? How can they get an order for that when the server is probably in another country? I have to say that the approach to this is flawed in the extreme and some other solutions should be found. With anonymous VPNs on the rise it won't be long and it will be impossible to suppress.

The thing I see happening in the near future is that these bot nets will end up serving out CP. Once that happens then everyone could potentially have CP on their systems. How are they going to block that. The list of possibilities is astounding. They need people that truly understand technology in there to help form good policies and methods to at least minimize CP.

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Figures

40,000? Sounds like a plausible number for a single web spider working on behalf of a search engine. Or is that unique IPs? If so, that's a bit scary and the papers are right about paedos being everywhere. Not too sure I can believe it though.

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Which ISP is that?

"my own ISP has stated publicly that they will never do so and don't believe in censorship (and if forced will give us means to bypass it)"

Tell us who please?

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Dead Vulture

Sunday Times style headline from El Reg?

And when I say "Sunday Times style", what I mean is false and misleading to the point of rabid duplicity.

Up to 40,000 URLs on the IWF block list accessed each day DOES NOT mean, or even come close to meaning, 40,000 child porn pages. As we know, from recent articles in this very publication, the IWF blocks a lot more than "child porn" - sometimes they block an entire site, or an entire page, when the only thing that should be listed is a single image. Assuming your average page, with images, CSS, JS and the rest, might deliver 10 files to a web browser, you can cut the figure down to 4,000 a day at a stroke. And that presumes that everything on the watchlist is child pron, which again we know isn't true. So let's halve it again - 2,000 attempts to access something blocked per day.

Seriously, there is enough sub-tabloid reporting on IT issues without EL Reg joining in. Get a fucking grip.

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RE:RE:Pop-ups?

"People who abuse children don't buy pop-up adverts to announce the fact that they abuse children."

No, they hire botnets and hack websites. It still results in you being redirected to Badstuff(tm)

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So . . .

. . . if the number of blocks has stayed roughly the same, whilst the number of internet users has increased, do we assume :

i) the block is working properly and is disauding people from becomnig paedo's

ii) there are a finite number of paedo's and they are all early adopters and haven't changed their patterns

iii) paedo's aren't all stupid and have found another way to get their filth

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Sunday Times style headline from El Reg?

Duncan,

BT said Cleanfeed blocks a *page* 35,000 to 40,000 times per day. I reported that, and the headline reflects it accurately.

You write: "sometimes they block an entire site, or an entire page, when the only thing that should be listed is a single image."

Err, yeah. If you have a problem with the IWF's policy of blocking pages and returning 404 (i.e. you cannot connect to the destination server, the whole page is blocked), rather than individual files I suggest you take it up with them. But thanks for your insightful media commentary and brilliant numerical analysis. Now go away.

- Chris Williams

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Flame

BT blocks up to 40,000 child porn pages per day

It is irresponsible by the author of this article to suggest that the numbers described have anything to do with child porn or that BT is blocking child porn sites. All that is suggested is that BT is blocking up to 40,000 pages per day and that those pages are on the IWF list.

Sorry but the subject of child pornography is just too important to be confused with any IWF (we-know-better-than-you-all) created list of blocked sites. In a democratic society web pages are either legal or not. For it to be determined wether or not any content is legal it should be acted upon by the use of traditionally accepted legal actions and procedures. There is no space in a democratic society for some selfproclaimed and secretive vigilante group (even if it happens to be promoted by government) to act as a substitute for proper legislative procedures. As far as we know the IWF pages have never been legally confirmed to actually be about child porn - IWF even brag about this situation - the police does not have time to properly investigate and it does not go to court etc - there are a few "expert" that assess wether or not they "think" material "might" be illegal - these "experts" do not even have knowledge about how legal pornograhic material in general has been judged or dealt with in the past in the UK (example is the LP, and later CD album by Scorpions which was available for decades in UK high street shops without being banned) - so the self proclaimed experts confuse policy with personal opinion and taste - this fact means that what actually does come on the list could be just about any pages child porn or not.

Unsubstantiated politically sponsored propaganda is not to be confused with facts or reality. Censoriship is by definition subverting democratical values.

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404 message is nasty

That 404 error message is a clear statement that big ISP's and the IWF do not want people to know what is being blocked, who is doing the blocking or that any blocking is taking place at all.

It also maligns people's competence by implying they do not take the trouble to find and fix broken links.

If the page came up as "blocked by the IWF because the page contains child pornography", it would at least be honest - but still a complete waste of time and money.

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@John Lawton

http://www.aaisp.net.uk/kb-broadband-realinternet.html

http://www.aaisp.co.uk/news-censorship.html

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Re: Sunday Times style headline from El Reg?

