Internet Service Providers

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 9th July 2007.

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Photo of Siân James Siân James Labour, Swansea East 2:30 pm, 9th July 2007

What work she is undertaking with internet service providers to ensure that they take a responsible approach to the contents they host.

Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Home Secretary

The Government continue to work with the internet industry to ensure that inappropriate material is not hosted in the UK and that there is a greater understanding of and clarity about when criminal offences have been committed on the internet.

As part of that approach, there is ongoing co-operation between internet service providers and law enforcement agencies. Most service providers have acceptable use policies in place that enable the removal of material from any site if it is illegal, distasteful or otherwise unacceptable.

Photo of Siân James Siân James Labour, Swansea East

I thank the Home Secretary for her answer and congratulate her on her new role.

Given the huge increase in videos that depict scenes of violence, antisocial behaviour and criminal behaviour, which are being uploaded on to such internet services, does my right hon. Friend agree that it is time for the police to have more powers when dealing with internet service providers who persist in the glorification of such acts?

Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Home Secretary

It is clearly unacceptable for such criminal acts to have been committed in the first place and then uploaded on to the sorts of sites that my hon. Friend mentioned. We need to look at the matter in two stages. First, criminal law already covers the first offence of the attack—whether it is assault, wounding, actual or grievous bodily harm or antisocial behaviour, which my hon. Friend mentioned.

Secondly, someone who records a violent offence could be criminally liable for uploading it either because they have committed the offence being filmed or because they were involved in planning it and would therefore be open to charges of conspiracy, incitement, aiding and abetting or being involved in a joint enterprise to commit the offence.

Uploading the video as well as taking part in the offence could be an aggravating factor when sentencing is considered. It is important to keep the matter under review and my hon. Friend has put her finger on something that concerns many people. However, the law is in place and we need to continue working with the police and internet service providers to ensure that we limit that unacceptable activity.

S

I'm glad to see someone actually looking at this legislation with a clear head and applying rational thought to it, but it has to be pointed out that the wording of the proposed law with its empahsis on words and phrases such as "appears" and "appears likely to", means that images of many non-criminal acts or 'staged secnes' will be 'criminalised' by this law. Bestiality and necrophilia aside; No one is arguing that real acts of serious violence are acceptable, clearly they are not, but it is also clear they are a vanishingly small percentage of the images that will be caught under this law. In fact the Govt. has yet to name a single site that it can show carries such images. That is not to say such sites don't...

Submitted by Steven Dorif Continue reading

Photo of Paul Beresford Paul Beresford Conservative, Mole Valley

The Home Secretary will know that paedophiles regularly download some appalling child abuse videos and films on to their computers. Increasingly, they are encrypting the material so that the police cannot get access to it. The police have been waiting about five years for the statutory instrument relating to encryption and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. When will they get it?

Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Home Secretary

I know that the hon. Gentleman has taken a strong interest in the matter. Since coming into the Home Office, I have been impressed by the work of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre and the work that the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend Mr. Coaker is leading. I understand that we are looking at that specific matter to bring it forward. I hope that we can get back to the hon. Gentleman with news on that soon.

Photo of Brian Iddon Brian Iddon Labour, Bolton South East

May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to a substantial piece of work that Zentek Forensics in my constituency carried out? It showed that it is ever so easy to google one's way around the firewalls that prevent children from accessing some very undesirable material. That is happening in schools, libraries and children's bedrooms in the evenings at home. Will my right hon. Friend look at the providers of commercial filters and try to get them to strengthen their firewalls?

Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Home Secretary

I am happy to look at anything we can do to protect children from some of the dangers of the internet. I recognise, of course, that the internet plays an important role in the lives of children and young people—at their schools, in their social lives and in their ability to research. However, it is clearly unacceptable if we cannot put the technical safeguards in place. We have been considering how we can, for example, kitemark some of the products that are involved in filtering and monitoring software. Perhaps, as part of that activity, the company to which my hon. Friend referred could make some progress. However, we take the issue extremely seriously.

Photo of Patrick Cormack Patrick Cormack Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee

Although I welcome the Home Secretary's comments, does she agree that it is a tragedy that what used to be the place where childhood innocence was protected and preserved—the home—is now often the place where it is corrupted and destroyed?

Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Home Secretary

If that were the sole impact of the internet and some of the new methods of communication, I would agree with the hon. Gentleman. However, as the parent of a teenager, I have had my eyes opened and been amazed by the scope for friends to communicate with each another and talk to each other through sites like Bebo. Sometimes I wish that they would talk face to face; nevertheless, important elements of social networking take place through such sites. We need to put in place the technical safeguards necessary to educate parents and children about how to use them safely. That is an important part of CEOP's work. I know that work is going on to consider especially those social networking sites. We will soon produce guidance on the technical matters and the way in which we can better advise parents, who need to take responsibility for what their children do in the home.

Photo of Martin Salter Martin Salter Labour, Reading West

I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on her new role. Will she join me in paying tribute to Liz Longhurst, who has campaigned tirelessly since the horrific murder of her daughter, Jane, for the outlawing of extreme images of violent internet pornography, which will be made illegal in the recently published Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill? Will my right hon. Friend tell the House when that welcome measure is likely to receive its Second Reading?

S

Mr. Salter should know that the measure to which he refers is not confined to internet images.

Submitted by Sean Goldthorpe

Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Home Secretary

I think that the legislation to which my hon. Friend refers is due to receive its Second Reading in the autumn. He is right that the campaigning of Liz Longhurst, ably supported and championed by him, has brought the issue to the fore and applied the necessary pressure to bring about those legislative changes, which will be important in offering protection in this area.

S

Ms. Smith could have been more helpful by describing what the measure will protect anybody from? The outlawing of possession of "extreme pornography" appears to have been brought forward in response to the self- serving statements...

Submitted by Sean Goldthorpe Continue reading