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In a first for Ireland, UPC is to ban access to child sex abuse websites

Users who access child abuse material either mistakenly or deliberately will have their internet access restricted.

Image: Shutterstock

Updated 22.45pm

INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDER UPC is to restrict access to websites containing child sex abuse material,  becoming the first broadband company to do so in Ireland.

Under an agreement between UPC and An Garda Síochana, UPC will restrict access to domains or URLs containing child abuse material based on a list provided by the gardaí.

If a user access child sexual abuse material, either deliberately or mistakenly, their internet access will be restricted and an advisor message will be displayed explaining the reasons why.

Similar restrictions already exist in the UK, Australia, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Switzerland, among other countries.

Source: Christina Finn/YouTube

List of websites 

The list of websites that are restricted by UPC are drawn up by the gardaí, with the interim Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan stating that today the number of international websites restricted are in the double digits.

She stated that the number on the list fluctuates and it is going to be constantly updated.

O’Sullivan said discussions are ongoing with other Irish internet service providers. She added that it is just one tool the gardaí are using to tackle this crime.

The Commissioner said today’s initiative is to act as deterrent to those accessing images of child sexual abuse, adding that it took several months for this initiative to be negotiated with UPC.

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald described it as a ‘notable achievement’ and congratulated both the gardaí and UPC on the development.

“The close cooperation with law enforcement which was launched today will reduce the amount of child abuse material which will be available on the internet in Ireland,” the Minister said.

She called it a “heinous crime” and said it was important to have international cooperation between internet providers, which she said is extremely important in tackling this crime.

“It will also reinforce the message that the viewing or possession of, or indeed the trading in child abuse material, is simply not acceptable”.

Source: Christina Finn/YouTube

Minister Fitzgerald said she hoped that other companies would follow suit.

‘Inadvertent viewing’ 

She added that research suggests that “inadvertent viewing may precipitate some people to pursue further such illegal material to their long term detriment and to the detriment of society as a whole”.

The minister added that Government are strengthening legislation in this area under the new sexual offences legislation that will be introduced before the end of this Dáil term.

Magnus Ternsjö, CEO of UPC said if someone tries to access websites where child sex abuse material is available a notice will appear on screen stating that the site has been restricted and the advisory message will outline the reasons why. However, he said it does not provide for any transfer of user data to the authorities.

Identity 

“UPC adheres fully to the data protection legislation and does not make any data available to any external parties accept where required to do so by law,” he said, adding, that the identity of a person is not stored when the blocking notice appears.

An Garda Siochana Sign Memorandum of U Minister for Justice and Equality Frances Fitzgerald TD, Garda Commissioner Noirin O Sullivan and CEO of UPC Magnus Ternsjo at the announcemnet that UPC is to immediatley restrict access to domain names containing child sexsual abuse material. Source: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

“We never control what our customers are watching” as UPC honour the privacy of their customers “in the extreme” said Ternsjö.

He added that it would be wrong for UPC to start acting as law enforcement agency or government stating that they are following the laws.

O’Sullivan said there are occasions where as part of a criminal investigation the gardaí can seek evidence from any service provider for data and there is legislation already in place enabling gardaí to access it.

First published 14.59pm. Additional reporting Christina Finn

Read: ‘God knows’ – Irish priest found guilty of sexually abusing toddler in Chile > 

Read: Child sex abuse survivors far more likely to be disabled, poor and live alone in later life > 

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