N.Y. attorney general tackles child porn on social networks

Andrew Cuomo, a frequent critic of safety on social networks like Facebook and MySpace, partners with them on a filtering tool to prevent child porn from being uploaded to their servers.

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has spearheaded the creation of a database of "digital fingerprints" to flag child pornography and keep it off social networks, his office announced Thursday.

With the hash values of over 8,000 known child-porn images stored in the database, Cuomo said that he hopes its intended clients--social-networking, file-sharing, and photo-storage sites--will start to use it "immediately."

Facebook and MySpace have already signed on as partners in the new initiative, and Cuomo's office has sent letters to BlackPlanet, Buzznet, eCrush, Yahoo's Flickr, Flixster, Fotolog, Friendster, Hi5, LiveJournal, MyLife (the rebranded Reunion.com), Google's Orkut, Stickam, and Stardoll encouraging them to start using it as well.

Here's how it works: the collection of "digital fingerprints," compiled through law enforcement efforts over the years, can be used as a filter by a partner social network. So when a photo is uploaded, it can be checked against the contents of the database. If there's a match, the photo is not permitted to be uploaded. Use of the database is also available to law enforcement authorities, the announcement noted.

"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," Facebook Chief Security Officer Joe Sullivan said in the announcement. "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."

Cuomo has been particularly vocal about the dangers that social networks present to minors, several years ago criticizing them for not doing enough to keep sex offenders off their sites and then passing a law called E-Stop that bans New York registered sex offenders from operating profiles on the likes of MySpace and Facebook. Both of those social networks were vocal supporters of E-Stop, and had collaborated with Cuomo's office to remove registered sex offenders' profiles.

The newly announced database will be managed jointly by Cuomo's office and the New York Division of Criminal Justice Services.

 

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