A safe, secure and sustainable internet and the role of stakeholders

This week the European NGO Alliance for Child Safety Online (eNACSO) organized a lively seminar at the 9th Internet Governance Forum in Istanbul. Larry Magid, CBS Technology Correspondent acted as moderator with contributions from a glittering list of speakers, and me.

Teen Identity Theft

Larry opened with some startling revelations about the scale of teen identity theft and the problems this can cause young people when, many years later, for example when applying to College, they suddenly find out they have a bad credit history which then becomes an obstacle to them being able to put together the necessary funding to pay their tuition and living expenses.

New Forms of Governance

Eric Jardine, Research Fellow at the Canadian, Centre for International Governance Innovation spoke about various models which were emerging in different countries to frame new approaches to internet governance and regulation in both the criminal and civil spheres.

Hazards of Piracy Sites

Ted Shapiro of leading media law firm Wiggin spoke about a study which was commissioned by the UK’s Industry Trust looking at the prevalence of several different types of malware scams, credit card scams and other frauds which are associated with fully 97% of video piracy sites. Many piracy sites rely on the TOR network to try to preserve their anonymity and that of the users in this more modern form of Peer2Peer networking.

Perils of Peer2Peer

Ted’s comments tied in neatly with my own. I told the workshop about something that happened to me several years ago when I was doing research on Peer2Peer networks. I got on to one server which allowed visitors to look at everything on the hard drive. Like an idiot I clicked on a folder and quite unexpectedly was presented with a series of images which I’m guessing had been taken in a mortuary or stolen from a police station. The sick individual I was dealing with had published hundreds of pictures of the mangled human remains of victims of motor car accidents. Sadly those pictures are burned into my memory forever. I still have unpleasant flashbacks about them from time to time. I was in my late 40s when that happened and I thought straight away about the effect exposure to that kind of stuff could have on a child who might have stumbled across them perhaps when they were looking to rip off some music or a video.

More recently we have also become aware of the role of Peer2Peer networks in helping to distribute gigantic quantities of child abuse images, to the point where almost every police force in the world is acknowledging that they are overwhelmed by the numbers.

Phoney Claims

Moreover we have seen how piracy web sites, far from being champions of the little guy against faceless big business, are in fact run by people who profit, among other things, from ad revenues derived from prostitution, fake drugs and, once again, malware merchants.

Need to Reach Out to Parents and Teachers

The last time I had an opportunity to talk to some parents and teachers about Peer2Peer networks and piracy sites they appeared to know very little about the grimy realities of those environments. On the contrary,  to the extent that they did, many seemed to take a perverse pride in the fact that their kids had sufficient nerdy knowledge to be able to use those sorts of programmes.

The Importance of Education and Awareness

This bring us neatly and finally to the last contributor from the platform: Shane Tews is the Chief Policy Officer at 463 Communications and a Visiting Fellow at the Center for Internet, Communications and Technology Policy 

Shane has done a huge amount of work in the field of education and awareness raising in relation to young people’s safe use of the internet. Shane’s view was that whilst there was a proper focus on educating children themselves about the internet’s rules of the road, and in this schools of course have a vital role to play, we still have to find better ways of reaching out to much larger numbers of parents. The home is where children pick up key signals about morality and about behaviour towards others. It is where many important habits develop or mature so modern parents must be equipped with knowledge and insights to help them help their offspring make the right choices both in the online and the offline worlds.

In the discussion that followed the platform presentations it was suggested that one way of dealing with the sort of seedy sites being referred to was to attack their sources of revenue, in particular the ad networks that were channelling funds their way. Perhaps the payments industry itself could become more actively engaged?

No One Wants Kids Mixing with Criminals

There was a widespread consensus that irrespective of the view one took about the laws on copyright and copyright infringement, piracy sites essentially drew kids into contact with criminals and thereby put them in danger from any of a number of different sources. And it is in no one’s interests for any youngsters to grow up believing that to steal other people’s property is cool or clever.