Technology Science - ISPs could do more to stop child porn: criminologist

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A Fredericton criminologist said internet service providers need to do more to ensure child pornographers aren't file-sharing images of child sexual abuse.

Michael Boudreau, the chair of criminology at St. Thomas University, said ISPs tend to turn a blind eye to the role they play in distributing illegal material.

Boudreau called child pornography the internet's "darkest side" and said it's a tough crime to pursue, but he thinks that could change if ISPs were held to a higher standard.

"Sometimes internet service providers tend to take the view, 'Well, we weren't aware.' Well, maybe they should start becoming more aware and working much more closely with police," said Boudreau.

"I'm certainly not saying they aren't doing anything and sitting on their hands, but I think they need to be more pro-active in terms of informing the police of when they suspect that websites are in their domain, or that they are being used to file share child pornography."

Boudreau's comments come after Wednesday's seizure of a million images of child sexual abuse from a Moncton computer. The RCMP's Integrated Child Exploitation Unit carried out five raids on homes around New Brunswick, leading to four arrests. The same day, a federal bill requiring ISPs to report images of child sexual abuse received royal assent. When the new law will come into force has yet to be determined.

Sgt. Greg Lupson, who speaks for the RCMP in New Brunswick, said in his jurisdiction an internet service provider has never directly reported to police a suspected child exploitation image being transferred over their servers.

"It's a topic that hasn't been addressed in New Brunswick. In other provinces there are other mechanisms and mandates in place that determine what level of co-operation will occur from the internet service provider standpoint," said Lupson.

"The assistance of ISPs is important to police and it greatly impacts the speed at which investigators investigating internet child exploitation are able to conduct their investigations," Lupson added.

Bill C-22 called 'feel good legislation'

Bill C-22 is being called "feel good legislation" by Tom Copeland, the chair of the Canadian Internet Providers Association.

Copeland said reports aren't being made voluntarily right now because ISPs don't come across the material.

"ISPs are so busy providing service to their customers, we don't go looking for the content that's in question. Certainly when ISPs are made aware of that content by their customers, we refer them to â€Â" the Canadian tipline for child pornography. They then interface with the appropriate law enforcement agencies," explained Copeland. is an undertaking of the Canadian Centre for Child Protection â€Â" a group that works with ISPs, federal and provincial governments, and law enforcement to block access to child sexual abuse images. Bell, Telus, Rogers, Shaw, MTS allstream, SaskTel, Videotron and Aliant are all partners in the effort.

"Politicians think, and to some extent law enforcement think that we seem to have this magic window into the internet. The reality is when the traffic crosses our network, it's all just bits and bytes," said Copeland.

Copeland favours a legislation model, similar to Manitoba's Child and Family Services Act, that takes the onus of reporting child pornography off the technology sector, obliging every Manitoban to report images of child abuse within the definition of the act.

"They've singled out the technology sector, or people providing online services without broadening that to be all of society. And what we've seen in the past is that providers of online services are probably the last ones to find this information," he said.

It's more than likely going to be a local computer shop that would stumble on it as a normal course of business, said Copeland.

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