Human Rights Audit

In January 2014, the Internet Watch Foundation published a human rights audit (PDF, 2MB) which was carried out by former Director of Public Prosecutions Lord Ken Macdonald.

He concluded that the IWF’s fundamental work is entirely consistent with human rights law.
Among his findings, Lord Macdonald said:

  • The IWF’s fundamental work of restricting all child sexual abuse material is consistent with human rights law;
  • The IWF, although a private, industry-funded body, carries out public acts and therefore its policies and decision-making are susceptible to judicial review – a conclusion welcomed by the IWF Board;
  • That the IWF should appoint a retired judge to act as an appeals commissioner and Chief Inspector to oversee disputes and inspections respectively and the Board should contain at least one acknowledged expert in human rights law – conclusions welcomed by the IWF Board.

Recommendations in the report with responses from the IWF Board

1. IWF should in future restrict its remit to child sexual abuse material.

IWF Board: A decision on this item has been deferred and will follow conversations with stakeholders regarding this recommendation.

2. IWF should appoint an expert in human rights law to its Board

IWF Board: Dr Uta Kohl, Senior Lecturer in Law at the Department of Law and Criminology at Aberystwyth University was appointed as human rights co-opted Trustee.

3. IWF should appoint a senior legal figure as its new Chief Inspector

IWF Board: Sir Mark Hedley, former judge of the High Court of England and Wales, was appointed as appeals commissioner and chief inspector.

4. IWF’s appeals process should include, as a final stage, a determination by the Chief Inspector.

IWF Board: Accepted.

5. Inspections of IWF’s work should take place at least every two years. The Inspection team, headed by the new Chief Inspector, should include one expert in human rights law.

IWF Board: Accepted. Inspections already take place every two years.

6. If IWF moves into more proactive investigations, its analyst training should be updated to meet the further responsibilities inherent in an investigative role.

IWF Board: Accepted.

7. In any proactive investigations, IWF should liaise closely with police.

IWF Board: Accepted.

8. Proposed increases in IWF’s industry funding should be maintained and expanded in order to make a move into more proactive work feasible in the longer term.

IWF Board: Accepted.

9. IWF should not, at present, investigate peer-to-peer file sharing. Instead, in light of the fact that it has subsumed CEOP with the apparent intention that investigations into online child sexual abuse material should be mainstreamed into the fight against serious crime, the National Crime Agency should now give these investigations high priority.

IWF Board: This decision has been deferred. It will follow a peer to peer consultation currently taking place and the pilot project with Google, Microsoft, the Home Office and CEOP. The IWF will be working in partnership to identify pathways to illegal material being shared via torrent feeds and subsequently remove access via the two market leaders in search. This project was announced on 18 November 2013.