Courts, Cops Cracking Down on Kiddie Porn

Federal and state authorities are cracking down on child pornography across
the Internet, from news groups to Web sites, but will efforts to police the
World Wide Web ever bear fruit?

Monday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) charged 89 pedophiles
for producing and distributing images across the Internet. Those charged
were not overt criminals or your classic stereotype of a sexual predator,
officials said, but policemen, teachers, Little League coaches and doctors.

Robert Mueller, FBI director, said no corner of the Internet is safe from
Operation Candyman, an initiative to track down and arrest child
pornography rings and an outgrowth of its “Innocent Images” operation.

“We will diligently shut down any and all websites, Egroups, bulletin
boards, and any other mediums that will foster the continued exploitation
of our children,” Mueller said.

“Innocent Images” has convicted more than 3,000 people since its start in 1995.

Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL), House Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection
Subcommittee chairman, said safety and security on the Internet remains a
priority, even if other events have taken over the national consciousness.

“Although technology carries many benefits, the scourge of Internet child
pornography underscores that technology can be misused,” he said. “Even
though the FBI has been working around the clock in response to 9/11, it is
still committed to finding those sexual predators who produce, distribute,
and exchange child pornography.

“This must remain an ongoing effort to find, arrest, and prosecute those
who target our children,” Stearns added.

Internet service providers (ISPs) in Pennsylvania find themselves in the
middle of the government’s attempts to crack down on child pornography,
courtesy of a law state legislators will put into effect next month.

The new law puts ISPs in a quandary — the first and foremost consideration
is for ISPs to bring the Internet to its customers. Now, the state’s
attorney general’s office will hand providers a list of sites promoting
kiddie porn and have those ISPs block the IP addresses in question. The
penalty for non-compliance is jail time.

On the other hand, ISPs have to face a statistic released by the National
Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which finds that one in five
children between the ages of 10 and 17 have been solicited for sex while
online.

It’s the first time ISPs in the U.S. have had to impose a
government-ordered block on certain Web sites, one that sets a new level of
precedence for banning undesirable content on the Internet.

To date, the Protection of Children from Sexual Predators Act of 1998
requires ISPs to notify the police if they find one of their customers
hosting child pornography on their servers, though no provider have been
charged to date for violating that Act.

“Attacking child pornography in cyberspace is the responsibility of
everyone, including ISPs,” Stearns said. “However, we cannot expect ISPs
to police the Internet alone. It must be a cooperative effort among ISPs,
communities, and law enforcement.”

It’s an initial attempt in the U.S. to do what other countries have failed
to do worldwide.

Terence C. Giufre-Sweetser works at TereDonn Telecommunications Ltd., a
carrier in Queensland, Australia. He said the Aussie government has had an
ISP child pornography law in place for a year now, and is a failure. The
problem, he said, is the government isn’t Internet-savvy enough to figure
out how to track elusive pornography distributors.

“The law is ineffective (in Australia),” he said. “The government here
doesn’t understand the medium, and can’t work out that handing $6 million
to a film censor every year will never stop child exploitation.”

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