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JILT 1997 (1) - Policing the Internet

Policing the Internet

First European Conference on Combating Violence and Pornography on the Internet

A two day European Conference organised by the Association of London Government ('ALG')
13-14 February 1997

Yaman Akdeniz

1. Introduction
2. Violence in Information Technology
3. Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking of Women
4. Industry and the Users
5. Controlling the Net
6. Cooperation from Police and Legal System
7. Setting the Policy
8. Women's Perspectives
9. Censorship or Freedom of Expression
10. Enforcing the Policies
11. The Way Forward
12. General Comment
13. Conference Schedule

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Date of publication: 28 February 1997

Citation: Akdeniz, Y, 'Policing the Internet', Conference Report, 1997 (1) The Journal of Information, Law and Technology (JILT). <>. New citation as at 1/1/04: <>

1. Introduction

Policing the Internet conference was organised to look at what can, and should be done to combat violence and pornography on the Internet. The two day conference was part-funded by the European Union and was held by the Association of London Government on 13-14 February 1997 in London. The aim of the conference was to focus on the technical and moral issues around policing, legality and censorship to tackle the growing amount of and ever easier access to violence and pornography on the Internet. The conference, chaired by Sue Cameron, looked in particular at what can be done about the increasing amount of violence against women and children, and will draw up a proposal to put to the European Union to influence European policy on tackling violence and pornography on the Internet.

The conference follows two recent papers prepared by the European Commission - the Communication on Illegal and Harmful Content on the Internet, Com (96) 487 and the Green Paper on the, Protection of Minors and Human Dignity in Audiovisual and Information Services , Com (96) 483

2. Violence in Information Technology

Monika Gerstendorfer, the first speaker, a psychologist and a human rights campaigner, explained what was 'computer pornography'. Her definition of 'pornography' included torture of women and children and also acts of bestiality. Ms Gerstendorfer also mentioned the use of pseudo-photographs (computer generated images) to create virtual women where every women may become a potential porn-star or may be virtually subject to rape and torture. Ms Gerstendorfer explained that these kind of computer generated images may have both physical and psychological effects especially on children. Her definition of pornography also included trafficking and selling of women and children on the Internet by many organisations which did not exist in the real world. According to Ms Gerstendorfer the Internet is just a mirror of what is happening in the real world but it is a medium which facilitates these types of violent behaviour towards women and children. Through-out the conference she sent out the message, 'Don't click it away' and supported the view that there is no space for this kind of activity on the Internet.

3. Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking of Women on the Internet: Protecting the Dignity of Women

Donna Hughes, of University of Rhode Island also highlighted the point that the Internet is used for selling and trafficking of women and children and that there are world wide web sites and newsgroups covering detailed information on prostitution. Ms Hughes stated that pornography is a very big commercial market in and out of the Internet and that pornographic sites are the leaders in the Internet industry to develop web pages. According to Ms Hughes, a recent issue of Computing magazine stated that 'marketers are advised to look at pornographic sites to catch up with recent developments' with the creation of web pages. Ms Hughes also stated that sexual exploitation of women and children starts with real persons before the images and information are put on the Internet and that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is violated by sexual exploitation. Sex tours are advertised on the Internet and women and children are often offered in one package. She demanded that it should be illegal to use the Internet for these purposes.

It should be noted that the UK Government recently dealt with the problem of incitement in the context of transnational child abuse. The Sexual Offences (Conspiracy & Incitement) Act 1996 became law in June 1996. Section 2 of the new Act makes it an offence to incite another person to commit certain sexual acts against children abroad. Section 2 extends, for the purposes of the Act, the scope of incitement to ensure that any incitement by means of a telephone call, fax, Internet message or similar method is deemed to take place in the UK if the message is received in the UK.

