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Home Office News Release, 29/03/2001

50 Queen Anne's Gate, London SW1H 9AT
(night line: 020 7273 4595) Fax: 020 7273 4660
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IMPROVING CHILD PROTECTION ON THE INTERNET: A PARTNERSHIP FOR ACTION

See also the Internet Crime Forum report, Chat Wise, Street Wise children and Internet chat services and the BBC coverage, Net paedophiles face crackdown, 29?03/2001.

A new taskforce is to be set up to help make UK cyberspace the safest place in the world for Internet users, Home Secretary
Jack Straw announced today. 

The taskforce will include representatives of the Internet industry, child welfare organisations, the police and Government. Its establishment was agreed at a meeting of key representatives from these organisations, called by the Home Secretary as part of the Government response to the recent report by the Internet Crime Forum on child safety in Internet chatrooms. Other important groups not at today's meeting such as PC retailers will also be invited to participate.

Chaired by Home Office Minister Lord Bassam, the taskforce members will work in partnership to identify and implement the best ways in which children can be better protected when using the Internet. Among the areas for action identified at the meeting were:

Progress made by the taskforce will be reviewed by the Home Secretary at a further meeting in the summer. 

Following the meeting, Mr Straw said:

"The Government is committed to tackling child abuse in any form - paedophiles and child pornographers must not be able to use new technologies with impunity. Government is playing its part, ensuring that the police have the powers to detect and pursue offenders, and that the courts have the powers to deal with them. What is illegal off-line is also illegal on-line. However if changes in the law prove necessary to prosecute and deter specific forms of on-line child abuse, the Government will act.

"But the Internet industry itself has an important role to play, as its representatives were happy to acknowledge at this meeting. I welcome the assistance that the industry already provides to the police in the course of their investigations, and trust today's agreement will build on this partnership to create a safer and more secure online environment for our children.

"Social responsibility is part of good business practice, I look forward to reviewing the efforts of the Internet industry and other parties at today's meeting in the summer. I am clear that the public will not tolerate anything but their best efforts to clean up the Internet for UK users."

Roger Darlington, Chief Executive of the Internet Watch Foundation said:

"The IWF stands ready to do everything in its power to rise to the Government's challenge so that, working with a range of partners, we can create the safest possible Internet environment for all our children. 

"We have already played a major role in the removal from UK servers of some 28,000 images of child pornography, and are now seeing whether we can assist Internet Services Providers to identify and remove those newsgroups which regularly host child pornography."

Representing the Internet industry, Nicholas Lansman of the Internet Services Providers Association (ISPA) said:

"The Internet industry takes the issue of child protection very seriously and is already working with law enforcement to tackle the problem. We welcome this new initiative and will join with other members of the taskforce to improve child protection on the Internet."

Representing the police service, Bob Packham Deputy Director General of the National Crime Squad said:

"A truly multi-agency approach is needed, with law enforcement, the Internet industry, Government, statutory and voluntary agencies and parents all focusing on one common goal - rooting out those who seek to abuse the Internet for paedophilic activity. Much good law enforcement work is already taking place, and we aim to build on that in the coming months."

Representing child welfare organisations, John Carr of NCH said:

"We welcome today's initiative - this is a crucial opportunity to move the debate on child protection on the Internet forward, and turn words into action."

NOTES TO EDITORS

1. Announced as part of the Government response to the recent report by the Internet Crime Forum "Chat Wise Street Wise - Children and Internet Chat Services," (Home Office release 071/2001 refers), the meeting examined four key areas:

how to increase the confidence of parents that their children will be safe on the internet.

2. In addition to the Home Secretary, Home Office Minister Lord Bassam, and Government officials from the Home Office, DfEE, DTI and E-envoy, representatives from the Internet industry, child welfare organisations and the police service were invited to attend the meeting: 

Paul Burstow MP
John Carr, NCH
Chris Atkinson, National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children
Nigel Williams, Childnet 
Alistair Gillespie, University of Teeside
Bob Packham, National Crime Squad
David Kerr, Internet Watch Foundation
Nicholas Lansman, Internet Services Providers Association
Roland Perry, LINX
Jerry Roest, NTL
Bill Allan, Thus plc
Camille Du Stempel, AOL
Richard Woods, UUNET
Andy Green, BTOPENWORLD
John Beaumont, Energis Squared
Anne Mullins, Yahoo
Matt Lambert, Microsoft

3. The Internet Crime Forum report "Chat Wise Street Wise - Children and Internet Chat Services," is posted on the ICF website at www.internetcrimeforum.org.uk. The ICF report makes a number of recommendations for Internet Service Providers, the police, Government and children's charities to ensure that Internet chat for children is "Chat Wise Street Wise":


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