Attorney General Cuomo Announces Expansion Of Groundbreaking Initiative To Eliminate Sharing Of Thousands Of Images Of Child Pornography On Social Networking Web Sites

 

NEW YORK, NY (June 21, 2010) - Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a significant expansion of his groundbreaking initiative to eliminate sharing of thousands of images of child pornography on social networking Web sites.

Popular social networking sites Friendster and hi5, and peer-to-peer site isoHunt, are joining Facebook and MySpace in using Attorney General Cuomo’s hash value database to block attempts to share images of children being sexually abused. isoHunt, based in Canada, is the first non-U.S. based site to agree to use the hash value database.

Hash values are the equivalent of numerical fingerprints. Each image, video and file online has a unique fingerprint. Through its investigations, the Attorney General’s Office has created a database of more than 8,000 hash values that are associated with images of child pornography. The database can be used to identify the corresponding child pornography images through the fingerprints and stop that picture from ending up on a site.

Friendster has over 115 million registered users worldwide, hi5 has 50 million monthly visitors, and isoHunt attracts more than 16 million unique visitors a month. The Attorney General continues to urge other social networking companies and peer-to-peer sites to use the hash value database.

“As additional social networking sites agree to use our database, the profound impact of this groundbreaking initiative will reverberate not only in New York, but across the country and around the world,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “This is all about protecting kids, and the same way child pornographers use technology to distribute these disturbing images, we are using technology to shut off their digital pipeline.”

The additional social networking companies that have received a letter from the Attorney General regarding his hash value database are: Black Planet; Buzznet; eSpin/eCrush; Flickr; Flixster; Fotolog; 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.

Ben Dunn, Spokesman for Friendster said, “Friendster is committed to ensuring the safety of its millions of users and is eager to fully deploy and take advantage of the new safeguards Attorney General Cuomo’s hash value database affords. Friendster commends the Attorney General for his diligent work on Internet safety issues and thanks his office for sharing this important new safety technology.”

Bill Gossman, CEO of hi5 said, “We are pleased to work with Attorney General Cuomo to provide even more safety measures for our online community. We look forward to continuing to work with the Attorney General to develop and implement new approaches to cracking down on online child pornography.”

Gary Fung, Founder of isoHunt said, “Users of isoHunt have often notified us of illegal child content in the past. We are pleased to expand this effort in working with Attorney General Cuomo in a collaborative database in stopping such appalling files from being spread on BitTorrent.”

Laura Ahearn, Executive Director for Parents for Megan’s Law, said, “Attorney General Cuomo’s innovative and commonsense approach to Internet safety has delivered real results for families in New York and across the country. His tireless efforts to crackdown on the exploitive and hideous world of child pornography are to be commended. This new database is just another example of his commitment to the safety of both our physical and online communities and I look forward to a continued partnership 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.
  • Two weeks ago, 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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