Home Department written question – answered on 14th July 2008.

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Photo of Laurence Robertson Laurence Robertson Shadow Minister (Northern Ireland)

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department which organisation is responsible for regulating (a) Bebo, (b) YouTube and (c) other internet sites; and if she will make a statement.

Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Crime Reduction)

holding answer 7 July 2008

While the internet is a worldwide medium, it is subject to UK law and the UK Government policy is that what is illegal offline is illegal online. As such the internet is subject to the same laws as other media.

The Government's policy in relation to the development of the internet is not to place general monitoring obligations or regulation on those who provide internet services, host websites etc., but rather to allow self-regulation.

In practice, there are excellent working relationships with the internet industry, and they have developed strong working practices and guidelines relating to services they offer and content they host. Where a UK ISP is advised—usually by law enforcement—that they are hosting material which is illegal, they have an excellent record in removing it.

Most recently the Home Secretary's Taskforce on Online Child Protection published the Good Practice Guidance for the Providers of Social Networking and Other Interactive Services 2008. This was produced by members of the Taskforce including representatives from social networking sites. This Guidance asks companies to consider a risk assessment approach to their services and considering putting in place a range of potential safeguards where risks to children do occur. It also identifies to both the providers of interactive services and parents, teachers and carers how these sites can be used to exploit children and gives advice on how to keep children safe while using social networking tools.

In September 2007, the Prime Minister announced a review into the risk to children of exposure to harmful or inappropriate content in video games and online. The review also assessed the effectiveness and adequacy of existing measures to help prevent children from being exposed to such material and help parents understand and manage the risks of access to inappropriate content.

Dr. Tanya Byron conducted this review and reported to Ministers in March 2008. The Government have accepted all of the recommendations arising from the review and are currently planning for their implementation. The Government are actively involved in developing the UK Council on Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS), which will replace the Home Secretary's Taskforce.

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