@Chris Williams

I believe the acronym you were after was ODFO

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Anonymous Coward

Lies, damn lies, and statistics.

We're all concerned about child abuse - but anyone who takes such statistics even remotely seriously needs their head examined.

People we didn't like used to be anarchists and communists. These days they're paedos and terrorists ('suspected' being sufficient for the average Sun reader). In other words just the latest pejorative to keep society afraid and acquiescent as the government tries desperately to control a technology that terrifies them.

This kind of knee-jerk figure and reaction do no service at all to a very real problem.

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Anonymous Coward

Publishing the IWF List

With the filtering lists of Australia, Finland, Denmark and Thailand all leaked onto the internet there is no longer valid argument to not punish the IWFs list, it wont provide any greater resource of CP links than those already leaked. It is surprising the UK list has not leaked yet - during the wiki fiasco it was disclosed that someone over at Be* could view the list (even if they weren't supposed to) so I guess its only a matter of time till a less trusted ISP signs up for the service.

Publishing the list is similar to the police producing a map of areas with prostitutes or drug dealers - I don't have to go there myself and use their services but I can complain if I live near / visit the area and think the information is incorrect or they are no longer there.

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Why they probably just return 404...

There is a real problem about being considered guilty until ... well until forever once an accusation has been make about this sort of thing.

If they had a special page returned for blocked sites ... well then anyone who goes to a blocked site needs to be investigated by their school/work. Even if they are cleared its still on their record that they were investigated.

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Paris Hilton

So what happens

When the authorities are trying to gather evidence or research about who these kids are or whatever and they get a blocked page? Even if I agree with the blocking in general (which I don't) find it hard to believe that they would block them as well.

Just a thought

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Anonymous Coward

We need more openness all around

Duncan is right about one thing, we don't know for a fact that those pages were really child porn, even BT may not know; we only have IWF's word... and in fact they don't even claim the pages are child porn, just "potentially illegal".

I think we need more transparency in all aspects of the child porn problem. Working from the ground up, we first of all need more honest discussion about what kind of content we're dealing with and why it's bad. Hiding it behind vague labels like "child abuse images" and "indecent images" doesn't help matters at all.

Second we need to discuss what (if anything) blocking the web sites actually accomplishes. And if they are going to block pages, ISPs should show good faith by giving an honest block message, and provide an a method to report an site the user believes is incorrectly blocked.

Still, for whatever it's worth, I think it's a good thing the BT was willing to provide stats on how many pages they block.

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Anonymous Coward

You're /all/ paedos!

If there are 58 million blocked access requests per year that's quite a figure - nearly one hit for every person in the UK (current population about 60 million) in fact.

Conclusions:

Nearly everyone in the UK is a paedo;

There are a handful of paedos with particularly muscley index-fingers (should make them easier to spot, eh plod?);

The blocklist is utter arsewipe.

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Black Helicopters

@Yeah Right AC

It wouldn't surprise me at all if the majority of these page hits are made by law enforcement agencies and vigilante groups attempting to entrap paedophiles.

And for those that think that's just bashing the hard-working police force, then true, but those people should take a quick course in Dutch and read up on the parliamentary enquiry into "investigatory methods". This showed how roughly 80% of drugs transported through the Netherlands in the late 80s/early 90s were transported by law enforcement agencies trying to catch the "bad guys"...

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Coat

@Chris Williams

Oooh! Being compared to the Sunday Times is a sore point, is it?

Not that I blame you...

My coat is the one that can't be compared to anything.

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So on those numbers & market share

Assuming 10m UK (maybe a bit generous) broadband users that would be 1 access per 72 users per day. Say 1.5-1.75% of the population. This does not seem unreasonable.

But a list that no one can audit? And this 404 message? The IWF acts like its ashamed of what it's doing.

Thumbs up for giving some figures but it could just as easily be thumbs down for the secracy.

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Re: which ISP is that

"my own ISP has stated publicly that they will never do so and don't believe in censorship (and if forced will give us means to bypass it)"

Tell us who please?

My ISP is Quik Internet www.quikinternet.co.uk (no C in quik)

They have told me that they would never do Phorm. I could ask about other filtering but I know them well enough to know the answer.

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Boffin

A couple of Sysadmin questions

Does the IWF mandate the 404 message or is this up to the ISP?

I've never configured a web server so please forgive my ignorance. Is it that difficult to change the error message page served given certain conditions? I've had "Forbidden" on some page requests to some websites. This seems honest to me. Is checking *each* incoming URL request against the list and short circuiting to a "Forbidden" page *that*complex?

