HL Deb 01 March 2004 vol 658 c87WA
Baroness Howe of Idlicote

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether Ofcom has been given any statutory duties or powers under the Communications Act 2003 to receive or act upon complaints about pornographic and paedophilic images shown on the internet. [HL1229]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville

Ofcom has no direct duties or powers to receive or act on complaints about images of child abuse or other pornographic images shown on the Internet. However, Ofcom has responsibility for approving the industry code for premium rate services, which is administered and enforced by the Independent Committee for the Supervision of Telephone Information Services (ICSTIS). Ofcom also has the power to enforce breaches of the approved code by imposing fines or ultimately suspending the right to provide services.

The Government believe that co- and self-regulation are more appropriate than statutory regulation of content specific to the Internet. We support the role of the Internet Watch Foundation, which was established by the Internet industry in consultation with the Government. The Internet Watch Foundation works in partnership with Internet service providers, telecommunications companies, mobile operators, software providers, police and Government, to minimise the availability of illegal Internet content, particularly child abuse images. Its Internet hotline deals with reports of potentially illegal Internet content, such as websites, newsgroups and online groups that contain images of child abuse anywhere in the world; adult material that potentially breaches the Obscene Publications Act in the UK; and criminally racist material in the UK.

One measure of the success of this self-regulatory approach is that less than 2 per cent of the illegal content reported to the IWF relates to material hosted in the UK.