Child Porn Blacklist Group Claims Its Approach Is Working, But There Are Lots Of Questions

from the fun-with-self-reported-statistics dept

The Internet Watch Foundation, keeper of the UK's child-porn blacklist that's used to block access to offending sites (as well as other innocuous ones), has released some new stats saying that it's seen a reduction in the number of child porn sites in the last year. However, sort of like the group's methodology, the figure has quite a few holes. The figure is apparently based on "domains known to the IWF", which is a fairly subjective, and hardly comprehensive, criteria. Also, given the way that the IWF has blocked the likes of Wikipedia and the Internet Archive, how many sites that aren't actually child-porn sites are included in that number? But perhaps more damning is the rest of the report, which highlights just how ineffective the IWF's blacklist really is at tackling the root of the problem. It's well-established that these sorts of filters don't work, despite the IWF implying it can take credit for reducing the number of child porn sites. The IWF says that less than one percent of the sites can be traced to hosts in the UK, and that a huge portion of the commercial sites it's found can be traced back to just ten domain registrars. This illustrates how non-filter solutions, such as working through these registrars to track down child-porn hosts and producers, promise a more effective solution to the real problem -- the production and sharing of the images. Trying to stop consumption via filters really just masks the issue, despite claims that by cutting off demand, the market will shrink. That might work, if the filters actually worked. The IWF does offer some suggestions for more comprehensive solutions to tackle the problem, but as long as it keeps "Public/private partnership involving service providers working through a system of self-regulation" -- basically its current model of getting ISPs to use its blacklist -- at the top of the list, it seems doomed to ineffectiveness.

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