Can ISPs Help Prevent Child Pornography?

Jul 26, 2012

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In an effort to filter the Internet for a specific purpose, several big Internet Service Providers (ISP's) have collaborated in order to form the Center for Copyright Information, an ISP-level effort that will filter copyright-protected material.

Given this topic, some wonder if a filtering system such as this might block web-based child pornography. Some ask “why not block child pornography at the ISP level in the same way, using the same technology and collaborative effort?” The only reason this sort of movement is not implemented is because of law enforcement.

Federal law requires ISPs to report child pornography when identified. Law enforcement, in order to speed up the process of stopping child abuse, must review the images first. Typically there is a flow of information between these three groups.

ISPs report images found to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), who hand off that information to law enforcement agencies for investigation. Then, once the images have been validated by law enforcement as pornography involving minors, they are sent back to the ISPs.

Over time, the NCMEC has developed a database of images with “identified minors.” These images potentially could be blocked from distribution at the ISP level. By doing so, the victimization of the children could potentially diminish as the images are kept out of distribution and viewed.

Blocking such images decreases the number of images in circulation; therefore, law enforcement will only receive new images to investigate. No existing images will have to be recycled through the system.

Why does this matter? The newer the image, more likely the child has been harmed. These efforts aid law enforcement to prevent future abuse.

Thanks to ISPs for joining forces. Since the image database already exists, the filtering of the child pornography should be relatively simple. We recommend our legislators be made aware of this potential tool in the fight against abuse.

I work for ContentWatch and all opinions expressed here are my own.