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Not even a drop inthe ocean

>>>>>

Extrapolated to the entire UK broadband market*, the figures mean there are more than 58 million attempts to access sites on the Internet Watch Foundation's (IWF) blocklist annually.

<<<<<

Which is less than one hit per member of the UK population per year. If I were dependent upon the IWF for my living then that is not the kind of statisitic I would want known as it goes to show just how much of a waste of space the IWF is. Furthermore it's hard to believe that out of over 50 million registered domains there is only a list 800-1200 URLs being blocked at any one time. Given that the list will not exclusively contain the sort of site it was created for then it is an even bigger waste of space.

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Black Helicopters

No record

"No record of the attempt to access a child pornography site is made or reported to authorities."

Except of course the record NULabia makes every ISP keep of every page you visit for 2 years. So while it may be true that it is not reported, it is not true to say it is not recorded for later investigation. It is just not recorded seperately...

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Anonymous Coward

Blind Faith...

...Album cover? Wasn't she just 13/14?

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CEOP and the real world.

@ james hedley

"Most of the time the IWF is doing useful stuff then. But I'd feel a lot better if someone were actually going out to shut down the sites on the blacklist, rather than the "LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU" approach of filtering."

It may be reassuring for you to know that there are in fact some real hard-nosed cops on the case of these sickos. The Child Exploitation and Online Protection centre (CEOP) is a national police unit that actively pursues and arrests people engaged in this trade and, more importantly, actually rescues children who are being exploited. Latest stats from their website - http://www.ceop.gov.uk/ - show 297 arrests and 131 children rescued.

Maybe if the resources devoted to the Jacqui Smith's PR exercise over at the IWF (stats 0/0) were diverted to this operation we would see an improvement in the overall detection and conviction rate for this crime.

An insight into how this kind of work effects the officers who are at the sharp end of this type of work can be found in this Times article.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/crime/article6040711.ece

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Blocking is not enough, BT

"No record of the attempt to access a child pornography site is made or reported to authorities"

Those of us who are parents would like to know why. The innocent who may have found themselves clicking on dubious links, accidentally, have nothing to fear but the browsing habits of persistent offenders should be logged and they should be investigated. This is one area where I'm happy for the State to intervene!

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Anonymous Coward

Statistics

The current "voluntary" censorship is prequel for the mandatary censorship which is being heavily lobbied by the list managers. A high blockcount from current list gives basis for their arguments on mandatory censorship. Theres no point to censor sites if nobody even tries to access them.

This fact makes this 40 000 number suspicious. Theres a high temptation for list managers to add non child pornographic sites to inflate the numbers. The more blocks they get the better their argument for making censorship mandatory. Legal but embarrasing sites are best for this as people wont complain about it loudly. In Finland the leaked list had 3 topmost returns from Google search "Gay porn" and gay porn is legal in Finland as long as subjects are over 18. You could say that finnish police were cought with pants down on inflating block counts.

As for returning 404 error on blocked sites, that too inflates blockcount. People usually try to reload page a few times after getting 404 error to check if it is a network error or really a nonworking address. You can safely divide that 40 000 with 2, probably with 4 to counter this.

So, for a followup questions I would ask how many of those 40 000 are reload tries within 15 mins from first request from same ip addresses, and how many hits top 10 of blocked sites got. First part to get more accurate number of how many times the site has been tried to access, and second part to get a inclination if there censors have been trying to inflate numbers by adding legal sites on the list. If high percentage of blocks go to the top ten it's a indication that censors might have been naughty with the aim to inflate numbers.

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Paris Hilton

@Elle

"The innocent who may have found themselves clicking on dubious links, accidentally, have nothing to fear "

Except the knock on the door, the policeman telling your husband (beacuse it is always the man), in front of you, your children and neighbours that he is suspected of viewing child porn, taking his DNA, and noting the suspicion on his criminal record, which he may not have had up until this moment. You explain it was an accident, and IF the nice policeman believes you, the charge is dropped. His DNA is still on file, his record still shows the suspicion.

You then have to explain to your neighbours it was "just a mistake", you weren't really viewing child porn, it was all just a horrible mistake. Watch as your children now can't have their friends to stay any more as "there is no smoke without fire" and their friend's mums and dads find excuses for them not to stay over at your house.

Your husband loses his job as his regular CRB check now returns that he was once suspected of child sex offences (yes, it stays on file, even if unproven thanks to new labour).

No, nothing to hide, nothing to fear at all.

I'd re-phrase that trite expression you trot out so glibly as "nothing to hide, everything to lose", and suggest you think about the above scenario for a while.

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@ Tony Hoyle

What a great idea Tony. Force the IWF to publish their blocking list.

Of course no pervert would ever then think - "Hey, this is the really good stuff, I'll find an ISP that doesn't block these sites and go work my way through the list."

