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The practicalities of blocking and filtering harmful material on the internet have generated interest in a range of contexts: the misuse of social media during the August 2011 riots, child sexual abuse images and copyright infringement.

The communications regulator, Ofcom, considered a range of blocking techniques in the context of combating copyright infringement. Ofcom reported in May 2011. In August 2011, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport published Next steps for implementation of the Digital Economy Act. This referred to Ofcom’s assessment of website blocking and the fact that the Government would not be proceeding with this for the time being.

Other legislation can also be invoked to control internet content. Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 proscribes the improper use of a public electronic communications network. It has recently been applied, apparently for the first time, to a social networking site (Twitter).

Online activity is also subject to general offline legislation such as the Obscene Publications Act 1959 and the Human Rights Act 1998.

Tackling internet hate crime is another area that poses a challenge to the adaptation of law to this medium. A new service for reporting all hate crimes online was launched by the police in April 2011.

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