You may remember that a few months back, during the Wikipedia/Internet Watch Foundation fuss, I wrote to my MP, Dr Liam Fox. A few weeks ago I finally got a reply. Here's what it said.
Thank you for your letter of 9 December 2008 on behalf of Mr Matthew Buck about the Internet Watch Foundation. I have been asked to respond to you as Minister with responsibility in this area. The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) was formed in 1996 following an agreement between the government, police and the ISP industry that a partnership approach was needed to tackle the distribution of child abuse images online.
The IWF is a registered charity and is funded by the EU and UK internet industry including ISPs, mobile operators and manufactures, content service providers (CSPs) and telecommunications and software companies. The Government do not fund the IWF and believes that the partnership approach has been highly successful. Action by the IWF, law enforcement and industry in the UK has led to major reductions in the number of sites hosting illegal content located in the UK.
The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) judges the images reported to it by industry or the public against the relevant UK legislation, such as the Protection of Children Act 1978 or the Sexual Offences Act 2003. The images are categorised according to the Sentencing Guidelines for Sexual Offences Act 2003. These Guidelines are publicly available on the IWF website and on that of the Ministry of Justice, who are the department responsible for the legislation.
The IWF's remit is not to censor the internet but to uphold UK legislation. The content blocked by the IWF is illegal in traditional offline retailers, and the UK legislation applies equally to online content as well as that offline. The Home Office cannot comment on specific cases and does not perform a governance or regulatory role relating to the IWF.
So, there you have it. Frankly it's a whole load of nothing, but... at least there was a reply.