House of COMMONS HC 353-iii 18 March 2008
HARMFUL CONTENT ON THE INTERNET AND IN VIDEO GAMES
Q210 Helen Southworth: Perhaps I may ask BT how much of its annual budget is spent on online child protection.
Mr Galvin: I do not have the answer to that off the top of my head. There is a considerable investment in online child protection with the facilities we provide within the browser.
Q211 Helen Southworth: If it is considerable what is the approximate figure?
Mr Galvin: You are asking me to make a quick mental calculation. One would be talking of something in the region of six figures. It would include systems like Clean Feed.
Q212 Helen Southworth: What would be the six-figure amount?
Mr Galvin: It is about £1 million, possibly more. You would have to take into account the fact that where we have logos on the home pages, for example, it displaces advertising revenue. It depends on whether or not you take into account that type of cost.
Q213 Helen Southworth: I am focusing on your research and the people who are working directly on the issue of child online protection?
Mr Galvin: We have an abuse desk which deals with issues that come from our customers.
Q214 Helen Southworth: How is that staffed?
Mr Galvin: It has permanent BT staff and is based in the UK. The staff vary but typically it would be in the range of 12 to 15 people.
Q215 Helen Southworth: Is that seven days a week 24 hours a day?
Mr Galvin: It is online and on mail and it is an office hours service. We also have frontline staff providing a service 24 hours a day seven days a week who are trained help desk people, if they are not trained abuse desk people. They would deal with issues that came to them and would take that to the abuse desk.
Q216 Helen Southworth: It would be very helpful if you could let us have the annual budget for specific work on online child protection. What is the position with AOL?
Ms de Stempel: We do not have a figure because it is integrated in any of our products. When we develop a product we look at lots of different functionalities including child protection. For example, we have a reporting mechanism for all our products.
Q217 Helen Southworth: But you do not allocate anything specifically for child online protection; you do not have anything ring-fenced for that specific purpose?
Ms de Stempel: For example, the equivalent to BT's Clean Feed would be part of the cost. We have law enforcement support which would be another part of the cost, but they do other things as well. If we apportion a particular cost to AOL staff, some of their work would concentrate on child protection and some on consumer protection.
Q218 Helen Southworth: I am thinking in terms of what gets measured gets done.
Ms de Stempel: It gets done because it is in the DNA of what we do.
Q219 Helen Southworth: But you cannot quantify it at all?
Ms de Stempel: No. I can ask but we look at this issue globally. For example, like other ISPs we contribute to the IWF and that would be one of the costs.
Q220 Helen Southworth: Does ISPA have a specific budget for child online protection?
Mr Lansman: We do. It is perhaps unfair to judge big corporate companies for failing to split up budget lines into the minutiae of detail. However, I do take your point which is very important.
Q221 Helen Southworth: I do not think child protection online is "minutiae of detail".
Mr Lansman: The big corporates will have multi-billion pound budgets. I think that splitting up--------
Q222 Helen Southworth: I do not know whether their customers would think the same.
Mr Lansman: I volunteer to go back to the membership and suggest that we try to provide the Committee with some information on that. I can see where you are coming from. As to ISPA itself, it is a not for profit trade association and every year it allocates £20,000 out of a sum of between £200,000 and £300,000 which is the turnover from membership fees in the main, so somewhere between 10% of the revenue of ISPA goes to the Internet Watch Foundation as a fee. In addition, a great deal of the time of ISPA staff and members is spent on secondment to various charities, CEOP and work with the Home Office. The problem is one of trying to allocate an enormous amount of time and resource from people whose jobs are to deal with lots of things where child abuse images and child protection are just one of the issues. It is more a problem of unpicking the financials than a lack of willingness to do it.
Q223 Helen Southworth: I want to ask about notice and take down policies for potentially illegal content. Once something has been reported as potentially illegal how long does it take before it is removed?
Ms de Stempel: It is a matter of 24 hours. We have a system similar to that of CEOP and an escalation process, for example, for child abuse images if it is flagged as such. Unless people flag us as to exactly what it is, all abuse might end up in the same box, but that would be removed from our service, so it will no longer be available to anyone else who has not opened an email where it is attached and law enforcement then picks it up for us.
Mr Galvin: It is done in 24 hours. Often to speed up the process when something is reported to us rather than have a debate about whether or not it is illegal it is a lot quicker to say that under our taste and decency policy we have the power to remove it immediately and not get into a debate about the legalities of it. Quite a lot of the notice and take down occurs under our taste and decency policy rather than a debate about whether or not it is illegal.
So BT takes down content and tries to avoid having a discussion! It'll be interesting to see if ISPA does produce a budget!