4. Industry and the Users

Janet Henderson, from British Telecom, who also chairs the Content Blocking Group of the Internet Law and Policy Forum, looked at the problem of policing the Internet from an industry perspective. Whether the Internet Service providers should do something about these issues was her main concern and she stated that 'monitoring content on the Internet is a dangerous activity'. But Ms Henderson put the newsgroups in a different category and stated that BT did not carry illegal newsgroups in their servers and if they come across any illegal material such as child pornography they would report this to the Internet Watch Foundation BT is currently working on a Code of Practice for the customers and they support the PICS initiatives.

5. Controlling the Net: Is Regulation technically Possible?

Mark Cartwright, a consultant to Smith Systems Engineering, explained the technical solutions offered to monitor illegal or harmful content on the Internet. These included address filtering, service filtering and content labelling/filtering. According to Mr. Cartwright, all the existing solutions need to be developed further to find an effective solution.

6. Cooperation from the Police and the Legal System

Damien Eames, a Consultant to Hydra Associates, produced the core research behind the European Commission's Green Paper on the Protection of Minors and Human Dignity in Audiovisual and Information Services and he explained the diversity across different media. According to his report regulatory uncertainty has left the Internet largely untouched except for generally applicable laws (e.g. obscenity, child pornography). This has put the police in the forefront in dealing with the Internet at a stage of Internet development where control is very difficult. He concluded that greater clarity will be needed in content regulation. Martin Jauch of the Metropolitan Police explained that pornography is one of these things and that the police are not Internet experts. He explained the current situation of the law and stated that there is nothing much they can do about the availability of pornographic content on the Internet. Rather the industry itself should be responsible, according to his views, especially with respect to newsgroups. Mr Jauch explained the recent initiatives such as the Internet Watch Foundation and talked about self-regulation as well.

It should be noted that in late August 1996, UK Metropolitan Police sent a letter to UK Internet Service Providers ('ISPs') asking them to remove around 130 newsgroups allegedly carrying child pornography. Not all the newsgroups included in the Metropolitan Police's list carried illegal material and their action was widely criticised. (See 'UK Police Ban of 133 Newsgroups' by Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK) )

David Kerr, chief executive of the Internet Watch Foundation ('IWF') explained the UK initiatives to remove materials containing child pornography from the Internet. In December 1996, there have been 28 reports from the on-line users which resulted in 5 pictures being removed from the UK ISPs servers (mainly newsgroups). In January 1997 they have reported over 100 illegal materials to the UK Police and there have been 50 reports by the on-line users. Mr Kerr stated that most of the illegal material on the Internet containing child pornography are posted from outside the UK and the EU (mainly from USA) and international co-operation is needed to be effective.

7. Setting the Policy

On the second day of the conference,Jorg Tauss , a member of the German Bundestag Committee of Enquiry into Media and Violence stated that he was against the policing of the Internet for pornography while it is widely available in the streets in his country. Mr. Tauss mentioned the difficulties in defining the word 'pornography' and stated that this would be even more complicated in an international environment like the Internet. Mr. Tauss said that while the regulation of pornography would be difficult and unworkable, child pornography is another matter. Mr. Tauss stated that the 'Internet is not an illegal vacuum or beyond the rule of law' and that the police should take action to combat child pornography. Mr. Tauss also mentioned that the authorities do not understand the Internet at all and in one case in Germany the person who has reported child pornography to German authorities himself was prosecuted (because he had the material in his cache memory).

8. Women's Perspectives

Liz Kelly &Dianne Butterworth, of University of North London talked about the protection of human dignity and that freedom of expression is not absolute. They draw the line with violent pornography and child pornography. They stated that rating systems and censorship of pornography on the Internet is futile and useless. They supported the view that these issues should be addressed in general (not only with respect to the Internet) to do something in the long term.

9.Censorship or Freedom of Expression

Nel van Dijk, Member of the European Parliament (MEP - Netherlands) stated that cybersex is all about old fantasies in a new bottle and that we should not allow governments to tell us what to do about our sex lives. According to her censorship does not work with the Internet and it even makes it worse that the information quickly spreads around and gets attention from all around the world (e.g. Zundel case or the Radikal case). She also stated that production of child pornography rather than possession of it should be illegal as in the Netherlands.

