Examination of Witnesses (Questions 220-239)|
18 MARCH 2008
Q220 Helen Southworth: Does ISPA
have a specific budget for child online protection?
Mr Lansman: We do. It is perhaps
unfair to judge big corporate companies for failing to split up
budget lines into the minutiae of detail. However, I do take your
point which is very important.
Q221 Helen Southworth: I do not think
child protection online is "minutiae of detail".
Mr Lansman: The big corporates
will have multi-billion pound budgets. I think that splitting
Q222 Helen Southworth: I do not know
whether their customers would think the same.
Mr Lansman: I volunteer to go
back to the membership and suggest that we try to provide the
Committee with some information on that. I can see where you are
coming from. As to ISPA itself, it is a not for profit trade association
and every year it allocates £20,000 out of a sum of between
£200,000 and £300,000 which is the turnover from membership
fees in the main, so somewhere between 10% of the revenue of ISPA
goes to the Internet Watch Foundation as a fee. In addition, a
great deal of the time of ISPA staff and members is spent on secondment
to various charities, CEOP and work with the Home Office. The
problem is one of trying to allocate an enormous amount of time
and resource from people whose jobs are to deal with lots of things
where child abuse images and child protection are just one of
the issues. It is more a problem of unpicking the financials than
a lack of willingness to do it.
Q223 Helen Southworth: I want to
ask about notice and take down policies for potentially illegal
content. Once something has been reported as potentially illegal
how long does it take before it is removed?
Ms de Stempel: It is a matter
of 24 hours. We have a system similar to that of CEOP and an escalation
process, for example, for child abuse images if it is flagged
as such. Unless people flag us as to exactly what it is, all abuse
might end up in the same box, but that would be removed from our
service, so it will no longer be available to anyone else who
has not opened an email where it is attached and law enforcement
then picks it up for us.
Mr Galvin: It is done in 24 hours.
Often to speed up the process when something is reported to us
rather than have a debate about whether or not it is illegal it
is a lot quicker to say that under our taste and decency policy
we have the power to remove it immediately and not get into a
debate about the legalities of it. Quite a lot of the notice and
take down occurs under our taste and decency policy rather than
a debate about whether or not it is illegal.
Q224 Helen Southworth: Is 24 hours
an industry standard?
Mr Lansman: The law defines the
notice and take down procedure as "it should be removed expeditiously",
so there is no clarity on what the time should be. But on issues
such as child abuse images for the industry the answer is "as
quickly as possible". We have referred to 24 hours. I think
there are other types of content where there must be a greater
reflection, but I think that for child abuse images it is done
as quickly as possible and 24 hours is an industry standard.
Q225 Helen Southworth: Are you confident
that it is met?
Mr Lansman: It is best practice.
Q226 Helen Southworth: You just added
"best practice" as I asked whether you were confident
it was met. There are issues as to whether something is best practice
or it is the standard.
Mr Lansman: I am confident that
the Internet Watch Foundation which obviously will deliver the
notices has never reported anything other than speedy co-operation
Q227 Helen Southworth: What about
users reporting content that they find distasteful but is not
Ms de Stempel: We have very stringent
conditions of service attached. Each member of ISPA has its own
standards of service, so if it breaches any of our terms of service
it will be taken down expeditiously as well.
Q228 Helen Southworth: For example,
bullying or pro-suicide sites?
Ms de Stempel: Absolutely. If
it is hosted on our service and is against our policy it will
be taken down.
Mr Galvin: Absolutely. I think
the importance of a taste and decency clause in the terms and
conditions is that it gives you much more freedom of choice about
what sites you host. We and all the reputable ISPs have a very
low bar for what we consider to cross the taste and decency line.
A pro-suicide site would make it over the bar by miles. We are
now taking down things that would cause offence, for example the
publication of people's personal details. Basically, the taste
and decency policy is defined as anything that causes distress
to our customers.
