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Internet service providers would be required to notify authorities if they become aware of child pornography. ((CBC File))

The federal Conservative government plans to introduce new legislation this week requiring internet service providers to take a more active role in reporting child pornography to police, CBC News has learned.

The law would compel ISPs to report sites carrying offending images and protect the evidence for authorities, according to a senior government official.

ISPs would also be required to report any tips they receive about sites that may be posting child pornography to a designated agency.

Similar legislation is already in place in the United States, but in Canada ISPs are not required to retain customer data and do not take an active role in policing apparent child pornography.

POV

Are you afraid that your privacy may be at risk as a result of the proposed legislation? Have your say here.

Rosalind Prober, president of Winnipeg-based child-safety advocate Beyond Borders, said over a year ago in calling for the legislation that it would help law enforcement officials track down offending material, and the people distributing it, more quickly.

What isn't clear is how compliance would be enforced, as Prober said compliance remains an issue in the U.S. despite legal requirements.

ISPs required to monitor more closely

ISPs have traditionally provided information to authorities when asked in cases involving child pornography, though police officials and internet safety advocates have argued not all are co-operative.

In November 2006, eight of Canada's largest ISPs, representing about 80 per cent of Canadian internet users, also agreed to block foreign websites that feature child porn by using a filter called Cleanfeed.

The planned legislation would follow on the heels of two separate bills before the House of Commons that require ISPs to make it possible for police and intelligence officers to intercept online communications and get personal information about subscribers.

ISPs both large and small expressed concern those proposed laws would be expensive, potentially requiring retrofits to existing hardware to make internet tapping possible.