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June 3, 2004
Brits Demand Internet Ban For Pedophiles

The London Guardian reports today on a demand from British telecommunications giant BT for law enforcement to notify ISPs of convictions for sex offenders so that they can be denied internet services:

The courts should bar everyone convicted of sexual offences against children which involve the internet from using the technology, said Nick Truman, head of security at the online arm of British Telecom, BT Openworld.

Mr Truman, a member of the Home Office internet taskforce for child protection, also called on the police to inform ISPs of convictions so that the offender's internet account could be cancelled. ...

The police do have powers to pass on information about registered sex offenders to third parties, such as the head teacher of a local school, but this does not cover commercial organisations such as ISPs.

It sounds like a great idea, and it wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing to try, but I rather doubt it would be effective. First of all, such a ban would prove difficult to ensure, as Internet services can be accessed via all sorts of different technologies, some of which don't require much in the way of identification. Second, such notifications will surely result in a number of identification mistakes. What happens when you cut off service to someone whose name happens to match another on the banned list? How does that person manage to get his access restored? Besides, using commercial services to enforce such a ban sounds iffy at best, especially when all incentives for the business point to delivering service, not denying it.

Even beyond the identification issues, which don't carry as much emotional weight in Britain as it does in the US, why use precious law-enforcement resources on maintaining a no-access-allowed list for thousands of access points? The Home Office understands that investigators should be tracking actual crimes in progress rather than spending its time pushing paper to all of the possible access points. Focusing on access rather than actual oversight of released offenders -- or better yet, keeping them incarcerated -- seems to me to provide a false sense of security.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 3, 2004 7:38 PM

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