Press release: ISPA commits to working with stakeholders to bolster protection of children online
Association notes that child pornography and the exposure of children to inappropriate content cannot be addressed with same approach.
The Internet Service Providers’ Association of SA (ISPA) has, in the wake of a meeting with the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs and other stakeholders, affirmed its commitment to playing a role in the protection of children from exposure to inappropriate content.
However, the Association has cautioned Government not to confuse the two separate issues of online child pornography and the exposure of children to pornographic images through the Internet.
Although ISPA is taking an active role in the fight against child pornography, it does not believe that it is feasible for its members to become watchdogs tasked with protecting children from all online pornography, as has been recently suggested.
“Creating, possessing or distributing child pornography or Child Sexual Abuse Images (CSAIs) is illegal under the provisions of the Film and Publications Act 65 of 1996 as amended, with harsh penalties for people convicted of these crimes,” said Dominic Cull, regulatory advisor to ISPA.
“The law is abundantly clear in this regard and ISPA’s members are required to take immediate action where they become aware of CSAIs and to work closely with law enforcement to facilitate the investigation of this crime”.”.
ISPA has worked closely with the South African Police Service (SAPS), the Film & Publications Board (FPB) and other authorities in a co-ordinated effort to prevent South Africans from intentionally or inadvertently accessing CSAIs on the Internet.
ISPA is cooperating with the FPB to develop a Guideline that will govern how CSAIs are dealt with and define how the entities involved in combating CSAIs will work with each other to fight this scourge in the most efficient and effective manner.
The FPB, which recently joined the international INHOPE organisation, which co-ordinates global efforts to eradicate CSAIs, is currently working with INHOPE to gain access to a daily updated list of URLs that have been verified to contain CSAIs. ISPA will then work with the FPB in an attempt to find possible solutions around limiting or eradicating access to these sites, said Cull.
ISPA’s Code of Conduct explicitly requires members to report any illegal content or conduct they are aware of to the relevant law enforcement agency. ISPA members are also advised to report such content or conduct to the FPB Prochild Hotline (www.fpbprochild.co.za).
Exposure of minors to pornography
“ISPA accepts that the relative ease with which minors in South Africa are able to access pornographic content online and offline is of concern to society. But it is important to remember that the challenge of dealing with this is a responsibility shared by a number of involved parties”, said Cull.
ISPA is an Industry Representative Body (IRB) recognised by the Minister of Communications. As such, ISPA members are subject to Guidelines from the Minister that task them with educating their customers about the ways in which they can minimise the chances of minors being exposed to pornographic content.
ISPA’s Code requires that members make information about filtering and content labeling available to their subscribers. ISPA recently agreed with the FPB to develop further materials to be used for promoting awareness amongst and educating consumers.
ISPA believes that any attempt to task ISPs with the responsibility of blocking all pornography on the Internet in South African is technically unfeasible and impractical. This obligation will lead to an increase in Internet access costs and impair quality of service and speed, without necessarily achieving the desired objectives. The blocking of access to online pornography is furthermore not catered for under current legislation.
“Under South African law ISPA’s members are regarded as conduits through which Internet traffic passes and are not permitted to monitor or intercept such traffic. The only exception is when a member is approached from SAPS to intercept and monitor traffic after due legal process has been followed.”
“Nevertheless we will – together with the Department of Home Affairs, Department of Communications, ICASA and the FPB – work within the existing legal framework to ensure greater protection for the young people of South Africa when going online.”
For further information, please contact the ISPA secretariat on the Contact ISPA page.