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Predators using Facebook for child pornographycomment (0)

November 11, 2010


Facebook houses a subculture dedicated to trafficking child pornography and interacting with potential victims, according to an investigative report by FoxNews.com.

The social network site says it is doing all it can to keep pedophile materials from being displayed, but the news organization found plenty of suggestive and potentially illegal photographs of children on the website.

“Where kids play, predators prey. Predators and pedophiles are taking advantage of this site to target children, swap child pornography and share their exploits,” Donna Rice Hughes, president of Enough Is Enough, said in response to the report.

“It is entirely unacceptable that Facebook has allowed this content to surface on its site, and I fear this is only the tip of the iceberg.”

After uncovering the subculture of child pornography on Facebook, FoxNews.com spent 90 minutes on the phone with two Facebook executives, including the company’s chief security officer, leading them click-by-click through what they found.

The executives were “dumbfounded, unaware of and unable to explain the extremely graphic content on the site,” FoxNews.com reported Oct. 21. They were shocked that their filters had failed, and later some of the material was blocked but much of it remained available to the public.

“We’re constantly looking to improve our filter system,” Joe Sullivan, Facebook’s chief security officer, said. “As we get more information and tactics, we’ll use that to inform our system to make it even better.”

Displaying child pornography is against Facebook’s terms of use, and Facebook’s filter system utilizes a list of keywords from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

One challenge in blocking all illicit material, the company said, is that some keywords that child pornographers use have double meaning and are harmless in some cases.

“Some terms on these lists, including code words and acronyms, have multiple meanings, which makes it difficult to block them upfront without also preventing legitimate uses,” Facebook spokesman Simon Axten said.

“We do a careful evaluation of each term and consider both the potential for abuse and the frequency with which the term is used in other contexts when making decisions on whether to block or flag,” Axten said.

But Hemanshu Nigam, co-chairman of President Obama’s Online Safety Technology Working Group, told FoxNews.com that the mass of pedophile content on Facebook would have been rooted out if the company was doing its job properly.

“The fact that Facebook missed the most basic terms in the terminology of child predators suggests that they’ve taken a checkbox approach instead of implementing real solutions to help real problems facing children online,” Nigam said.

Hughes, of Enough Is Enough, said the investigation underscores the fact that parents must be involved when their children use Facebook.

A world of dangerous, exploitative content is just a few clicks away from any unsuspecting or curious teenager, she said.

“Over the past 10 years, we have seen a sort of perfect storm scenario emerge for Internet-initiated sexual crime against children,” Hughes said.

“Never before have predators and pedophiles been able to hold a town hall together to share their exploits and encourage this type of horrific behavior, but now, through sites like Facebook, they can do just that.

“We find that these individuals are often at the cutting edge of technology, they have easy access to child pornography and to children, and law enforcement, the technology industry and parents are often left in the dust, which is why we focus on reaching those parents and educating about prevention,” Hughes said.

Enough Is Enough provides guidance for parents called Internet Safety Rules ‘N Tools, online at internetsafety101.org, including such tips as:

- Establish an ongoing dialogue and keep lines of communication open.

- Supervise use of all Internet-enabled devices.

- Know your child’s online activities and friends.

- Regularly check the online communities your children use, such as social networking and gaming sites, to see what information they are posting.

- Supervise the photos and videos your kids post and send online.

- Discourage the use of webcams and mobile video devices.

- Teach your children how to protect personal information posted online and to follow the same rules with respect to the personal information of others.

“Parents have to remain alert,” Hughes said. (BP)

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