10. Enforcing the Policies

Karl Heinz Moewes of the Munich Police stated that the medium is abused and not people on the Internet and that the real problem remains elsewhere. Mr Moewes supported the view that Internet should not be censored but free speech cannot be backed on child abuse. While doing his presentation he showed some shocking pictures of child pornography. These included children as young as 6 having sexual intercourse with adults. Sue Cameron, the chair person of the Policing the Internet conference intervened and asked him not to show anymore of these pictures. He replied that these were the kind of material they were dealing with and that he did not have to be a moralist as a policeman. He also mentioned that a child may be affected by seeing these pictures.

While Mr. Moewes did show some shocking pictures, he had a purpose in mind. He wanted to show the delegates of the conference what the police were dealing with. Not many people present at the conference had seen pictures of child pornography before. So the audience was affected and this may help the authorities and people concerned with the problem of child pornography to understand the seriousness of the problem.

11. International Responses: The Way Forward

Elisabeth Massonnet, of the French Ministry for Telecommunications and Postal Affairs explained the French initiatives within the OECD and stated that OECD, which includes over 30 countries is a wider arena than the EU to discuss Internet related issues. She explained that issues such as free speech, privacy, and human rights are also dealt within the OECD. The French proposal will be examined by the OECD this year.

The Agreement on International Co-operation with regard to the Internet, Draft French contribution to the preparatory work for the OECD ministerial conference, 23 October 1996.

12. General Comment

The conference was well organised but not well advertised. UK ISPs were not present to discuss the availability of pornographic content on the Internet while their potential liability was concerned and discussed. While Ms Elisabeth Massonnet of the French Ministry for Telecommunications and Postal Affairs was present, Mr. Ian Taylor, the UK Science and Technology Minister was not. Mr. Taylor should have attended the conference to listen to the various ideas about self-regulation and perhaps to answer some of the concerns raised by the delegates of the conference - does self-regulation equal to self-censorship or how far should the self-regulatory solutions such as the Internet Watch Foundation or rating systems such as PICS and RSACi go ? These questions were not answered and once again the conference proved that the main people concerned about the regulation of the Internet are non-users. Hopefully the unanswered questions will be answered at an International Conference in Germany in July 1997 which will look at the regulation of illegal and harmful content in the European Union.

13. Conference Schedule

Day 1

First day of the conference involved 'Issues and Priorities' and the main speakers of the day were:

'Violence in Information Technology'
Monika Gerstendorfer, Human Rights Campaigner, Germany

'Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking of Women on the Internet: Protecting the Dignity of Women'
Donna Hughes, University of Rhode Island, USA.

'Industry and the Users'
Janet Henderson, British Telecom, UK

'Controlling the Net: Is Regulation technically Possible?'
Mark Cartwright, Consultant to Smith Systems Engineering, UK

'Cooperation from the Police and the Legal System'
Damien Eames, Consultant to Hydra Associates, UK
Martin Jauch, New Scotland Yard, UK
David Kerr, Chief Executive Internet Watch Foundation, UK

Day 2

Second day of the conference involved 'The Way Forward' and the main speakers were:

'Setting the Policy'
Jorg Tauss, German Bundestag Committee of Enquiry into Media and Violence
Ann Katrin, Swedish Government Committee on Media and Violence
Alan Harding, Home Office, UK

'Women's Perspectives'
Liz Kelly & Dianne Butterworth, University of North London Salamaari Muhonen, Vice President of European Women's Lobby

'Censorship or Freedom of Expression'
Nel van Dijk, Member of European Parliament, Netherlands

'Enforcing the Policies'
Karlheinz Moewes, Munich Police, Germany
Jim Reynolds, Metropolitan Police, UK

'International Responses: The Way Forward'
French Proposal for OECD Convention, Elisabeth Massonnet
European Parliament concerns, Glyn Ford, MEP
European Commission initiatives, Francoise Mulfinger DGV, Richard Swetenham
DGXIII, Nathalie Labourdette DGX

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