REVEALED: The dangerously fluffy nature of the Internet Watch Foundation’s sex-abuse crusade.

iwflogoCOPS, HOME OFFICE, MIN of DEFENCE & PC: what exactly is the point of the IWF?

The Daily Mail is today reporting research about banning child sex images on the internet. It seems that some 72% of respondents to a ComRes survey for the The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) said they would consider boycotting services or technology of a company not working with relevant authorities to ensure child sexual abuse content is removed.

And roughly four in five of those interviewed said they would be more likely to buy products from an internet or technology company that takes down child abuse content.

Susie Hargreaves, IWF chief executive, said: “It’s clear that British people want online companies to do all they can to keep their services safe.” You can see Ms Hargreaves speaking here. There is an air about the lady with which I am, shall we say, familiar.

It is also clear, Ms Hargreaves did not say, that around three quarters of all people are daft and gullible.

We need to think about the following:

1. What respectable companies offering technology and other services have child abuse images on their pages?

2. What is meant by ‘child sex abuse’? I’m thinking chiefly of the paedomaniac fringe here.

3. The only companies likely to refuse to cooperate will be paedophile networking sites, which can be taken down anyway.

This ‘boycott’ or ‘ban’ is a solution in search of a problem. However, it could very quickly turn into a lettre de cachet used to take down anyone certain people don’t like. In the past, for instance, I and others have run images of sex offenders and their alleged victims. And trust me, there is no shortage of nasties just gagging to take me down.

Don’t think of this as an exaggeration. Huffington Post banned me three years ago because I put forward what they felt was a conspiracy theory about Barack Obama. His press secretary later confirmed the story was true. Peter Mandelson hounded my site seven years ago for correctly questioning the mental health and eyesight of Gordon Brown.

Now as it happens, the IWF’s definition of ‘child sex image’ is ‘Indecent images of children under 18 hosted anywhere in the world’. Why? If Labour wants 16 year olds to have the vote, how can they be called ‘children’? This is the very same blurred reality that put DLT through years of hell, and Rolf Harris in jail. Girls aged 14-18 are not children, for the simple reason that 96+% of them will be menstruating.

A boycott today is a gullotine tomorrow. So the very least we should do is look at the history of the IWF.

The IWF is funded by a collection of ISPs, so we are not off to a good start here: there is not a major ISP in existence that doesn’t already liaise closely with US homeland security, the UK’s GCHQ, and surveillance throughout the eurozone. Pressure from rich people who prefer life in the shadows – and those who wish the covert to remain so – has already given us dangerous laws allowing applications to search engines for the removal of certain awkward facts from the past. But let’s not rush to judgement.

The IWF states that it works in partnership with UK Government departments such as the Home Office. That’s another link I’d prefer they didn’t have. The organisation claims it needs to do this in order to check points of law, but that’s bollocks: there are umpteen sources of legal expertise about obscenity law beyond the Home Office. The Home Office is ultimately responsible for domestic surveillance of potentially anti-State organisations of an extreme nature….violent or otherwise. The Home Office and its various Home Secretaries  have routinely lied to both media and Parliament since God was a girl: in 2009, Jacqui Smith flatly denied that GCHQ’s £14bn total-surveillance budget was a one deal. She called it “a small trial”. It was a done deal.

Before Susie Hargreaves, Peter Robbins OBE, QPM was the IWF’s Chief Executive. Robbins was a Metropolitan Police ‘lifer’ (1971-2002) and eventually rose to be Hackney’s Borough Commander. During his watch in Hackney, the borough rose to be the Number 1 location in the world to live if you harboured a desire to be shot dead.

Robbins led the IWF in its sometimes controversial adoption and roll-out of the URL blocking service Cleanfeed. The controversy surrounded the ease with which hard-core paedo-techies can evade it, and the possibility of its misuse. A retired police contact told The Slog earlier today, “there is no question that an overlap exists between the world of security agencies and the peccadilloes of certain of their enemies. It’s an invitation to blackmail…and the broader the definition, the bigger the moral hazard”.

As for the Met’s spotless history of dealings with Russians, Australians, Mayors, Peers, Distractions and Redtops, let us draw a discreet veil over it and continue.

The IWF’s Director of Global Operations is Fred Langford. Prior to joining the Foundation, Langford worked for….the Ministry of Defence. Ah, right. No connection to espionage there then. Move along, move along.

It seems to me that what we have here is an organisation that has a CEO of pc inclinations, a silly definition of ‘child’, some dangerous links laying it open to abuse (no pun intended)….and a past that seems largely to have consisted of surveillance agencies, discredited police forces, and censorious ideas.

Am I really interested if 72% of Brits approve of their ideas? I am not. These 72% are the same sleepy couch potatoes who welcome Big Brother through the front door via social networking, thought Tony Blair was “a safe pair of hands”, clamoured for vengeance against a largely innocent BBC, would vote for the restoration of capital punishment tomorrow, and support what’s left of the RAF bombing Islamic militants of dubious origin.

This is not a Comres project carried out to enlighten us on the vexed and complicated subject of child abuse: it is a study conducted to assist in the process of establishing the Internet Watch Foundation as a Jolly Good Thing of which Jolly Nice People approve.

Heigh-ho. Another steel-toed shoe in another door. Onwards to a future of jackboots on faces. Faceboot: now there’s a good name for an online social network.

Yesterday at The Slog: Buzzing about in a world of bankers, nerds and walnuts