IWF confirms Wayback Machine porn blacklisting

Be and Virgin mimic Demon censorship


Update Following complaints that its child-porn blacklist has led multiple British ISPs to censor innocuous content on the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine, the Internet Watch Foundation has confirmed the blacklist contains images housed by the 85-billion-page web history database.

But this fails to explain why Demon Internet and other ISPs are preventing some users from accessing the entire archive.

"The IWF can confirm it has taken action in relation to content on www.archive.org involving indecent images of children which contravenes UK law (Protection of Children Act 1978). The URL(s) in question were added to our URL list according to IWF procedures," an IWF spokeswoman told The Reg.

"Details of every URL on the IWF list are shared with international law enforcement agencies, partner INHOPE Hotlines and some IWF member companies to enable the investigation of those involved in the production and distribution of indecent images of children as well as to help protect the public from inadvertent exposure to this content."

According to IWF guidelines, blacklisted URLs "are precise web pages" chosen so that "the risk of over blocking or collateral damage is minimised." But multiple Demon Internet customers say they're unable to view any sites stored by the Wayback Machine. And in response to our original story on this blacklist snafu, customers of additional ISPs - including Be Unlimited and Virgin - say they're experiencing much the same thing.

That said, other customers say they're not experiencing problems. And still others say that access is blocked only intermittently.

The telco that owns Demon Internet, Thus, has not responded to requests for comment. Nor have Be Unlimited and Virgin Media.

Last month, the IWF blacklist sparked another snafu involving the cult of Wikipedia. After a complaint, the IWF blacklisted an image housed by the Wikipedia entry dedicated to Virgin Killer, a mid-1970s record album from German heavy metal band The Scorpions.

In a roundabout way, this led to Wikipedia banning large swathes of the UK from editing the "free encyclopedia anyone can edit." But just days later, the IWF agreed to lift the Wikiban, though it continued to say the Virgin Killer image is "potentially in breach" of the UK Protection of Children Act.

When we asked the IWF what archive.org images are blacklisted, why ISPs are blocking access to the entire Wayback Machine (in some cases), and whether the organization could put us in touch with blacklist handlers at the ISPs in question, a spokeswoman declined to help. "The content involved indecent images of children," she said. "The aspects of list implementation are distinct from IWF’s role in providing the URLs." ®

Update

Thus has worked with the Internet Archive to resolve this problem. You can read all about it here.

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