herald

Sunday 28 December 2014

We can't ban anorexia sites say web firms

INTERNET companies have said that banning pro-ano- rexia websites is not possible until psychologists and Government provide clearer guidelines.

Anorexic sufferer Michelle Kickham says that the 'pro-ana' and 'pro-mia' websites encourage anorexia and bulimia and are harmful to those who are trying to recover.

"They give you tips and tricks about how to throw up," Michelle explained. "It really upsets me to see these sites. They are murderous. It brainwashes those who are vulnerable already into believing 'thin is perfection'."

Michelle (18) has asked the Government and Irish internet providers to stop prevent access to the sites which compare tips on starving diets and post shocking photos of the effects of anorexia and bulimia.

She pointed out that recently, internet service provider (ISP) Eircom blocked access to illegal download website Pirate Bay. Eircom said that they did this because they were legally required to do so.

"Eircom fully complies with the laws of the land regarding all illegal online activity," a spokeswoman said. "Eircom has blocked access to The Pirate Bay website on foot of a High Court order."

But a spokesman for the Internet Service Providers Association in Ireland (ISPA) said that the issue should not be for individual businesses such as Eircom or UTV internet to make alone. "When is a private body like an ISP becoming like a censor? If any censorship has to be done, it should be done by the Government," said Paul Durrant, general manager of ISPA. "If society believes that this information is illegal, just as child pornography is illegal, then we can act.

"We need the experts in this area to give us better guidelines which can be acted through the individual ISPs. It should not be the case that businesses are making societal decisions."

However, Mr Durrant said that if a site hosted in Ireland was brought to their attention, the individual ISP could act.

"Under our codes of practice there is a specific clause which says that if a site is causing undue stress, then the company would have to act," he said.

clairemurphy@herald.ie

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