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Web hosting firms to take down unsavoury content without court orders
Pic: Shutterstock

10 Feb 2020 / data law Print

Web hosting firms to take down unsavoury content without court orders

Web hosting company Blacknight says it has agreed to disrupt certain types of web content, without waiting for court orders.

Blacknight has joined global industry leaders, such as GoDaddy, Nominet and Amazon, to agree a common framework to address abuse of the domain name system (DNS) by criminals.

The framework identifies four types of web content abuse that a domain name registry or registrar should act to disrupt – without waiting for a court order. 

These four types of content referred to, are:

  • Child sexual abuse materials,
  • Illegal distribution of opioids online,
  • Human trafficking, and
  • Specific and credible incitements to violence.

A total of 48 companies have committed to the framework so far.

But solicitor and child-law expert Geoffrey Shannon has said the moves do not go far enough.

Child safety issue

“This is a profound child-safety issue,” he pointed out.

“The law needs to keep pace with changes in technology, and we need to ensure that there are adequate takedown procedures for harmful material,” he said.

A voluntary code between internet service providers does not meet this need, the child law expert says.

“The current, non-statutory and voluntary code of self-regulation does not go far enough.

“We need a digital safety commissioner, who would have a dual role of enforcing effective and efficient takedown of harmful material in a timely manner, as well as statutory oversight.

Proper statutory controls have been long-promised, Geoffrey Shannon said, and the time is now right to bring them in.

Censorship

“We're not in the business of internet censorship, and there are areas which are quite properly the domain of the police and the courts,” says Blacknight’s chief executive Michele Neylon.

Blacknight made the announcement ahead of Safer Internet Day, which falls tomorrow, 11 February.

The day is being marked by schools and youth organisations that wish to promote internet safety and tackle online crime.

“The important thing is to develop cooperation between internet companies,” says Neylon.

“We already have these policies in place, as do many other companies, but the internet is a distributed system. A site’s domain name is often registered with one company, while it points to content hosted by one or more others.”

Connectivity

Blacknight hosts almost one-third of Ireland’s websites, and provides email, connectivity and cloud services to almost 100,000 customers around the world.

“Internet technology has allowed small businesses to flourish and grow without having to be in big towns or cities. I can just as easily work with colleagues in the US as I can with people in Siberia or West Clare,” says Neylon.

“But, for all of that to work, there needs to be a sense of trust in the entire system. Trust is not something that can be forced. It’s something that’s earned and every single time you have a bad experience online, that will erode your trust in the system,” he says.

Trust

Maintaining that trust is a shared responsibility, says Neylon, given the Internet’s nature as an open platform for the exchange of information.

No one person or organisation owns the internet, and infrastructure providers such as Blacknight are unable to vet every piece of content that is published, she points out.

“Internet service providers like us take very seriously our responsibility in this regard, which is why the Internet Service Provider Association of Ireland (ISPAI) operates the hotline.ie service in cooperation with the Gardaí,” he said.

Anonymous service

Hotline.ie was established in 1998 to provide a free, secure and anonymous service, where the public can report suspected illegal online content, including child-sexual-abuse material, human trafficking, hate speech, and financial scams.

More than 12,000 reports were received by the service in 2018.

 

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland