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Talk Internet adopts Watchdog International NetClean solution
Wednesday 04 February 2009 17:17:19 by Andrew Ferguson

Blocking access to images of child abuse on the Internet is something that most people are willing to accept, and broadband providers around the world are rushing to get systems implemented to avoid government imposed measures, which may result in a much broader range of material being blocked. The blocking of child abuse images hit the headlines in the UK in December 2008 when Wikipedia had a page put onto the list of possible abuse images by the IWF.

Looking at the announcement today by Talk Internet that it is to adopt the Watchdog International NetClean WhiteBox solution to handle filtering of websites, it is good to see that if the Wikipedia incident were to be repeated a page explaining why the webpage is not available would be displayed. This makes it clear to the providers customers that there is not a fault, but rather an active block is in place.

"Dealing with CSAI (Child Sexual Abuse Images) on the Internet is not an optional extra. It's part of the cost of doing business for a modern ISP. Governments round the world know that, technically, access to CSAI can be blocked and can be blocked inexpensively. If ISPs want Governments to back off, and allow self-regulation of the Internet a chance to work, then dealing with online CSAI is surely the acid test"

John Carr, (Chairman) Children's Charities' Coalition for Internet Safety

While Talk Internet are the first UK provider to use this solution, it has seen use in New Zealand and TeliaSonera International has adopted it. Tests with SUNET in Sweden had it supporting 350,000 users on a 10Gbps network. For providers, one advantage is that the handling of the IWF list and its implementation is all handled by Watchdog International.


Posted by seb (Favicon staff member) over 8 years ago
The IWF problem was made worse by the transparent NAT/proxying taking place which meant Wikipedia could only see one IP address for all users of the ISP.
Posted by AndrueC over 8 years ago
That's better than a 404 and for me would resolve the issue.

But as Seb notes, other people will still be concerned about the transparent proxy.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 8 years ago
Andrue - Some UK ISP's do use a error page explaining. Some don't. It's down to them, not the IWF.

Seb - ISP's/IWF are not resposible for Wikipedia's editing model, either. That's down to Wikipedia, and ISP's shouldn't have to bend backwards to cater for it.

(Neither should they have to pay ISP's for access in a non-neutral web...)
Posted by chrysalis over 8 years ago
as far as I know its not transperent but the x-forwarded-for is configured, at least it is on easynet (sky/ukonline), sites like wikipedia seem to not actually use that header for their own reasons. However it still doesnt make the IWF innocent, the blocking is too agressive and should only be used with serious content not 'potential' content and some form of proper error page should always be displayed rather than generic 404 pages.
Posted by wirelesspacman over 8 years ago
Just been having a browse through the Watchdog website. There is absolutely no information I can find on how much it costs (which to a very small ISP like us would be crucial). Also the links to NetClean Whitebox Brochure and NetClean Whitebox Technical Sheet both fail and give "not found" messages!
Posted by meldrew over 8 years ago
Under new recent legislation the content that is now criminal to possess has been expanded. Most, if not all, of this content is hosted abroad and much of it is, I am sure known to both the authorities and to the ISPs. I feel strongly that it is both possible and practical for such known sites to be blocked and a detailed "404" type screen displayed.

Much as I am in support of free speech and consensual strange sexual practices within one's own home a line has now to be drawn.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 8 years ago
meldrew - The IWF take reports of various sorts illegal content and passes them on to the police, if they're UK hosted.

But the blocklist? Remains only for child pprm, regardless of what else you can report to them. Also, the type of error screen shown is up to the ISP, not the IWF (And it varies).
Posted by Filterman over 8 years ago

I am Peter Mancer, the MD of Watchdog who implemented this solution at Talk Internet. I can confirm that the NetClean Whitebox system does not proxy so the Wikipedia problem did not occur for our customers.
Posted by Filterman over 8 years ago

I'm sorry that the brochure and technical sheet links are broken on our web site. I will fix this shortly. If you want copies of these and for pricing please email
The system is very affordable for small ISPs.
Posted by Filterman over 8 years ago

Our system can have a blocking page that the ISP chooses, as we did at Talk Internet in consultation with the IWF. We usually recommend a block page but this is up to the individual ISP.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 8 years ago
Filterman - Yea, I've worked for an ISP before and I try to be the voice of reason when it comes to the IWF here :)
Posted by ChristopherWoods over 8 years ago
Filterman - does your company offer a mechanism to ISPs using your solution whereby they can forward requests for unblocking for content which is clearly not CSAI? I've seen some rather inappropriate blocks courtesy of the IWF watchlist, and there seems to be little oversight or post-block review of blocked material. A feedback mechanism to ensure inaccurate or inappropriate blocks are sent to the IWF for review would be a real USP for your solution, if you can work with the IWF to implement this.
Posted by Filterman over 8 years ago

Sorry for the late reply. Yes, we do have a mechanism to do this, normally through the block page that the ISP chooses, so any unblocking requests will get forwarded to the ISP. The ISP then can choose to unblock this site locally through the management interface, and also report it to the IWF. I would be happy to discuss your suggestion with the IWF when I next meet with them. Any more suggestions please email me at
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