Facing The Increasing Issue Of Illegal Content Online: What We Do

23rd June, 2016 by

As providers of web hosting services, we are often faced with the possibility that we are hosting malicious content. How and why we approach this issue is addressed below.

With the widespread global adoption of the internet – which has revolutionised today’s world – comes the onslaught of harmful, illegal and derogatory sites, distributing content such as child pornography, terrorist advocation, cruelty and abuse. Although we have distinct anti-abuse regulations, as providers of web hosting services we at UK2 can at times find ourselves hosting some of these sites, especially as we allow the resale of our services, servers and connectivity.

What we do about these sites:

UK2 has strict Acceptable Usage Policies, and we work with many entities to prevent violations of these policies. These organisations include not only Law Enforcement Agencies, but also independent or charitable organisations such as the National Crime Agency, the Internet Watch Foundation, CEOPs, InHope, and many others.  As soon as we are notified in a proper manner, we investigate and take appropriate and thorough action. There are no exceptions to this rule.

The issues we face as a hosting provider:

Sometimes we receive reports from concerned third parties which inform us of potentially illegal content. Some of these are easily verified, and action can be taken easily in cases of copyright theft, or blatantly illegal content. Other instances are more difficult. When a site is flagged as containing child pornography, for example, we would not want to subject our staff to having to “vet” content of such a nature. In these cases we work with charities such as InHope or the IWF, who have sophisticated tools which allow them to tell us if the images/content are already known, or if they are new etc, and what action we should take.

Most recently we have experienced issues directly related to the uprising of the terrorist group ISIS. Since their beginnings, our abuse team have been inundated with reports of terrorism-related or promotional websites which may be run by the group or their supporters. For us it is sadly not a simple task to assess these issues and act appropriately. A site written in Arabic, for example, is not always going to be an ISIS sympathising site, nor is a site bearing the flag of the Caliphate (which is used by ISIS). To that end, we have these sites vetted by a trusted third party which tells us if the site is innocuous or should be handled differently.

Unfortunately for us – and for the innocent owners of some of these sites – we and our customers have come under attack from online vigilante groups, who no doubt mean well (they seek out child pornography, bestiality, and other clearly criminal sites) but perhaps don’t acknowledge the difficulty we face when dealing with such sensitive issues. We have been accused of being a cyber-criminal safeharbour, or that “we just want our money”. This is not our position at all.  We hold a robust position on all things illegal, and take the appropriate action after investigation, escalating to counter terrorism or child protection officers at the relevant Law Enforcement Agencies if needed.

What you can do if you find content that you suspect is criminal/illegal.

The first step to take is to raise an abuse complaint with us. If we were unaware of its existence, we will start our normal procedures, and if we were previously aware, one of two things will have happened:

  1. We have investigated the site, and found it to be innocuous
  2. We will be keeping the site online at the request of a Law Enforcement Agency.

UK2 never keep illegal content online knowingly. We will tell you what action has been taken where applicable

If you feel strongly about your concerns, we would also urge you to report this to the authorities.  There are several ways of doing this, but the fastest ways are via these links:

https://www.gov.uk/report-terrorism or https://www.iwf.org.uk/report

Should you require any further information on any of the issues discussed in this article, please do not hesitate to contact our support team via our website.

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