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29 June 2006

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Credit cards join child porn fight (TODAY, 20060327)

Well! Isn't it about time to follow the stinking money trail?! Let's hope today-child porn, tomorrow-illegal animal trade! c


This story was printed from TODAYonline Credit cards join child porn fight Over 200,000 websites profit from peddling such porn, raking in up to $48.6 billion a year Monday • March 27, 2006 NEW YORK — Some of America's most powerful financial institutions have a new goal — and it doesn't involve making money. For the first time, titans such as American Express, Bank of America and Citigroup will join forces to try to thwart the use of credit cards and other financial tools to buy child pornography. A group of 18 corporate giants intends to share information, issue cease-and-desist orders to offenders and try to expand its reach to almost every financial institution that matters. The aim: To snuff out the commercial spread of the smut by 2008. Mr Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which will act as a clearing house for the effort, said: "If we can eliminate the credit-card use, the third-party payments or any of the illegal mechanisms, we can make it a whole lot harder." Child pornography has mushroomed into a giant business, attracting organised crime. At least 200,000 websites sell such images, according to Mr Allen, and rake in from US$20 billion ($32.4 billion) to US$30 billion a year. Mr Allen said: "We have no illusions of making the problem go away. But if we can get the focus back on hardcore paedophiles, (the problem) will be of a much smaller magnitude and we'll be able to use traditional means to track (paedophiles) and bring (them) to justice." The idea for the new group, called the Financial Coalition Against Child Pornography, originated with Republican Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. "The credit card system is one of the keys," Mr Shelby said in a phone interview with reporters. "It's all about money, money, money." He added: "If people were buying heroin and cocaine with their credit cards, people would be outraged. "This is worse." Individual credit card companies have tried in the past to crack down on the use of their cards for child-porn purchases. Three years ago, Visa International hired an outside firm, staffed by former government lawmen, to search a million pages on the Internet every day for child pornography websites that bore the Visa logo. When a site was discovered, the firm turned over the information to law enforcement officials working out of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. At the time, 80 per cent of the 400 websites it found selling child porn had either been shut down by the authorities or had their Visa privileges terminated, Visa told The Monitor newspaper. Visa is still engaged in that effort, now searching 11 million Internet pages a day. "We use a very sophisticated search engine. When it raises a red flag, we have to look at it and work with law enforcement in a coordinated response," said Ms Rhonda Bentz, Visa's vice-president in Washington. One problem for card companies is that it is illegal for anyone other than law-enforcement officials to look at child porn. This has made it difficult to proceed with their internal controls. "The great thing about this coalition is that it gives us, for the first time, an independent entity to decide the validity of a particular image — if it is child porn or not — and gives us actionable information," said Mr Joshua Peirez, group executive of global public policy at MasterCard in New York. The Financial Coalition Against Child Pornography, which has met three times already, has created three working groups on detection of child-porn sites, prevention of future sites and clearing house operations. "The goal is to use it as a core and then build out from it," said Mr Allen. "We're hoping to recruit additional financial institutions in the US and around the world." This latest effort will succeed, predicts Mr Carlos Ortiz, now with the law firm DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary in New York. "We have the right people involved to strangle the flow of money," he said. "I sincerely think it's going to make a difference." — NYT News Services Copyright MediaCorp Press Ltd. All rights reserved.








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