By Michael Hayes, reprinted with permission by
(May 26, 2006) - Few online transactions exist beyond the scope of the nation's credit companies and banks, which is why those financial institutions have agreed to join law enforcement officials in the fight against child pornography.
The Financial Coalition Against Child Pornography will swing into action next month, reporting child porn sites they discover to a government tip line and, once an investigation is opened, helping law enforcement track both buyers and sellers of illegal material.
"The scope of the problem is much greater than we ever thought," said Ernie Allen of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, a private group that runs the tip line. "It's mind-boggling. People are getting into this because they see children as a commodity. There's no question organized crime is involved."
For Allen and Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., the motive behind bringing the coalition of financial institutions together was simple: make child pornography unprofitable.
"This is the broadest, most comprehensive coalition we've been involved in," Joshua Peirez, a MasterCard executive, said. "This is not a competitiveness issue. This is about protecting children."
Speaking in support of the unprecedented coalition, Drew Oosterbaan, chief of the Justice Department's child exploitation section, lauded the move.
"I haven't seen anything like it," Oosterbaan said. "We're here to support the effort."
Joan Irvine, executive director of the Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection (ASACP) added her support as well.
"ASACP supports the Financial Coalition, and we have been in contact with them," Irvine told XBIZ. "We already work with payment processors to identify suspected CP transactions. In fact, our members include such online billing companies as Epoch, ePassporte, PPPCard, Electracash and Netbilling. We hope to share expertise and data with the Financial Coalition, to help the companies involved work toward their goal of eradicating commercial child pornography by 2008."
Participants include Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover, which cover most of the U.S. credit card market. Also involved are Bank of America, Chase, Citigroup and PayPal. Visa, MasterCard and American Express say they will identify sites accepting their cards to sell child porn but won't reveal customers unless subpoenaed.