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Internet: Crime

Volume 472: debated on Tuesday 4 March 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment she has made of levels of e-crime (a) in the last year and (b) over the last five years. (188866)

The Government prosecute all crimes based on illegal actions and not the medium used. As such, all legislation criminalises offences regardless of whether they were committed on or off line and so there are no estimated levels of e-crime as a whole.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what mechanisms exist for the reporting of e-crime to law enforcement authorities. (188916)

The Government take the view that the UK should prosecute criminal acts based on the offence committed and not the medium used. Therefore crimes committed using the internet should be reported in the same way as crimes committed offline; to the police.

Where credit or debit card fraud is involved, the cardholder should report the matter directly to their bank or card company. It is then for the bank or card company to verify the crime and report it to the police. This applies to card fraud committed online as well as offline.

The Government have allocated £28 million over three years to implement the recommendations of the fraud review. This includes the creation of a National Fraud Reporting Centre (NFRC) which will cover online fraud.

Both the Child Exploitation Online Protection Centre (CEOP) and the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) have reporting mechanisms aimed at members of the public to report instances of child abuse or websites containing child abuse images.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what discussions she has had with internet search providers on tackling the use of search engines to provide (a) illegal and (b) harmful internet content. (190225)

In December 2005, the Home Office Task Force on the Protection of Children on the Internet published the “Good Practice guide for search providers and advice to the public on how to search safely”. This document was produced in conjunction with representatives from the search provider industry and other UK experts, and is aimed at the public and at companies who provide search across all platforms. It provides a model of good practice to search providers and gives advice to help the public, especially parents and carers, make good use of search engines and reduce the risk of being exposed to unwanted and unsuitable results.

Furthermore, the major search provider companies work closely and effectively with UK self-regulatory body, the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), to promote online safety. The IWF provides a dynamic list of child sexual abuse websites to search providers which enables them to better manage the quality of search returns, blocking those that feature on the child sexual abuse list, to help protect internet users.

The IWF is also in a position to provide intelligence around the number and nature of search returns regarding potentially illegal and potentially inappropriate online content. It has provided this intelligence recently, for example, to the Government’s consultation on Extreme Pornography legislation, the Byron Review and the DCMS Select Committee Review regarding online content such as adult pornography, child sexual abuse ‘cartoons’, and mutilation, bestiality and necrophilia websites.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps she plans to take to ratify the Cybercrime Convention; and when she expects ratification to take place. (190341)

The Government fully supports the Cybercrime Convention and detailed work will begin on its ratification in April 2008.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the average length of time taken was between discovery and removal by internet service providers of (a) illegal and (b) fraudulent content on the internet in each of the last three years. (189340)

On the rare occasion child sexual abuse content reported to the Internet Watch Foundation is found to be hosted in the UK, the organisation's successful self-regulatory partnership with the online industry means it is removed expeditiously; typically within a matter of hours. It is worth noting that in 1997 18 per cent. of child sexual abuse content was found to be hosted in the UK and that this figure has been less than 1 per cent. since 2003 because of the work of the IWF with the online sector and the success of their universal notice and take-down initiative ensuring any such abuse of UK online services is dealt with swiftly and effectively.

As regards incitement to racial hatred and criminally obscene content, there have been no instances of UK hosted incitement to racial hatred content between 2005 and 2007 and just two instances of UK hosted criminally obscene content in the same period which were removed.

In relation to fraudulent websites, ISPs are required to shut down these sites within a reasonable amount of time once they have been informed about its existence by law enforcement under the e commerce directive. The directive offers ISPs protection from liability for hosting, transmitting or caching illegal material of which they have no knowledge (this would include fraudulent content). Once the material is brought to the attention of the ISP (by law enforcement), they lose their protection unless they take the material off their site as quickly as possible. There are excellent working relationships between the internet industry and law enforcement, and they have developed strong working practices and guidelines relating to services they offer and content they host. The internet industry has an excellent record in removing websites operating illegally.

The Government do not hold information on the time taken to remove these sites.