A project to reduce Canadian access to offshore child porn sites could reduce the incidence of child abuse, says the head of the National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre.

"I think it's going to make a difference," RCMP Supt. Earla-Kim McColl told CBC News Online on Thursday, because "people can look at this material and then act out."

There's some evidence that without access to sexual images of children, abusers "may not act against children," she said.

McColl was commenting on an initiative announced Thursday that willblock about 80 per cent of Canadian internet users from accessing foreign websites that feature child porn.

Eight of Canada's largest internet service providers (ISPs) have agreed to use filtersthat will prevent most internet users from getting into the offshore sites. As many as 800 sites could be blocked.

People who are "bound and determined" to view child porn will find a way to do it, but the filters will stop some viewers, said Jay Thomson, assistant vice-president of broadband policy at Telus Corp., one of the eight ISPs.

The initiative, dubbed Project Cleanfeed Canada, was announced by Cybertip.ca, a website that works to stop child porn. Cybertip will pick the sites to be blocked and the eightlarge ISPs— which serve more than 80 per cent of Canadians — will activate the filters.

Each ISP isbeginning the program on its ownschedule, Thomson said.

Domestic child porn websites are excluded from the initiative because they can be dealt with by police and courts in Canada, where it is a crime to access child exploitation images through the internet.

Once a domestic porn site is located, police can ask a judge for an interim order closing it down while they investigate, Thomson said.

Cybertip's website saiditsreports topolicehave resulted in 20 arrests and the removal of as many as 1,100 websites since September 2002.

Sites could be added

As well as Telus, the ISPs participating are Bell, Rogers, Bell Aliant, Shaw, SaskTel, Videotron and MTS Allstream.

More sites could be added to the 500 to 800 that Cybertip will start with as they are discovered.

The program will not collect information about users who try to access theblocked sites.

The project is based on a similar, "very successful" effort launched in Britain by British Telecom. Other European ISPs have since joined, Cybertip said in a release.