Leading ISPs Reach Agreement to Block Child Pornography

New York Attorney General secures over $1.1 million from top ISPs.

by / June 10, 2008

Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced landmark agreements with Verizon, Time Warner Cable, and Sprint to shut down major sources of online child pornography. For the first time, three of the world's largest Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have agreed to block access to child porn from two significant sources. The companies will eliminate access to child porn Newsgroups, a major supplier of these illegal images, and will also purge their servers of child porn Web sites.

"The pervasiveness of child pornography on the Internet is horrific and it needs to be stopped," said Attorney General Cuomo. "We are attacking this problem by working with Internet Service Providers to ensure they do not play host to this immoral business. I commend the companies that have stepped up today to embrace a new standard of responsibility, which should serve as a model for the entire industry."

An undercover investigation by the Attorney General's office uncovered a major source of online child pornography known as "Newsgroups," an online service not associated with Web sites. The Newsgroups act as online public bulletin boards where users can upload and download files. Users access Newsgroups through their Internet Service Providers. As part of the agreements, the ISPs will for the first time completely block access to all child porn Newsgroups.

The Attorney General's investigation reviewed millions of pictures over several months, uncovering 88 different Newsgroups that contained a total of 11,390 sexually lewd photos.

As part of the undercover investigation, the Attorney General's office developed a new system for identifying online content that contains child pornography. Every online picture has a unique "Hash Value" that, once identified and collected, can be used to digitally match the same image anywhere else it is distributed. By building a library of the Hash Values for images identified as being child pornography, the Attorney General's investigators were able to filter through tens of thousands of online files at a time, speedily identifying which Internet Service Providers were providing access to child pornography images.

In addition to eliminating the Newsgroups, the ISPs have also agreed to purge their servers of all child pornography Web sites identified by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC). NCMEC regularly reviews and updates its registry of these illegal sites to ensure the list reflects the current presence of such Web sites on the Internet.

The ISPs, as part of the agreements with Cuomo, will implement a new system to rapidly respond to user complaints about child pornography. The three companies will also collectively pay $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.

Attorney General Cuomo said, "I applaud Verizon, Time Warner Cable, and Sprint for working with my office to address this growing problem. These companies are leading the industry and instituting new and innovative ways to stop their service from being used by people looking to distribute and access child pornography. I call on all Internet Service Providers to follow their example and help deter the spread of online child porn."

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children Chief Executive Officer Ernie Allen said, "This is a major step forward in the fight against child pornography. Attorney General Cuomo has developed a new and effective system that cuts online child porn off at the source, and stops it from spreading across the Internet. I applaud the Attorney General for making the protection of children a priority for his office."