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Prevent paedophiles by tracking Google, say MEPs

European Parliament declaration

By Barry Collins

Posted on 3 Jun 2010 at 11:13

Hundreds of MEPs have signed a declaration calling for search engines to be monitored, as part of a plan to combat online paedophilia.

The emotively presented declaration pictures a distressed child, and claims that the "the internet allows paedophiles and sex offenders to enjoy freedom of action, putting them on the same footing as honest citizens and making it difficult for the authorities to trace them."

The declaration adds that it is "essential to ensure that the internet continues to afford a high level of virtual democracy, which does not present any threat to women and children."

The internet allows paedophiles and sex offenders to enjoy freedom of action, putting them on the same footing as honest citizens

The motion asks for Directive 2006/24/EC to be extended to search engines, as part of pan-European early warning system for paedophiles and sex offenders. The MEPs claim this is necessary "in order to tackle online child pornography and sex offending rapidly and effectively".

Directive 2006/24/EC refers to the "retention of data generated or processed in connection with the provision of publicly available electronic communications services".

More than 320 MEPs have signed the declaration, bringing it tantalisingly close to the 369 majority required for adoption.

MEPs such as the Swedish Pirate Party member, Christian Engström, are calling on members to withdraw their signature before the majority is reached and the decision can't be reversed.

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User comments

Daft Tweets

And exactly how do they intend on enforcing this (yet another) waste of public money. It may be easy to get the big search engines to sign up (even this is doubtful), but tracking and monitoring every search engine will be hopeless. Maybe somebody should tell the government there are other search engines than just Google.

By Steve_Adey on 3 Jun 2010

Then what

Today sex offender, tomorrow .... political opponents, maybe?

This is very dangerous. I'm waiting for the first journalist or grad student to be detained for doing perfectly legal research.

Give it a year or so and you could have Special Branch on your doorstep because you Google mapped a military base, or you requested a route plan that coincided with the route being taken by a politician on an official visit.

It's also a complete waste of time as we already know that most pedophile rings have shifted to private message boards and P2P networks that simply aren't covered by Google

By Perfectblue97 on 3 Jun 2010

Eesh

Where do these guys get off? These people can't seriously consider this to be achieveable, what utter nonsense. You're doing a good job highlighting these halfwits attempts to lasoo the nets freedom. To think governments may ever have control over the net is scary beyond imagination!

By deejerox on 3 Jun 2010

I dunno about the rest of you but the last time I searched for child pornography on Google it was for a criminal law class. I'd have thought actual paedophiles would have used something that actually has child pornography on it.

By steviesteveo on 3 Jun 2010

I'm not sure

if I should be happy or sad that politicians have such a poor grasp of the web.

Given their contemptuous disregard for hard won civil liberties, probably the former.

By Lacrobat on 3 Jun 2010

Frankly I think monitoring the web is a fantastic idea. If just once we can spot one of these heinous criminals before they hurt someone it would be worth it.

...Of course I'm talking about MEP's and their abuse of civil liberties ^^

By rozman on 3 Jun 2010

For what? They don't lock up the ones they DO catch

You cannot "reform" a paedophile. The idea is absurd.

You cannot change somebody's sexual orientation by prison or any other means.

The most effective option (other than the permanent one) is keep them under lock and key.

This MEP is either an imbecile or has another agenda entirely.

By cheysuli on 3 Jun 2010

Here's an idea....

Prevent crime by doing old fashioned Police work.

By everton2004 on 3 Jun 2010

I don't see it would be that difficult to automate much of the logging. Certain key search phrases and words could flag a given search, create a log linked to IP and that gets sent to whichever bureau investigates. I might be wrong, but I doubt there's huge traffic of this sort on search engines so with the right filtering it might actually be quite easy to police.

By skarlock on 3 Jun 2010

Search, what search?

@skarlock

What sort of search might that be then? I very much doubt the words child pornography is used in paedophile circles. As said by Perfectblue97, these people use private message boards and the like. From this, we can conclude, that yet again a government wants to get its hidden agenda through another door of which we all think would be palatable.

By Steve_Adey on 3 Jun 2010

Absurd

Even when you look at it as only a technical extension of Directive 2006/24/EC, it’s still absurd. Force search engines to retain data? The EU is currently battling with the major search engines, trying to reduce their retention of data!

The Dutch meta-search engine Ixquick doesn’t store IP addresses and has received a European Privacy Seal from the European Data Protection Supervisor.

The only thing that extending the Directive to search engines would do is remove Ixquick’s unique selling point. It won’t help with search engines and meta-search engines that have no presence in the EU and choose not to retain any data, such as Duck Duck Go. And it won’t help with any of the other myriad ways of proxying your use of a search engine.

Sweden still hasn’t started transposing the current Directive in to local legislation. Germany has annulled theirs after the wording used in the transposition was declared unconstitutional.

By pacid on 3 Jun 2010

We're looking in completely the wrong direction.

The way to better protect children and control paedophilia is twofold.

Firstly, it is for society to accept paedophilia as a sexual orientation, and be supportive of paedophiles from day one. Enable them to come out and share their attraction with others. What makes anyone think that subjecting human being to a lifetime or relentless hate and prejudice will make them less susceptible to either breaking the law is frankly beyond me.

Secondly, we must see things in proportion, and not react purely on biological instinct. Sadly, current criminal justice is not structured around what actually harms children. For example, much so-called "child pornography" is not pornographic at all, but may be photos taken in legitimate circumstances, involving clothed children who, by chance, happen to have been snapped in a pose that could conceivably be seen as erotic if the idea is planted in your head by a prosecuting barrister. Needless to say, only a small proportion of level 1 images actually ever cause any harm to the children depicted. Erotic cartoons of children are also in this category, as are images of those over 18 who are younger than 18 in appearance. Context can also make the difference between an indecent and decent image, so for example, an image that in any ordinary circumstance would be considered decent would be said to be indecent if found in the hands of a suspected paedophile.

What is more, the word "abuse" is severely abused in itself. Many instances of "abuse" are instances in which the only harm that comes about is through social pressure and conditioning, and is not in itself a definite prerequisite for harm. Of course, many situations are labeled as "abuse" even when the child "victim" in question insists no harm was done. (In fact, what normally happens is that they are put into counseling for weeks or months until they admit that what they were put through was in fact abusive.)

All of this (and more) is taking resources away from the people who are truly dangerous and spreading it out over the masses, who do not necessarily present a significant, or any, risk to children. The way to protect chidlren is not to introduce ever more gadgetry. It is to make an effort to induce a paradigm shift on this subject through the *whole* of society.

By bluechip3 on 5 Jun 2010

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