Responsibility, ISPs and child pornography

June 10, 2008

Thanks to search engines and ISPs, you’re only a couple of words and a click away from the unbearably grim world of child pornography.

Unless you’re a 60s rock star engaging in research, there really is no good reason for you to go exploring these dark digital alleyways. And ISPs agree. It’s your fault if you go looking. Individual responsibility is key. Child Pornography? Society’s problem say ISPs, not ours.

Besides, in the UK, ISPs are rather more interested in partnering with the record industry to campaignVirgin Media against music sharing, than in partnering with the police to prevent the circulation of less easily monetised but more hellish content – like videos of mercilessly exploited children.

After all, they didn’t make the stuff. They just delivered it.

So does online responsibility for content begin and end with the individual?

The ISPs’ argument for non-action may well be about to get its first major knock. The New York Times reports a ground-breaking enforcement action by the office of Andrew Cuomo, the state attorney general:

“The I.S.P.s’ point had been, ‘We’re not responsible, these are individuals communicating with individuals, we’re not responsible,'” he said, referring to Internet service providers. “Our point was that at some point, you do bear responsibility.”

Let’s see if someone in the UK is willing to challenge them.

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