what is illegal to watch on the internet uk

What Is Illegal To Watch On The Internet In The UK In December 2023

The internet is a vast, endless source of knowledge and entertainment. 

However, not all content is acceptable for viewing in the UK. This article explores the laws and rules that control internet use and delves into “what is illegal to watch on the internet in the UK.”

Topics that you will find covered on this page

Understanding UK Internet Law

To protect its internet users, the UK has strict laws and regulations. These laws restrict what can and cannot be viewed, intending to deter crime and defend people’s rights.

Numerous law enforcement agencies enforce these laws. For instance, the West Mercia Police has a specialised Cybercrime Unit that works tirelessly to identify and bring charges against those who engage in illegal activities online.

The Government Agency Intelligence Network is also of utmost importance in this process. They gather and analyse information about illegal online activity in collaboration with the police and other agencies.

The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), in addition to these organisations, is also vital. The IWF, a UK-based organisation, works to find and delete illegal content from the internet, particularly images of child sexual abuse.

Child Sexual Abuse Material

Unquestionably, one of the most heinous types of illegal content involves child sexual abuse. This content contains graphic depictions of children or any sexual activity involving children. Viewing, disseminating, or creating such content is prohibited by UK law.

According to the Internet Watch Foundation, thousands of images of child sex abuse are taken down from the internet each week. This demonstrates the severity of the problem. 

Law enforcement organisations like the West Mercia Police put great effort into identifying and bringing charges against those who view, distribute, or create such content. They also collaborate with internet service providers to prevent access to these images.

To address this problem, the UK government has also passed strict laws. A severe criminal investigation may be conducted if child sexual abuse material is viewed, distributed, or produced.

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Hate Speech and Extremism

Viewing or promoting extremism and hate speech online in the UK is also forbidden. This includes any material that promotes racial, religious, sexual, or other protected-characteristic-based violence, hatred, or discrimination.

Online hate speech and extremism are combated by specialised units within the UK police, including the West Mercia Police. They collaborate with other governmental agencies to find and remove such content from the internet.

Platforms for social media play a part in this as well. Many have procedures to detect and delete hate speech and extremist material. But locating and eliminating such content is a difficult task. 

To combat hate speech and extremism online, internet users, law enforcement, and social media platforms must work together.

Piracy and Copyright Infringement

In the UK, copyright violations and piracy are both serious problems. This includes sharing copyrighted content without permission and illegal streaming services and websites. The government’s Intellectual Property Office safeguards the rights of copyright holders. 

They collaborate with law enforcement and other organisations to track down and prosecute people who engage in copyright or piracy offences. Unauthorised streaming services are a particular problem. 

It is difficult for law enforcement to act against these services because they frequently operate outside the UK. Internet users can, however, contribute to the fight against this problem. 

They can support the creative industries and stop the spread of illicit content by using legal streaming services like BBC iPlayer or Google Play.

Terrorist Content Online

Terrorist Content Online

Another type of unlawful content is terrorist content. This can include material intended to radicalise people and material that glorifies or promotes terrorism. To stop the spread of terrorist content online, the UK government has put strict regulations in place. 

Those found to be accessing or disseminating such material risk harsh criminal penalties. The West Mercia Police and other law enforcement organisations have specialised units to stop the spread of terrorist content online. 

They collaborate with other governmental agencies and international partners to locate and delete such content from the internet. However, it is a difficult task to stop terrorist content online. 

To effectively combat the spread of terrorist content, internet users, law enforcement, and internet service providers must work together.

"According to the Internet Watch Foundation, thousands of images of child sex abuse are taken down from the internet each week. This demonstrates the severity of the problem."

Revenge Porn and Privacy Breach

Another type of illegal content is revenge porn, also known as non-consensual pornography. Without the subject’s permission, explicit photos or videos are shared in this situation. Retaliation porn is outlawed in the UK thanks to strict legislation. 

Those found to be disseminating such material risk severe criminal charges and harsh penalties. Law enforcement organisations like the West Mercia Police put great effort into finding and bringing abusers to justice. 

They also collaborate with internet service providers to remove such content from the internet.

However, more than just law enforcement is needed to stop the spread of revenge porn. 

Cooperation between internet users and social media platforms is necessary to report such content and aid the victims.

