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Tech Industry

U.N. urges companies to crack down on child porn

U.N. expert says credit card companies, ISPs should do more to block access to illegal materials.

Credit card companies and technology firms should do more to combat child pornography on the Internet, a United Nations expert said Wednesday.

Credit card companies may unwittingly process illegal Web transactions, Juan Miguel Petit, U.N. special rapporteur on child pornography said.

"Credit card companies shouldn't wait for the problem to arrive," Petit said at a news briefing. "The international credit card companies and also the manufacturers of hardware and software...surely know more than...governments about these problems and how to fight them."

Petit also wants to force Internet service providers to remove or block access to illegal material when they see it and to oblige them to monitor their services to prevent it.

Child pornography on the Internet has become one of the biggest areas of cybercrime in recent years with police forces around the world rounding up thousands of Web users accused of accessing illegal sites.

Credit card company Visa International says it has already taken the battle to the enemy and pursues illegal operators.

However, David Masters, spokesman for Visa, said tech-savvy operators made it a difficult problem to handle.

"It's a horrific industry, and we do everything we can against it," he said. "It's business we don't want, and we're only too pleased to help where we can. We work very closely with law enforcement across the world."

Illegal operators hide behind business fronts, meaning the only way to track them down is to troll the Web for possible abusers using high-tech search engines, he said by telephone.

Horacio Gutierrez, head of Microsoft's legal and corporate department for Europe, Africa and the Middle East, said his company had engineered programs to aid police.

Microsoft is also a partner of the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

"Technology companies have a critical role to play in making the Internet safe for children," Gutierrez said by telephone. "It's a multifaceted issue which really has worldwide implications."

International crime-fighting body Interpol will hold a meeting in Lyon, France, Thursday with the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children, credit card companies and tech firms such as Microsoft.

Gutierrez said companies, police and non-governmental organizations would explore the role of technology and the Internet industry in the growth of child pornography.

Story Copyright © 2005 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.