Mr Lansman: ISPA's position has
been to help quite a lot of the smaller ISPs which have acceptable
use policies (AUPs). This has developed a best practice template
for an AUP. Obviously, the issue about "harmful" is
one that is open to interpretation. To whom is it harmful? I think
it is right that different ISPs through their acceptable use policies
can take slightly different views on what is acceptable or not
to their service. There are ISPs that provide access to the Internet
and take a much stricter family view where their communities are
more geared to families and there are other ISPs which will take
a slightly more open-minded adult view, accepting that customers
might be in a different community. I think that is right because
it is difficult to get the balance right between what is someone's
harm and another's freedom to look at.
Ms de Stempel: Within those constraints
we might have even greater granularity as to some of the things
that are allowed in kids' chat rooms or in a football chat room
after 11.30 when pubs are closed. The language we would allow
in football chat rooms after pub closing is very much more permissive
than in a child's chat room. For example, if you say a bad word
beginning with "f" in a kid's chat room you will get
a warning about that language. If you use the same word after
11.30 at night in a football chat room it may be seen as banter
rather than a bad word.
Q229 Helen Southworth: How would
you handle the fact that irrespective of what time it is put on
it can be accessed at any point at a later date?
Ms de Stempel: Because we have
reporting mechanisms. If somebody reports me for saying a bad
word it will have a stamp as to where I was exactly on AOL's or
any other service and at what time.
Q230 Helen Southworth: But the fact
is that you have a football chat room which you say takes place
after the pub is closed and is put on a site at a specific time.
Ms de Stempel: Yes.
Q231 Helen Southworth: You do not
have a watershed like television. If television puts out something
after nine o'clock there is a watershed but if it wants to repeats
it next morning at nine or 10 o'clock it cannot put it out again,
whereas yours will remain on the site; you cannot hold the watershed.
Ms de Stempel: No. A chat room
has gone as soon as the page has gone, so it will not remain on
Q232 Helen Southworth: You work on
the assumption that by the time other people add to it the site
will have disappeared?
Mr Galvin: Yes; it lasts for only
a few minutes and has temporary content.
Mr Lansman: You are alluding to
the difficulty that the Internet is a global environment and someone's
watershed in the UK is not someone's watershed in America. That
is an issue because of global time differences and the fact that
the Internet is available everywhere at all times.
Mr Galvin: What is regarded in
this country as bad language may not be so regarded elsewhere.
Q233 Chairman: Are your chat rooms
Ms de Stempel: For children, absolutely.
Q234 Chairman: Not the football chat
Ms de Stempel: You can call in
someone to help you if something is happening in the football
Q235 Chairman: I can set up a chat
room now. There are lots of sites that allow individuals to set
up chat rooms that cannot possibly be moderated?
Ms de Stempel: No.
Q236 Chairman: You are operating
a walled garden but outside of that it is a free for all?
Ms de Stempel: It is not a free
for all; it is about the people who are in the chat room. That
is why we build those reporting mechanisms. We have different
approaches to the reporting mechanisms to which Mr Galvin referred.
Different ISPs or content providers have different approaches
to the concept of exactly where it leads but everyone has a reporting
mechanism. The important thing is to be able to report an activity
on one's service so the service provider can take appropriate
Q237 Chairman: But if I go onto one
of the websites which allows the creation of chat roomsone
is called Chatsyit has no system whereby I can report abuse.
Mr Lansman: You are right in pointing
out the difference between an Internet service provider and a
chat room which may be a website set up by anyone, including yourself.
Where an ISP such as AOL provides a chat room service for children
and so forth it can monitor and moderate it and make sure it is
safe for its community. If it is set up by anyone or another organisation
it has to be treated as a website and if necessary end users can
filter so as not to go into that website.
Q238 Chairman: If you were moderating
a children's chat room and you became suspicious that somebody
who came into it was pretending to be a child would you report
it to the police?
Ms de Stempel: Absolutely.
Q239 Chairman: Therefore, you are
proactive in seeking out abuse?
Ms de Stempel: We are not seeking
it out, but if someone is seen to be behaving inappropriately
we will report it. Not long ago we reported a message on the message
board which was not illegal or against our terms of service; it
just smelt inappropriate. We reported for advice as to what we
should do. We take it down just in case but then we report it
for advice. We have to build on our experience as commercial people.