Revenge Porn and Privacy Breach

Obscene Publications and Indecency

Online decency and obscene publications are prohibited by law in the UK. This covers explicit adult material, extreme pornography, and harmful or violent material. Many organisations, including the police and the Film Classification Board, enforce the UK’s obscenity laws. 

They work to locate, delete, and prosecute those who distribute pornographic material. But finding and eliminating such content is a difficult task. 

To effectively combat the spread of obscene content, internet users, law enforcement, and internet service providers must work together.

Reporting Illegal Online Content

It’s crucial to report any illegal content you discover online in the UK. You can report this to law enforcement directly or via the Internet Watch Foundation. Giving as much information as you can when writing illegal content is essential. 

This can assist law enforcement in locating the culprits, identifying the problem, and stopping it.

However, it’s also crucial to remember that you shouldn’t share or distribute illegal content if you come across it. This can exacerbate the issue and possibly result in criminal charges.

A robust system for reporting and removing illegal content exists in the UK. To be truly effective, it needs everyone who uses the internet’s cooperation. You can contribute to making the internet a safer place for everyone by reporting illegal content.

Recognising Child Pornography

Under UK law, child pornography is a serious offence. Production, dissemination, and viewing of explicit sexual images or videos of children are all part of it. 

Frequently, these images are disseminated through illicit streams on different websites, violating the child’s fundamental rights to human dignity. The West Mercia Cybercrime Unit follows these streams and prosecutes the offenders. 

The unit uses cutting-edge technology to identify and stop illegal streams, shielding vulnerable kids from further harm. Additionally, internet service providers must report any suspected instances of child pornography. They risk severe legal repercussions if they don’t comply.

The Threat of Online Pornography and Illegal Streams

The Threat of Online Pornography and Illegal Streams

Online pornography is a severe problem in the UK, especially involving illegal content. Numerous pornographic websites host videos uploaded without permission, violating privacy laws and possibly resulting in sexual offences.

Internet users are also at risk from illegal streams. They defy copyright laws and put viewers at risk of malware and viruses. Although streaming services are making a lot of effort to address these problems, the fight is never-ending.

The West Mercia Cybercrime Unit and other law enforcement agencies are constantly working to take down these websites and streams. The safety and legality of online content depend heavily on their enforcement efforts.

Understanding Copyright Theft

Another severe problem on the UK’s internet is copyright theft. It entails downloading and sharing copyrighted content—including software, music, and movies—illegally. This crime is frequently carried out using illegitimate streaming websites. 

Legal repercussions are typically the responsibility of the streaming service providers, but viewers are also subject to liability. The UK government and groups like the Intellectual Property Office are putting forth much effort to stop copyright theft. 

They engage in routine enforcement actions and promote public awareness of the value of adhering to copyright laws.

Understanding Copyright Theft

Tackling Organised Crime

A breeding ground for organised crime is also the internet. This can include less severe offences like sharing illegal content and copyright theft and more serious ones like human trafficking and drug dealing.

The West Mercia Cybercrime Unit never stops working to break up these criminal networks. They collaborate with other law enforcement agencies and employ cutting-edge technology to find and prosecute those responsible.

Every user can contribute while the fight against organised crime continues. We can all make the internet safer by reporting suspicious activity and avoiding questionable websites.

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Meet the author

Rob Atherton

Rob Atherton

Rob writes and edits the content produced by the rest of the team. He has a degree in History from Leeds University and has producing, reviewing and editing the site since 2016

Meet The Team

Frequently Asked Questions

What is considered illegal to watch on the internet in the UK?

It’s against the law to view content in the UK that includes child porn, extreme porn, hate speech, extremist material, pirated content, and non-consensual explicit images, also known as “revenge porn.” These are regarded as serious crimes that could result in severe punishments.

What role do Internet Service Providers play in preventing illegal activities online?

In the UK, Internet service providers play a big part in stopping illegal activity. They must check their networks for unlawful content and notify the appropriate authorities of occurrences. They also work with law enforcement organisations to restrict access to illegal content.

How can devices be protected from illegal streams and content?

Use reputable, legal streaming services to protect your device from unlicensed streams and content. Stay away from clicking on suspicious links, and keep your antivirus software up to date.

What is the enforcement activity about online sexual offences?

The pursuit of those who create, disseminate, or view illegal sexual content entails bringing them to justice. This is part of the enforcement activity regarding online sexual offences. Some law enforcement organisations, including the West Mercia Cybercrime Unit, do this.