Gardai ask service providers to block suspect sites
WHILE the Government works on an industry-compatible approach on how to protect kids online, the Garda Siochana have sent out a fresh batch of letters to Irish internet providers asking them to block websites it suspects are hosting illegal content, including child abuse material.
The letters, copies of which have been seen by this newspaper, have been sent from the Garda's Paedophile Investigation Unit to Irish broadband, mobile and telephone operators.
"An Garda Siochana, represented by the Paedophile Investigation Unit, is currently seeking to implement blocking technology operated by Internet Service Providers," says the letter, signed by a detective superintendent.
"An Garda Siochana is keen to implement blocking technology in partnership with your company and other internet service providers . . . the Garda will forward a list of the relevant domain and sub-domain names to your company requesting that you block your customers' access to those websites and re-direct that customer to a 'Stop' page."
The letter also acknowledges that some customers may access child abuse material sites "unintentionally". "It is clear that genuine ISP customers are inadvertently accessing such material," says the letter.
However, the Paedophile Unit stresses that its process "will never" involve An Garda Siochana requesting data such as IP addresses "that may identify the customer who has attempted to access blocked websites".
The letter says that the website information and its "technical details" would be sought by the Paedophile Unit "to track the creators of such sites".
Reaction from Irish internet providers has been cautious.
"We endeavour to work with the Garda on all lawful requests," said a spokesman for Eircom. "However, we believe blocking can only be successful if a consistent approach is taken by all providers within the State."
Another major Irish internet provider said that it requires a warrant to block websites and thus does not currently process blocking technology on the basis outlined in the Garda Siochana's letter.
A spokesman for the Irish Service Providers Association of Ireland (ISPAI), which represents several Irish internet providers on the matter, said that it would prefer if blocking requests happened "within a proper legal framework" and not based on ad hoc requests or lists.
"In principle, our members are open to the possibility to taking measures to restrict access to child abuse websites specifically," said Paul Durrant, the chief executive of the ISPAI.
Asked whether any Irish ISPs had yet complied with the Garda's request, a spokesman for the force declined to comment.