Thursday, June 17, 2010

Industry leaders Facebook and MySpace first to use database to block child porn; Cuomo sends letters to other social networking sites and peer-to-peer sites urging implementation

NEW YORK, NY (June 17, 2010) – Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the creation of a database that will be used by social networking sites to keep child pornography off the Internet.

This groundbreaking initiative is based on a database of hash values, which are the equivalent of digital fingerprints. Each image of child pornography has this digital fingerprint. The Attorney General’s Office has collected more than 8,000 such fingerprints as a result of Internet safety investigations. The database can be used as a net, finding an offending picture through the fingerprint, catching that picture, and stopping it from ending up on a site. Facebook and MySpace have agreed to use Attorney General Cuomo’s database to block any attempt to share these images on their social networks. The Attorney General also sent letters to 13 other social networking companies and peer-to-peer sites urging them to use the database.

“To stop the flow of child pornography online, we must be vigilant and we must be creative,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “This initiative joins law enforcement, hi-tech innovation, and strong partnerships with industry leaders like Facebook and MySpace. This new resource gives companies a tool to make their sites safer, and I call on all social networking sites to use it immediately.”

The 13 social networking companies and peer-to-peer sites that have received a letter from the Attorney General regarding his hash value database are: Black Planet; Buzznet; eSpin/eCrush; Flickr; Flixster; Fotolog; Friendster; hi5; Live Journal; MyLife (formerly Reunion.com); Orkut; Stickam; and Stardoll.

The database will continue to grow as law enforcement agencies around the state contribute additional hash values. These hash values are also made available to law enforcement agencies to help in investigations and in the prosecutions of crimes against children.

The revolutionary database will be housed by the Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) and maintained by the joint efforts of the Attorney General’s Office and DCJS.

Facebook Chief Security Officer Joe Sullivan said, “We have worked proactively with states’ attorneys general and law enforcement on a range of Internet safety and security issues and we are pleased to collaborate with Attorney General Cuomo on this important initiative. Protecting Facebook users, especially the many young people who use our site, has always been a top priority and we devote significant resources to developing innovative systems to proactively monitor the site for suspicious activity and the rare cases of illegal content.”

MySpace Chief Privacy Officer Jennifer Mardosz said, “We applaud Attorney General Cuomo for his leadership in protecting teens online. We are pleased to lead the industry in implementing his image hashing database and pairing it with our existing partnerships.”

Laura Ahearn, Executive Director for Parents for Megan’s Law, said, “I’m proud to once again join with Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to unveil our latest collaborative effort to protect our communities. His office’s innovation and partnership is the key to making the Internet - and our children - safe. This new database will make it easier for social networking Web sites to police themselves and keep dangerous material at bay. I applaud the Attorney General's efforts to keep kids safe and look forward to continuing to work with his office.”

Protecting children from online exploitation has been a priority for Attorney General Cuomo:

* In October 2007, Cuomo and Facebook entered into an historic settlement agreement to promote online safety for children. The agreement required Facebook to, for the first time, respond quickly and effectively to consumer reports and complaints about sexual predators, obscene content and harassment. The agreement became a paradigm for protecting children on social networking sites. Facebook, which was required to monitor its complaint handling procedures for two years, achieved a 99.9 percent compliance rate even as its active user base grew from 50 million to more than 350 million users, showing that large companies can respond efficiently and effectively to its user complaints.
* In 2008, Attorney General Cuomo introduced the Electronic Securing and Targeting of Online Predators Act (E-Stop), the nation’s most comprehensive law that enhances protections from sexual predators on the Internet. Under E-Stop, many sexual predators are banned outright from using social networking sites on the Internet while on probation or parole and all convicted, New York sex offenders must register their e-mail addresses, screen names, and other Internet identifiers with the state. That information is then made available to social networking sites so they can purge potential predators from their online world. In addition to Facebook and MySpace, 30 other social networking Web sites have agreed to use E-Stop information. As of early 2010, more than 9,000 New York accounts linked to nearly 4,000 individual sex offenders have been removed by these sites.
* In 2008, Attorney General Cuomo secured agreements with every major Internet Service Provider in New York state requiring them to block access to child pornography Newsgroups, a major supplier of illegal images. The ISPs also agreed to purge their servers of child pornography Web sites. More information about this initiative can be found online at www.nystopchildporn.com.
* Last week, Cuomo announced his intent to sue Tagged.com over significant and serious lapses in its response to user reports of graphic images of children being sexually abused, inappropriate sexual communications between adults and minors, and content that advocates pedophilia on the site.

The hash value database will be under the cooperative supervision and maintenance of the Attorney General’s Office and DCJS. The matter is being handled by Acting Chief of the Internet Bureau Karen Geduldig, and Investigator Milton Branch of the Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force (OCTF), under the supervision of Senior Policy Advisor Matthew Brotmann.

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