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.