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Group Calls for International Cooperation Against Child Abuse in Cyberspace


An Asia-Pacific child rights group urges governments and technology companies to take greater action against the use of the Internet and other modern communications to harm children.

ECPAT International, a group that campaigns against child trafficking and exploitation, says the scale and changing forms of cyber-violence against children are outstripping the ability of the authorities to deal with the problem.

ECPAT released its new report, "Violence Against Children in Cyberspace," in Bangkok recently. It says children surfing the World Wide Web are increasingly being lured into dangerous situations, and being exposed to pornographic materials.

It also points out other hazards for children, including bullying by other children on-line or via mobile phones. The report notes one U.S. survey done last year in which 42 percent of the children questioned said they had received bullying e-mail.

In a separate report released last week, the U.S. National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimated that 100,000 child pornography web sites exist on the Internet. The center also said that perhaps 20 percent of all pornography on the Internet involves children.

Deborah Muir, an ECPAT official and the author of its report, says the growth of child pornography is of deep concern. Because the Internet crosses borders, she says, more international cooperation is needed to stop the transmission of such images.

"The critical need is for global collaboration at all levels so that ISPs [Internet Service Providers] based in one country are held responsible for the material they transmit," she said.

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates that Internet child pornography generates 20 billion dollars annually. The ECPAT report says the major countries hosting child pornography Web sites include the United States, Russia, Japan, South Korea and Thailand.

Ms. Muir says Interpol has stepped up efforts to curb the trade, with the formation of a "global virtual task force" initiated by the United Kingdom, and including Canada, the United States and Australia. She says hundreds of people have been arrested in international raids aimed at stopping child pornography.

The ECPAT report urges governments, educators, parents and Internet companies to act together to prevent cyber-violence. It says tough new laws are needed in many countries to fight the abuse.

The report also recommends that Internet service providers and software companies develop voluntary codes of conduct to prevent cyber-abuse, and make available cheap software to block pornography from computers. At the same time, the report says, communities should educate children, their parents, teachers and other caregivers about the risks of modern global telecommunications.

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