Science

U.S., France move to block online child pornography

Governments and internet service providers in both the U.S. and France struck deals on Tuesday to block access to child pornography.

Governments and internet service providers in both the U.S. and France struck deals on Tuesday to block access to child pornography.

In the United States, ISPs Verizon, Sprint and Time Warner Cable also agreed to pay $1.1 million US to help fund efforts to remove online child pornography created and disseminated by users through their servers.

The changes, which will affect U.S. customers worldwide, were announced Tuesday by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.

The U.S. agreements come on the heels of an undercover investigation of child pornography news groups.

Cuomo has used similar investigations to extract concessions on internet safety in the past. They include agreements last year with social networking sites MySpace and Facebook to toughen protections against online sexual predators.

French officials and ISPs reached a similar agreement to block a wider range of offensive materials, including child pornography and content linked to terrorism or racial hatred.

French Interior Minister Michel Alliot-Marie said all service providers in France have agreed to block offending sites.

"We can no longer tolerate the sexual exploitation of children in the form of cyber-pedopornography," Alliot-Marie said. "We have come to an agreement: the access to child pornography sites will be blocked in France. Other democracies have done it. France could wait no longer."

France's plan will go into effect in September, when users will be able to notify the state of inappropriate sites. The French government will then decide whether the sites end up on a so-called blacklist to be passed on to ISPs.

Canadian ISPs took similar measures two years ago. Eight of the largest in Canada reached an agreement in 2006 with the Canadian Centre for Child Protection to block foreign websites that feature child pornography using a filter called Cleanfeed.

Domestic websites are not included in the filter because those can be dealt with by police and courts in Canada, where it is a crime to access child exploitation images through the internet.

Signy Arnason, the director of Cybertip.ca, the website run by the centre, said the Canadian agreement focuses on  foreign websites because most of the material coming into Canada is hosted from other countries, particularly the U.S. and Russia.

She said the U.S. and French agreements help strengthen barriers to child pornography.

"It's an international issue, and these agreements help make the efforts to stop these websites more comprehensive" she said.

Cybertip.ca  said that as of January, reports to the tipline had resulted in 36 arrests and the removal of 2,850 websites from the internet.

With files from the Associated Press

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