MEPs anger at child abuse images vote

THURROCK MEPs Vicky Ford (Cons) and Richard Howitt (Lab) spoke out in frustration last night after a close vote in the European Parliament which could severely limit the work of the Internet Watch Foundation in their fight against child sexual abuse images on the internet.

New European rules on electronic communications included special clauses which allow for specialist organisations like the IWF take action to prevent serious crimes. The IWF, which is a charity based in Cambridgeshire, shares information about websites hosting child sexual abuse images with internet operators so that they can be blocked and ultimately removed from the internet.

However an amendment tabled just days before the vote by socialist, liberal and green MEPs deleted these powers. It was passed by a narrow 330 votes to 275. Fortunately this is not a final vote as the amended law will now be sent back to ministers in the 28 countries concerned for their further negotiations.

Speaking after the vote Vicky said, “This amendment is dangerous and irresponsible. Child sexual abuse is unacceptable, we need world wide action across the World Wide Web – I’m all for an open internet but this goes too far. IWF is doing an amazing job, I will fight their corner and will not support measures that risk their work.”

Richard Howitt MEP said:

“The proponents of these last-minute proposals confuse proper protection against censorship of legitimate information and opinion, with equally proper action against online content which is rightly illegal and where it is children who need the protection.

“I am dismayed the European Parliament has allowed itself to be confused in this way, but remain confident the change will be reversed in negotiations before the new rules are finally agreed.

“Having helped the Internet Watch Foundation get European funding and campaigned with them so other countries set up hotlines similar to ours, we cannot afford any backward step in the fight against child pornography.”

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