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BT, Sky, Virgin Media and TalkTalk pledge £1m to tackle online child abuse – UPDATED

BT, Sky, Virgin Media and TalkTalk, the UK’s biggest ISPs, have today pledged to spend an extra £1 million to crack down on child abuse material online. 

This is in addition to funding provided for the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), the service which acts as a hotline for reporting online child abuse and illegal content. 

In a joint statement, the four ISPs say that: 

“This additional funding will supplement the existing zero tolerance approach to child abuse material online, adding to the existing contributions that each company makes both in relation to the ongoing battle against illegal material online, and investment in technology and awareness raising to help parents protect children in the online world.” 

BT, Sky, Virgin Media and TalkTalk pledge £1m to tackle online child abuse
The IWF was set up in 1996 by the UK internet industry to help the public report online child abuse

Sources close to the matter have told Recombu Digital that the extra money will allow the IWF to be more proactive in combating online child abuse. Currently, the IWF responds to reports from concerned citizens and takes action once something has been brought to its attention. The extra money, we understand, will allow the IWF to search out child abuse sites on its own initiative, with full legal backing from the police. 

This would make the IWF, which is a charity, something similar to UK ISPs also work alongside the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP). 

CEOP is part of the Serious Organised Crime Agency and is dedicated to tracking and prosecuting those perpetrating online child abuse. 

Additionally, a Virgin Media spokesperson said: 

“It is crucial this global problem is tackled at source so everyone must now work together to ensure the IWF and CEOP are empowered with sufficient resources and the clear legal framework they need to expand their activities. This effort will have our full commitment.” 

Earlier this year, the government slashed the CEOP’s £6m budget by 10 per cent. 

The £1m contributed over four years by the UK’s biggest ISPs will go some way to making this loss up. It’s also worth bearing in mind that the government has somehow found £10m so that the Tour de France can start in Yorkshire. 

The ISPs along with Google, Yahoo and other prominent internet companies will meet with the government again in four to six weeks’ time.

Update: A Sky spokesperson has provided us with the following statement:

 “The issue of protecting customers from inappropriate and illegal content is one we take very seriously and is a priority for Sky.  Building on the progress we’ve already made with the IWF, law enforcement agencies such as CEOP, and the industry more generally, we will continue to play a central role in helping Government tackle this complex issue.”

Image credit: Flickr user Spigoo

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