ISPs take major step in curbing child porn
Three major firms agreed June 10 to purge images from their Web servers.
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Meanwhile, law enforcement has now taken a step that might serve as a bad precedent, says Mr. Harper. Child pornography is difficult to defend. But what happens if officials decide to move further, into other areas of conduct or even speech?Skip to next paragraph
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"Before too long you don't have an open, free-wheeling Internet," says Harper.
Harper says that to stomp out child pornography, law enforcement really needs to continue to pursue end-users, although such efforts are necessarily international in scope and require a great deal of work.
Ms. Wolak of the Crimes Against Children Research Center, however, says that finding ways of hitting the child-porn distribution market in the end would be a more effective approach.
There is certainly a free speech concern in trying to eliminate distribution of child-porn images, she says. But she adds that it is easy to draw a line on this issue because there is nothing borderline or gray about much of the offensive material.
It often features very young children who are obviously being physically abused, she says.
"In many cases you look at this material and it is clear that it is illegal," says Wolak.
Access to websites barred
Under the agreement with New York state, service providers will be required to bar access to explicit websites flagged by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. In addition, a library of images of child pornography amassed in the course of New York's undercover investigation will be used to try to track new sites. Many of these images are posted over and over at different online locations.
"The focus here is on the worst of the worst. This is not protected speech," says Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Also on June 10, France signed an agreement with ISPs similar to that reached by New York officials. French authorities will compile a blacklist using input from users who identify child pornography sites, said French Interior Minister Michel Alliot-Marie.
All service providers have agreed to block those sites, said Mr. Alliot-Marie.
"We have come to an agreement: Access to child-pornography sites will be blocked in France. Other democracies have done it," said the minister.
In a press conference, Attorney General Cuomo said his investigators had found 88 newsgroups devoted to child pornography. Companies had acted immediately when told of New York's concern, he said.
• Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.