'35,000 attempts to access child porn blocked every day'

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The Independent Online

About 35,000 attempts to access child pornography websites are blocked in Britain every day, figures showed today.

The figures were compiled by BT, which accounts for around a third of the internet market, and it is feared the overall number could be much higher.

They show that attempts to access the websites have tripled since the company introduced its screening technology in June 2004.

The Cleanfeed programme, which prevents users from accessing child porn sites blacklisted by the Internet Watch Foundation, initially registered 10,000 attempts to access by them BT's 3.1 million domestic users each day.

Today's figures showed there were four million blocked attempts to access the websites over the last four months.

Mike Galvin, a BT director , said: "Project Cleanfeed plays a part in protecting children worldwide and therefore reduces the viability of this activity as a business.

"However, today's figures clearly demonstrate that this type of activity continues to be an industry-wide problem, and it's therefore critical that online child protection remains high on the agenda."

John Carr, from the National Children's Home charity, told the Daily Mail: "People will be shocked by these figures - they are quite chilling. But this is the size of the issue that we are having to deal with."

The figures were released as it was claimed that internet safety and how to avoid paedophiles should be part of the National Curriculum.

The director of the Cyberspace Research Unit at the University of Central Lancashire, Dr Rachel O'Connell, said learning about the dangers posed by the internet should be compulsory in schools.

"Online well-being should be a mandatory part of the school curriculum from the day a child starts at school," she said.

"It needs to be embedded throughout the curriculum."

She added: "Teachers need to be up-skilled in order to achieve that."

Dr O'Connell said that while up to 92% of nine to 19-year-olds were now accessing the internet at school, a third had not received lessons on its use.

Just over half had seen pornography on the web but only four out of 10 said they would tell their parents if something on the net made them feel uncomfortable.

Her call coincided with the launch of a new website offering internet safety tips for parents and children.

The site - www.internetsafetyzone.com - brings together content from the Government, industry, children's welfare organisations and academics for the first time.

Backed by a £1 million Home Office awareness campaign, it was unveiled at a conference in London which will also look at the media's role in covering controversial subjects available on the web, such as suicide websites and pro-anorexia and self-harm online forums.

Mr Carr added that figures he obtained from industry before Christmas had shown 80% of domestic internet users were covered by internet service providers which were already implementing some kind of blocking.

But he said: "One in five home users of the internet could access illegal child pornography on websites because their internet service provider is not using the same blocking technology (as BT) and that is completely unacceptable."

The policy of self-regulation should be replaced by legislation if it is clear that it is not working, Mr Carr added.

Clare Tickell, NCH's chief executive, said: "NCH deals with children and young people who have been abused on a daily basis and sees first hand the trauma it causes.

"Thirty-five thousand illegal images blocked daily is a great start but it also shows there are still a worrying number of illegal images involving children and young people in existence.

"Online child protection is crucial and something all ISPs must take seriously. Until online child pornography is eradicated, we must all work together to ensure children and young people are safe and protected from harm."