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As with all filters...

...take theirs with a grain of salt. Filters are unreliable at best. Child porn sites and other 'undesirables' on the internet often change IP addresses and host providers, some of them daily. Most are not even publicly published nor advertised, requiring invitations via instant message, email, etc to even get a site IP address to go to.

If any single entity would have a 'reliable' list, it would be Google from what the Googlebot crawls on a daily basis. As we all know, those SE bots crawl everything, even with robots.txt defined (that just prevents them from indexing the material, btw). Any list with manually entered addresses fail, and fail hard.

Oh, and for you folks there across the pond, this J. Smith person sounds like a right twat. Why don't you do yourselves a favor and vote her out on her ass next election. For someone like her to get in, it's almost like she Gerrymandered her votes or something.

Also, that agency someone mentioned above that REALLY is doing the work of saving abused children and arresting predators...that group you should all donate funds to or send them mail thanking them in support for their efforts. It wouldn't hurt to write editorials for your local papers either in support of the work they do. Those types of agencies are what we need more of, not the do-nothing types like the IWF (or frankly most of the US Congress and related governmental agencies).

No icon because there is nothing appropriate to choose from ( I suggest a pic of J. Smith dressed as the Wicked Witch of the West be added).

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Boffin

@thejynxed

Jacquiline Timney nee Smith would probably be what some of your countrymen describe as a Feminazi. Her department covers most of what you would know as the TSA, INS, Secret Service & FBI (including its domestic security functions). What you would think of as Federal prosecutions are handled by a separate Ministry of Justice.

She is a former Chief Whip, which in UK political parties is a role responsible for ensuring all party members in the house vote the party line when necessary. IIRC you parties do not have such an official title (although I suspect your party leaders might sometime wish differently). No doubt extensive files on MPs "Interests" helped her a lot in that job. Her hobbies include avoiding questions on where she lives (and why here living expenses roughly double her salary) and setting up lifetime surveillance of the entire British people.

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Boffin

This is how it works

The IWF have a block list that is compiled essentialy from reports directly to them from anyone that could be you, me, the regulators, ISP's etc. They check to see if the images reported are illegal and if yes they put these onto the CAIC list. ISP's or similar who take the list and implent it block access to that content. The IWF are regularly audited to ensure they are only blocking illegal images/content.

The 404 errors are purely to stop people knowing where the sites are and circumventing the block to get to them.

Anyone with access to google and half a brain knows this system is merely a weak workaround and certainly does not protect the 95% of ISP's customers who have to date implemented the list. It certainly stops the risk of getting to some sites though nothing more.

Does it stop paedophiles and those interested in acessing the content? No it does not and never will.

www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~rnc1/cleanfeed.pdf

Closest yet to accuracy!

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@ AC 13:13

I've read the link. Interesting stuff. 24 hours to scan the whole internet to re-build the IWF watch list (on dial-up).Say 1/2 to 1/3 that time with broad band as you ar going upstream?

And we may be seeing the route of the BT Phorm-is-legal argument.

BT proxy forges reply SYN/ACK packets as coming from the host.->just like (in a lawyers mind) forging cookies from a host ->its OK because we are complying with IWF.

So in short. Phorn is legal because it works in the same way as Cleanfeed.

IE "Think of the children!"

Yes that does sound like B*((^&s to me. But it also just *might* be an argument a lawyer would use. If they were *very* slimy and had a client who wanted to do something, like spy on their customers.

Thumbs up, but only for the article. I think my view of Phorm is already pretty clear.

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DR

@Duncan Hothersall - Sunday Times style headline from El Reg?

"Up to 40,000 URLs on the IWF block list accessed each day DOES NOT mean, or even come close to meaning, 40,000 child porn pages. As we know, from recent articles in this very publication, the IWF blocks a lot more than "child porn" - sometimes they block an entire site, or an entire page, when the only thing that should be listed is a single image. Assuming your average page, with images, CSS, JS and the rest, might deliver 10 files to a web browser, you can cut the figure down to 4,000 a day at a stroke."

a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing can't it just...

and I assume that you've only got a little knowledge, -either that or you just didn't think it through...

yes, your website server 40,000 individual objects, images, css documents java script etc... so that could be called 40,000 blocks for that site...

EXCEPT, a 404 page is returned, so none of those objects that would have been referenced are actually ever referenced, your browser won't try to download those objects, as it is never told to download those objects.

so the 40,000 blocks are exactly that, 40,000 blocked attempts to access filtered pages.

the quality of those blocks is yet to be discussed, and can't be fully appreciated unless a list is published so that it can be independently verified. -not a job that I want.

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