The conviction of Vincent Tabak for the murder of Jo Yeates has thrown the issue of online criminally obscene adult content, sometimes known as
extreme porn, into the limelight. The vast majority of the IWF's work concerns the removal of images of child sexual abuse from the internet, for which we have an international remit, but we also deal with criminally obscene adult material hosted
in the UK.
In 2007 the Home Office asked the IWF to allow our public internet reporting mechanism to be used for the reporting of UK-hosted criminally obscene adult content. Following consultation with our industry members, our Board informed the government
of our agreement to fulfil this role, from 26 January 2009, as part of our original remit.
We are able to act on any public reports of online obscene adult content when it is hosted in the UK and contravenes UK Law, we cannot act if the content is hosted abroad and do not action legal adult content. The online industry fully supports us
issuing takedown notices for this part of our remit. However, we receive very few reports of this type of content which satisfies these criteria and enable us to issue a takedown notice:
In 2010 we issued eight notices for criminally obscene adult content.
In 2009 we issued two notices.
In 2008 the number was 39.
The reason there are so few is a reflection that the UK online industry provides one of the harshest environments for hosting criminal material. On those rare occasions when material believed to be unlawful is depicted on a website hosted in the
UK, we work in partnership with the online industry and the police to provide information to assist investigations into the distributers of the content. The material is removed in hours.
The IWF is not an organisation which makes moral judgements on what is hosted on the internet. We are solely concerned with the prompt removal of criminal content within our remit and we have achieved great successes in this.
Offsite: Interview with Susie Hargreaves, IWF Chief Executive
7th November 2011. See interview
by Jane Fae
In recent years, the IWF has widened its net slightly. To its original concern with child abuse images, and imagery that breaches the Obscene Publications Act, it has added extreme porn (2008) and cartoon images of child abuse
Which brings us full circle to the question of whether the IWF is in danger of turning into a net police ? Hargreaves thinks not: There is no one on the IWF board from the police. Members come from a range of backgrounds, including human
rights and some have strong anti-censorship views: the role of the IWF is to implement a takedown and filtering of material in line with what the industry wants.
And there, she suggests, is the heart of the matter. It is not unusual to hear the IWF praised by government -- or even ministers suggesting, sotto voce, that the IWF could be used as a solution to this or other problems, namely online bullying,
terrorist sites and even piracy.
But so far, all such pressures have been resisted. MPs, she tells us, recognise that the IWF does what it does best by sticking to a very specific focus .
...Read the full interview