• January 18 2004
Internet mobile phones are the new frontier for child porn
this week by a children’s charity in the UK leave little doubt
as to the internet’s contribution to the increase of child pornography
with related crimes rising by 1,500 per cent since 1988. Perhaps more
worrying is the spread of internet mobile phones that could provide
child porn peddlers with a ‘safer’ medium to conduct their
Mobile phone operators concede that little can be done to stop paedophiles
from using mobile phone networks to further their criminal interests.
A spokesperson for ‘go mobile’ explained that mobile phone
companies only provided a means of access to the Internet. "There
is very little we can do to limit access to any certain websites and
WAP sites. The Internet is an independent entity, and go mobile provides
connection to the Internet via ISPs," he told MaltaToday.
Acknowledging that policing the internet is a difficult task, a spokesperson
for ‘Vodafone’ told MaltaToday that consumers trying to
access the internet from a Vodafone live! session, are prompted by a
warning screen that the operator has no control over the content to
The Vodafone spokesperson further explained: "The consumer is the
person using the service and not necessarily the customer who pays for
the service. These may be different persons such as kids using their
With mobile phones, child porn can be accessed anywhere and discreetly
making criminals no longer tied down to their personal computers. This
makes it all the more difficult for law enforcers to track down paedophiles
more so with pre-paid cards where network users remain anonymous.
Mobile phone operators are not obliged by law to impose registration
on customers utilising their network. "If legislation is passed
that would make it mandatory for users to register their details, we
would have to introduce such measures. So far, this is not the case,"
the ‘go mobile’ spokesperson said.
The Vodafone counterpart added: "In the mobile industry although
a person may not be registered with the operator, a trail of his or
her actions is kept by the operator. This information is easily traceable
and made available to the competent authorities when requested according
Another issue concerning mobile phone usage is related to the internet’s
number one growth market; pornography. The red hot industry is also
expected to be a growth market for mobile related services. Pornography
is illegal in Malta contrary to the perfectly legal status it enjoys
in other countries. Linking pornographic sites to an age verification
system might provide a way of preventing minors from accessing these
But the Vodafone spokesperson who spoke to MaltaToday was wary. "Vodafone
live! in Malta does not have pornographic material. However a mobile
phone can be used as the medium via which to access any material found
on the Internet. It is very difficult to link all the material available
on the internet to an age verification database as these sites are known
to change their URLs and new ones sprout every day."
Child pornography and exposure of minors to porn sites are the downsides
of the ever-changing mobile phone technology. However, both Malta’s
mobile phone operators have offered their support to crime busting measures.
"go mobile encourages policing on the Internet as a way of ensuring
that illegal content such as child pornography is not made readily available,"
the company spokesperson said. A similar appeal was made by Vodafone.
"We support all legal entities involved in the fight against crime
and the company has invested considerable resources in tracking down
systems that support law enforcement officers."
However, the fight against the criminal and illicit use of internet
may lie elsewhere than draconian policing. Ensuring that both parents
and children are internet-wise is probably the best way of empowering
individuals to face up to the potential pitfalls presented by the ever-widening