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ASACP Aids FCACP in Fighting Commercial Child Pornography

By: Stephen Yagielowicz

Feb.18.2009  

One of the lesser-known stories within the adult Internet is the work that ASACP, the Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection, is doing on behalf of the industry in support of the Financial Coalition Against Child Pornography (FCACP). ASACP has been an active participant in the FCACP since the early days of its inception and has contributed to the Coalition in several important ways.

Formed in 2006, the FCACP is an organization which specifically targets commercial child pornography (CCP), and is sponsored by the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children and its sister agency, the U.S.-based National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. It is a collaborative effort between private sector, law enforcement and non-governmental agencies (NGOs).

According to the Coalition, this groundbreaking marriage of private industry and the public sector in the battle against commercial child pornography brings together leading banks, credit card companies and processors, third party payment companies and other Internet services companies.

The key to its success in combating CCP is in the bottom line, where the FCACP works to disrupt "the economics of commercial child pornography by following the flow of funds and shutting down the payments accounts that are being used by these illegal enterprises."

Simply put, when a site is found to be selling CP, these guys close the bank accounts.

The Coalition detailed some of its efforts in a white paper entitled, "A Case Study on How the Private Sector, Law Enforcement and NGO's Converge to Fight Commercial Child Pornography," which was presented at the recent World Congress III Against Sexual Exploitation of Children & Adolescents — an event held by the Government of Brazil, UNICEF, ECPAT, and the NGO Group for the Convention on the Rights of the Child, this past November in Rio de Janeiro. The previous two Congresses were held in Stockholm in 1996 and Yokohama in 2001.

The white paper describes the growth of commercial child pornography into a multi-billion dollar industry where "children around the world are being used as commodities for sale or trade."

"In order to operate these businesses, criminal organizations must access the infrastructure of established industries. As a result, there are financial services companies and Internet services companies that have unwittingly or wittingly become involved in this nefarious business," the paper stated. "Accordingly, it is imperative that the private sector join the efforts of law enforcement and NGO's in fighting commercial child pornography."

And join in they have.

FCACP members include America Online, American Express, HSBC, Google, Visa, MasterCard, Microsoft, Capital One, Citigroup, PayPal, Discover, Washington Mutual, Wells Fargo, Western Union, First Data Corporation, Yahoo! — and a host of others…

As evidence of the scope of the problem these partners face, in the decade that it has run its CyberTipline, NCMEC reportedly processed more than 600,000 reports — including those covering more than 5 million images of sexually exploited children. The battle is an uphill one, as well, with NCMEC reporting increases in reports of CP, online enticement, child prostitution, child sex tourism, and other crimes against children.

The Coalition recognizes that it's impractical to prosecute everyone involved in this heinous trade simply by weight of "the sheer number of individuals engaged in this world-wide commercial industry … no matter how aggressive law enforcement is." Thus its approach of using reports from the CyberTipline to identify the billing companies and accounts used by illegal CCP websites and then shutting down those revenue streams in cooperation with international law enforcement efforts.

According to the Coalition, a number of positive trends indicate the success that it and law enforcement are having in the fight against CCP this way, citing for example the increasing difficulty of using a credit card for these transactions.

"If law enforcement is having trouble making these transactions, it stands to reason that the consumer is as well," the white paper states, "And the purchase price for these images of sexually exploited children has risen dramatically — an indication that FCACP efforts may be affecting the profitability of these sites."

With significant progress reported in the United States, the FCACP is working on expanding its model to other countries to address this global problem, with a focus on Europe and the Asian-Pacific region. But the widespread location of these illegal website operators isn't the only challenge to be overcome.

The FCACP Technology Challenges Working Group addresses the continual evolution and growing technical sophistication of the businesses which operate CCP sites — especially in the areas of website hosting and alternative payment processing methods — in order to provide the level of technical expertise needed to fight these operations.

ASACP's Director of Technology & Forensic Research, Tim Henning, has served on both the Analytics Working Group since the Coalition's inception and is also a member of the Technology Challenges Working Group. Henning also participated in special working groups dealing specifically with the abuse of adult entertainment billing systems by CCP criminal organizations.

"The ASACP child pornography reporting hotline has received over 400,000 reports since August of 2003 and has forwarded over 7,000 fully investigated reports, otherwise known as 'Red Flag Reports,' of suspected child pornography to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) as well as the F.B.I. and other international hotlines and law enforcement agencies," Henning told XBIZ. "This data has been an integral part of the analytics studied by and acted upon by the Coalition."

"ASACP is honored to have this opportunity to utilize its data to the benefit of NCMEC, Law Enforcement, and the FCACP," ASACP CEO Joan Irvine said.

"Of course none of this would be possible without the financial support of the industry," Irvine added. "Support of ASACP allows us to continue these vital efforts to protect children."

The continued assistance provided to FCACP by the adult industry-supported ASACP demonstrates the industry's proactive steps toward legitimacy and "doing the right thing" — but this work can only continue with your support. In an era of dwindling budgets and cost-cutting measures, it's more important than ever to take a stand for the future of your business by supporting this dedicated organization that works on behalf of your interests in Washington and beyond. Visit the ASACP website today and make a donation of any size; or become a member; or upgrade your current membership level — now is not the time to sit on the sidelines and let others carry the load for you… Thanks for your support of ASACP — and thanks to the Association for supporting FCACP and the adult entertainment industry. Working together, we can all make a difference for the children and ourselves.