New York AG, Facebook Announces First of Its Kind Effort to Stop Child Porn

Expanding on his efforts to crack down on child pornography, New York's attorney general announced today that his office has partnered with Facebook, MySpace and other social networking sites to track and remove illegal images using Internet hash values.

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said his office has been working for months to build a library of more than 8,000 known pornographic images using the hash values, a kind of digital fingerprint assigned to every image posted on the Internet.

Facebook, MySpace and three other networking sites will then run the library against images posted on their sites, reporting any matches to law enforcement and taking down the offending images.

The hash value library is the first of its kind in the country.

"When it comes to something like this, I think of it more like a father and not a state official," said Cuomo, who has announced that he is running for governor. He added that child pornography in recent years "has spread like wildfire through dry grass."

Cuomo said he's seen over the years that child pornography isn't just used as a supply and demand business, but as a grooming tool to lure children into the sex trade around the world.

"They suggest to young people it's okay to do it because other young people are doing it," he said.

The other three participating sites are Friendster, hi5 and its Canada-based peer site isoHunt. They along with MySpace and Facebook have begun searching the images on their sites using the attorney general's office database. Cuomo said he's expecting the first reports to come in within weeks.

"They are now safer sites," Cuomo said.

Cuomo said he's also reached out to a number of other social networking and image-sharing sites including Black Planet, Flickr, Fotolog, Live Journal, Stickam and Buzznet.

He said he hopes the partnership with mega-sites Facebook and MySpace will spur others to sign on, along with the appeal to the companies' business model that such an agreement would boost their profile in the eyes of parents looking for safe sites for their children.

New York Attorney General Suing Tagged.com

Not all social networking sites have been so agreeable or eager to work with law enforcement. Cuomo announced two weeks ago that he intends to sue Tagged.com over what he said is significant lapses in the site's response to user reports of graphic images of child sexual abuse and sexually charged communication between adults and minors.

Tagged Inc. lawyer Louis Willacy issued a statement this month saying that they company had been working closely with Cuomo's office "and hope to resolve this quickly in the best interest of our members' safety."

"At Tagged, we strive constantly to improve our program to keep illegal content out and prevent unlawful contact between adults and minors on our site," Willacy said.

According to Laura Ahearn, executive director for Parents for Megan's Law, said today that the child pornography industry generates $300 billion a year, with hundreds of images uploaded every day.

"Each image," she said, "is a perpetual record of the sexual victimization of a child."

Ahearn noted that three-quarters of the people arrested for possessing child pornography admit to molesting a child.

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