In a bid to clamp down on internet child pornography, 18 of the world's most prominent financial institutions and internet firms have joined with the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children (ICMEC), and its sister organization, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC). The goal of the alliance is to eradicate commercial child pornography by 2008.
The new Financial Coalition Against Child Pornography includes banks, credit card companies, third-party payment companies and internet services companies. Founding members of the coalition include America Online, American Express, Bank of America, Chase, Citigroup, Discover Financial Services, e-gold, First Data, First National Bank of Omaha, MasterCard, Microsoft, North American Bancard, PayPal, First PREMIER Bank/PREMIER Bankcard, Standard Chartered Bank, Visa, Wells Fargo Bank and Yahoo Inc.
The coalition will work in collaboration with Child Focus of Belgium, the European Federation for Missing and Sexually Exploited Children, the International Association of Internet Hotlines (INHOPE), the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and law firm DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary.
Child pornography has become a multi-billion dollar commercial enterprise and is among the fastest growing businesses on the internet, the organization warned.
"The internet has no geographic or jurisdictional borders. Battling the proliferation of child pornography websites requires the efforts of many. Law enforcement around the world is engaged, but we must also disrupt the economics of this despicable business," said Baron Daniel Cardon de Lichtbuer, chairman of the ICMEC and former chief executive officer of Bank Brussels Lambert. "The work of this Coalition will be key to accomplishing that goal."
"Not only have we seen an increase in reports of internet child pornography, but the victims are becoming younger and the images are becoming more graphic and violent," added Ernie Allen, president and CEO of ICMEC and NCMEC, and chairman of the coalition. "To eliminate the commercial viability of child pornography, we must stop the flow of money. To do that, we need the involvement of the world's leaders in the payments industry and the internet. The founding members of the Financial Coalition Against Child Pornography are to be commended for joining this critical fight."
If members of the public have knowledge of a child pornography website, they are encouraged to report it immediately to any number of hotlines around the world, which are listed on the website of the International Association of Internet Hotlines.