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Brad Smith

Brad Smith

Posted: December 16, 2009 12:25 AM

A Childhood for Every Child: Combating Child Pornography Online

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The Internet has dramatically changed the world for the better -- opening up incredible new ways for people and organizations to connect and communicate with others around the globe. Unfortunately, we are also well aware that there are dark corners of the Internet. The same technology that enables people to share photos and communicate with each other can also enable pedophiles to circulate graphic images of child pornography and even build online communities amongst themselves.

The distribution of online child pornography -- horrific photos of innocent children being sexually abused -- is on the rise. Since 2003 alone, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) has reviewed and analyzed almost 30 million photos and videos of child pornography and it is projected that nine million child pornography photos and videos will be reviewed and analyzed in the coming year. In working with NCMEC on this problem, we know that victims are getting younger, the abuse they suffer is growing more violent and the children in the images are in many ways re-victimized as the photos of their abuse are shared online and viewed again and again by predators.

Law enforcement is working heroically around the world to fight child pornography with limited resources. Many officers who investigate these cases pay a steep emotional price for having to view the torture of innocent children day after day as they work to do something about this problem. But the volume of these images online is much too large to expect law enforcement to fight alone. We must do more.

Today, Microsoft has donated to NCMEC technology we call PhotoDNATM, designed to help fight the spread of graphic child pornography online. The technology works by creating a unique signature for a digital photograph, like an individual's DNA or fingerprint, which can then be compared to the digital signatures of other images to efficiently and reliably find online copies of the worst child pornography images known to NCMEC. We're also joining NCMEC to launch a campaign for "A Childhood for Every Child" to build public awareness and inspire broader action to tackle this problem. We encourage online service providers to join us in initiatives like PhotoDNATM to help more proactively disrupt the spread of these images online through technology. We encourage lawmakers to continue to set good policy to help in this fight, and we applaud the good work of the Congressional Caucus for Missing and Exploited Children. However, we must also ensure that policies, once established, are fully funded so that law enforcement has the resources they need for the job. And lastly, we encourage everyone -- no matter who you are -- to join us in bringing this issue out of the shadows and into the open.

Because most law abiding citizens will never see these pictures, the victims are often invisible to the general public. Please join me today and tomorrow in lending your voice to their cause by becoming part of the movement to provide A Childhood for Every Child. Use your Facebook, Twitter, Windows Live or any other online account to tell a story about what childhood should be, and signal your support by attaching the logo from our Web site to your words.

You can also support the work of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children by donating your time, talents or financial resources. Most importantly, help fight the problem of child sexual abuse and exploitation in your community. If you see it, if you know about it, if you suspect it, report it to thenationalcenterformissingandexploitedchildren@cybertipline.com or to 1-800-THE-LOST.