August 27, 2010

Facebook Helps Police Take Down Child Pornography Ring

Australian police said Friday that an international child pornography ring operating through Facebook has been brought down.

Police said that eleven people have been charged in Australia, Britain and Canada in connection with the syndicate, which involved people using the social networking site to distribute and view graphic sexual images.

The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper said on Friday that Facebook management knew about the graphic sexual images on its site and had deactivated accounts of the people that were involved.

Facebook and Australian Federal Police issued a joint statement saying the networking site had immediately taken action once a police investigation began, and its assistance was "integral to bringing down this international child pornography syndicate."

The statement acknowledged the difficulty Facebook had trying to stop the syndicate because users used false accounts once their old accounts were deactivated.

"Policing in this social networking environment is a challenge, but the cooperation during this operation demonstrates that international law enforcement is united in a global fight against online child exploitation material," the statement said. "It is important that content service providers including Facebook constantly scan for child exploitation material, and then inform law enforcement of their findings."

Australian police said they started to investigate the case in March after a covert agent established an online identity on the social networking site and was approached by a child pornography ring member.

Police said that the investigation included police in the U.S., Canada, Britain, Germany, South Africa and Switzerland by June.  They said that the investigation is still underway.

Joe Sullivan, Facebook's chief security officer, told The Associated Press (AP) that a member of his team would visit Australia in September for meetings with police and child safety advocates.

He told AP that Facebook and the Australian police were working together on protocols in order to ensure that illegal activity would be reported more quickly.


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