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3 top ISPs to block access to sources of child porn

Verizon, Time Warner Cable, Sprint also agree to use a quick response system, provide $1.12M to fund further efforts

By Linda Rosencrance
June 10, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Verizon Communications Inc., Time Warner Cable Inc. and Sprint Nextel Corp. have signed an agreement with New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to shut down access to two major sources of child pornography.

This is the first time that three of the world's largest Internet service providers have agreed to eliminate access to child pornography newsgroups, which are major suppliers of the illegal images, according to a statement from Cuomo's office. The ISPs have also agreed to purge their servers of child pornography Web sites identified by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, the Cuomo said in the statement.

"Our strategy was somewhat of a different strategy than most law enforcement agencies take. Rather than going after the individual user, our strategy was to go toward the supplier side," Cuomo said at a press conference today. "If you have a pool of users and the pool keeps refilling, rather than trying to empty the pool with a bucket, go turn off the faucet and stop the flow of material."

An undercover investigation by the attorney general's office found that "newsgroups" -- online public bulletin boards where users can upload and download files -- are a major source of online child pornography, the statement said. Because users access newsgroups through their ISPs, Verizon, Time Warner Cable and Sprint have agreed to completely block access to all child pornography newsgroups.

Over several months, investigators reviewed millions of photos and uncovered 88 newsgroups that contained a total of 11,390 sexually explicit photos of prepubescent children, including photos of children being raped, according to the statement.

As part of the agreement with the attorney general's office, the three ISPs will also implement a system to quickly respond to user complaints about child pornography. They have also agreed to put up a total of $1.125 million to fund additional efforts by the attorney general's office and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children to remove child pornography from the Internet.

The investigation into other ISPs that allow child pornography to be distributed online is continuing, Cuomo said.

All three companies expressed support for stopping the spread of online content that abuses children. Verizon deputy general counsel Tom Dailey said the company was committed to making sure its users weren't exposed to child pornography.

"By shutting down offending Newsgroups and contributing to funds that will combat child pornography online, we are working to remove this content permanently," Dailey said in the statement.

Time Warner Cable Senior Vice President and Chief Ethics Officer Jeff Zimmerman said his company is committed to helping to stop the spread of child pornography on the Internet.

"[W]e are doing our part to deter the accessibility of such harmful content through the Internet, and we are providing monetary resources that will go toward the identification and removal of online child pornography," Sprint spokesman Matthew Sullivan said in the statement.

Read more about Networking in Computerworld's Networking Topic Center.

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