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Self-Regulation of the Internet

With increasing public outrage at the amount of pornography and prostitution on the Internet, the Internet industry has moved to protect itself from governmental regulation by promising self-regulation. Several tiplines are funded by the Internet industry. They present the public with the reassurances that illegal material will be removed from the Internet. Several of the tiplines that are joint efforts with governments seem to be more diligent in their efforts to eliminate illegal material. But a closer look shows that sometimes the Internet industry supported tiplines provide more lip service than action.

Internet Meldpunt Kinderporno

Internet Meldpunt Kinderporno or Internet Hotline Against Child Pornography is based in the Netherlands (http://www.meldpunt.org; meldpunt@meldpunt.org). The hotline, which opened in June 1996, was the first of its kind in Europe. Founded by the Dutch Foundation of Internet Providers (NLIP), the Dutch Internet Users, the National Criminal Intelligence Service (CRI), and the National Bureau Against Racial Discrimination and run by volunteers, the hotline is a practice in self-regulation of the Internet. The members of the hotline do not take an active role in searching the Internet for child pornography. The hotline serves as a place for Internet users to report illegal material when they come across it.

The Netherlands is known for its libertarian views and laws concerning pornography and prostitution, and these attitudes are reflected in the soft approach and procedures of Internet Meldpunt Kinderporno. When the hotline receives a report of child pornography on the Internet, they contact the authors or sender and request that the illegal material be removed. Only if the predator or pimp doesn’t reply or refuses to remove the material does the hotline notify the police.243 The self-regulation model is also limited to public areas of the Internet where the hotline staff can investigate reports. The hotline does not investigate private areas of the Internet, such as email, or highly dynamic areas, such as chat rooms.

In their first publication, Internet Meldpunt Kinderporno acknowledged that their effort was not based on moralist judgements, but was done to prevent future censorship. From the beginning, the goal was self-protection of the Internet industry, not the protection of children.

“Some people may regard the hotline as a moralist movement against indecency on Internet. That we are not. …Instead of being a censor, the hotline must be regarded as an initiative against censorship. By having an active preventive policy, the hotline tries to minimize repressive actions against entire newsgroups or areas of Internet. There is an ongoing trend of repression against Internet, providers are being persecuted and forced to block off large parts of the Net. The hotline tries to be a positive and constructive answer that may prevent an overreaction from governments and providers. It directly targets the poster of illegal child pornography instead of whole areas of information and communication.” 244

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