HC Deb 15 July 1997 vol 298 c136W
Rev. Martin Smyth

To ask the President of the Board of Trade what discussions she has had with other Government and law enforcement agencies on the need to regulate illegal and harmful matter on the Internet; and if she will make a statement. [5868]

Mrs. Roche

My Department has worked in close co-operation with the Home Office, the Metropolitan Police, and Internet Service Providers (ISPs), to facilitate the development of a system for dealing with illegal content on the Internet, using existing law and the existing penalties. This framework is known as Internet Watch.

As a general rule, existing law applies to the Internet exactly as it does in the "physical" world. This means that ISPs have a clear liability for any illegal content which they host on their servers, but only once they have been made aware of it, and if they have then failed to take reasonable steps to remove it. Internet Watch offers ISPs a service, facilitating their compliance with existing law. An ISP who chose not to co-operate within the framework would risk prosecution and the full force of the criminal law. Internet Watch has already proved successful in bringing about the removal of illegal material, and in passing details to the police.

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