Should ISPs block access to illegal websites?

According to media reports, ISPs providing broadband access to 5% of the UK’s internet users have failed to implement a system that blocks access to websites containing illegal images of child abuse.

This is despite the British government asking all ISPs to implement a blocking list supplied by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) by the end of 2007.

Children’s charities such as the NSPCC believe that, by not blocking access to the child abuse websites, ISPs are helping paedophiles trade in illegal images, which ultimately encourages more sexual abuse of minors.

The IWF found itself in the headlines late last year after it controversially blocked access to a Wikipedia page that showed a heavy metal album cover including the image of a naked girl.

I’m not saying that the IWF is perfect, and that it might never make mistakes (although in my opinion, if that album cover image had been brought to a British court of law it probably would have been deemed illegal), but I cannot believe that most internet users would have a problem with their broadband provider blocking access to child abuse sites.

If you feel the same – why not ask your internet provider if they’re using the IWF block list? And if not, why not?

By the way, I should declare that Sophos is a partner of the IWF. We regularly share with them intelligence we have collected about unpleasant stuff we have found on the net, including websites and spam containing child abuse material.