Cable firms wage war against child pornography

July 17, 2008
by Chloe Albanesius

Seventeen cable operators have joined Time Warner Cable in an agreement to block access to Web sites that the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) has identified as containing child pornography.

NCMEC worked with the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) to get all the cable operators on NCTA's board of directors to sign the agreement, which cable is supposed to implement within 30 days. Forty-five attorneys general also issued their support for the deal.

"Although NCMEC has recently signed similar agreements with individual companies, this agreement is notable as the first such agreement NCMEC has reached with an entire sector of the nation's communications industry," said Patrick C. Lynch, president of the National Association of Attorneys General. "The NCTA agreement with NCMEC will limit the ability of predators to store and exchange images of exploitation of those who are, by definition, among the more vulnerable in society."

In June, Time Warner Cable, Verizon, and Sprint agreed to purge their servers of child pornography Web sites and newsgroups. A month later, Qwest agreed to block access to Web sites on NCMEC's child porn list; AT&T and AOL soon followed suit.

Among those cable providers who signed Thursday's agreement are Comcast, Cox, Charter, Cablevision, and Bright House Networks.

The agreement does not require the companies to purge their servers of child porn newsgroups, but calls on them to "revise their policies" regarding other sources of child porn, which could include newsgroups.

Republican Federal Communications Commissioner (FCC) Robert McDowell said in a statement that he is "delighted" by the agreement.

"Today's agreement will provide cable broadband service providers with the tools necessary to protect our children from online predators," he said.

Earlier this month, Google signed an agreement with Brazilian public prosecutors to help combat child pornography on its social networking site Orkut, an accord that the company believes is the first of its kind internationally.

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