First step in blocking access to child sex abuse material on web
The first decisive step has been taken to block access to child pornography sites on the internet.
One of the biggest broadband service providers, UPC, has signed an agreement with the Garda authorities to restrict access to domain names containing child sexual abuse material. It comes into effect immediately.
It took seven months to complete the memo of understanding because of the legal complexities involved.
Gardai hope the other service providers will follow UPC's example.
If an user tries to access child sexual abuse material, either deliberately or mistakenly, a garda advisory message will be displayed, outlining the reasons why access is being blocked.
UPC Ireland chief executive officer Magnus Ternsjo said his company adhered fully to data protection legislation but stressed the agreement did not provide for any transfer of user data to the authorities.
He said the IP address and identity of a person trying to access domains was not stored when the blocking notice appeared.
"UPC does not make user data available to any external parties, except where required to do so by law," Mr Ternsjo said.
Acting Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan said legislation existed that allowed the force to require data from the service providers if gardai were investigating a possible criminal offence.
She said gardai welcomed UPC putting this valuable restriction in place and said other providers had indicated they wanted to sign up to a similar measure.
"This initiative will play an important role in tackling the use of child sexual abuse material online and dissuade some people from accessing it. However, we fully recognise that others, who wish to view, distribute and make this vile material will use different means to access and spread it online," she added.
Ms O'Sullivan pointed out that this is only one of a range of measures used by the Garda to combat the production, distribution and possession of child sexual abuse material on the internet.
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald described child abuse as a heinous crime and said its depiction on the internet compounded the offence.
"The close co-operation with law enforcement will reduce the amount of child abuse material, available on the internet in Ireland.
"It will also reinforce the message that the viewing, possession of, or trading in, child abuse material is simply not acceptable," she said.
New legislation was being introduced in the Dail, resulting in the child pornography law being strengthened.