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Voluntarily censor one of the internet's oldest mediums

Sprint, Verizon, and Time Warner cable agreed to a nationwide block on access to Usenet newsgroups that offer child pornography, wrapping up an eight month undercover investigation and complaint from the New York Attorney General’s office.

“The pervasiveness of child pornography on the Internet is horrific and it needs to be stopped,” said New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, speaking in a press release.  “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.”

Usenet – one of the internet’s oldest applications – dates back to a time long before the World Wide Web. Its popularity died down as web sites and web-based message boards came into vogue, relegating it to a forgotten “back alley” frequented by niche crowds. One thing Usenet hasn’t been forgotten for, however, is its ability to store and distribute files such as music and, in this case, pornography.

Traditionally, ISPs have stayed out of enforcing restrictions on what its users’ access, citing the legal immunity granted to them by maintaining a policy of noninterference. That immunity has come under attack from a wide variety of sources. Previous aggressors include the content industry, frustrated with ISPs’ permissive stance on piracy, as well as the ISPs’ themselves as they explore ways to further monetize their infrastructure. Now, with its investigation concluding, ISPs can add the New York state Attorney General’s office to that list.

Investigators had to take an unusual course of action, however. Traditional approaches failed; ISPs responded with a routine disclaimer of responsibility for the content of their networks. Instead, investigators chose to invoke a section of each their service agreements that promised to take action against users who distribute child porn; when the contacted ISPs failed to act after receiving a series of anonymous complaints from investigators, the Attorney General’s office pounced by threatening to charge them with fraud and deceptive business practices. The ensuing agreement was a result of these threats.

Cuomo says the unconventional approach was necessary, because traditional methods are not working. Attacking individual distributors has “limited effectiveness,” he said, because American demand for child pornography is often supplied internationally, frequently hailing from countries doing little in the way of enforcement.

“The ISPs’ point had been, ‘We’re not responsible, these are individuals communicating with individuals, we’re not responsible,’ ” said Cuomo.  “Our point was that at some point, you do bear responsibility.”

As part of its agreement, the three ISPs will also pay $1.125 million to underwrite the investigation and “fund additional efforts by the Attorney General’s office and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children to remove child pornography from the Internet.”

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RE: Nice try, but...
By mindless1 on 6/12/2008 5:56:46 AM , Rating: 2
In my mind the question of where to stop is easy. Photorealistic images of nude children should not be presented, except possibly some exemption when they are not the primary object of the photo, such as when National Geographic goes to some impoverised country or a native tribe and there might be blurry background, distanced children without proper clothes on.

As for art, if a child was improperly handled during it's production, and inquiries should be made about that if the art seems a little too realistic or subject specific (not sure of the right words to write what I mean, if it seems to be identifying of an individual child) then the art should be seized, destroyed, and the artist charged with a crime. If it is simply some person's imagination, no nude child posing, that made a sculpture or similar even today, I might begin to wonder if that artist needed some psychological help, but wouldn't consider that - without any children being exposed to this undertaking - a crime in itself.

I agree the line has to be exploitation of real children, but also those who profit from it. We can't just put away the (perhaps one?) person who films a child porn flick then not equally go after those who peddle it, and ultimately those who continue to distribute it for free even if these people never directly caused any profit gain for the porn producer or themselves. These latter groups may not be even indirectly responsible for the exploitation of the children involved, but they need a stop put to their activites so they can have a controlled environment where they can get the psychological help they need.

RE: Nice try, but...
By wordsworm on 6/12/2008 9:28:00 AM , Rating: 2
when National Geographic goes to some impoverised country or a native tribe and there might be blurry background

The technology exists to blur a child's genitalia in both video and photos. As you say, since it's not the primary object of the photo, then there should be no issue with forcing National Geographic to follow a simple protocol.

no nude child posing
Ok, so fantasy depictions of children being molested is ok for you? I would have a problem with it.

These latter groups may not be even indirectly responsible for the exploitation of the children involved,
If people who are interested in nude children get access to this material in any form whatsoever, they will then fantasize that it is them that are committing the act. They might get ideas as to how to do it without getting caught, or simply forget the consequences in their desire to fulfill their fantasy. In any case, I'd love to see all child porn cease. I know killing it in newsgroups isn't going to fix the issue. Simply encrypting the files and sharing keys can keep the trade up. However, it would keep out the folks who don't understand this stuff, which in itself might reduce, in at least some way, both demand and the actualization of these sick fantasies.

In any case, the lines get blurry when young men/women look like young girls. I wish that there was a rule that could be made up that would kill the whole industry. I know there's no easy cure. However, I still think that attacking it in newsgroups is a good thing.

RE: Nice try, but...
By mindless1 on 6/13/2008 4:26:07 AM , Rating: 2
But I do not approve of blurring genitalia. There is a middle ground between censorship and pron. I would not even be looking at a child's genitalia, but when there's large blurs on the screen it is distracting, it stands out. Similarly so when anything is blurred on a screen. Maybe if the child were very close up blurring would be a good idea, but I don't think there is a need at all for a very close up picture of a nude child even for national geographic -like purposes.

Fantasy depictions of children being molested is very disturbing, but it is not abusing any child. Define fantasy depiction. If it is some crude sketch I'm not saying it should be publically acceptible but I don't think some perv is going to be captivated by it, jerk off to it, or whatever these pedos have in mind when they seek such (other) material. I would hold such works as more similar to a fantasy depiction of killing people or most other horrible acts, that it is just an indication a person has poor mental health.

As for killing a whole industry, certainly that would be great, but the problem is (I suspect) that a lot of it isn't an industry, just some sick old man who gets a kick out of filming and possibly molesting someone, then shares his exploit. It shouldn't be on usenet, that is certainly a good start and driving these people underground may not be the best solution but it is better than the way things stand at present.

“We do believe we have a moral responsibility to keep porn off the iPhone.” -- Steve Jobs
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