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Hot Post:Facebook’s Child Porn Subculture Baffles Executives, Challenges Parents

Posted By Diane Suffern On October 31, 2010 @ 10:00 pm In NewsReal Blog | No Comments

Read the original post and comments first published here.

Without doubt, the Internet has wormed its series of blissful tubes throughout our lives. It’s what we check in the morning, what we look at during the day, what entertains us at night. It provides news, products, business opportunities, conversation, relationships, self-promotion and endless distraction. An entire generation is growing up having never known a time without the Internet. Parental reaction is swinging the pendulum of opinion from luddite to addicts themselves.

One thing most involved parents will agree on is the unparalleled role this technology has in our kids’ lives, social networking sites in particular. With choices such as MySpace, Twitter, Xanga, Tumblr and the mother of all, Facebook–it’s rare to find an unplugged teen.

Many parents are content to simply regulate time spent online, sometimes check content to monitor behavior. But, all should be concerned about online safety. Facebook specifically bills itself as a safe site.  Yet, after a series of busts and multi-state investigations, the underbelly of both MySpace and Facebook were exposed.

While both attempted to scrub the sites of any child-exploitative material, Fox News revealed that child predators still thrive on Facebook after concluding an exclusive investigation.

Currently, the site filters content by key words that the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) has found to be linked to child pornography. According to “cybersecurity experts,” this should flag most offensive material found on the site. Most.

Fox reports:

During a 90-minute phone interview with Facebook spokesman Simon Axten and the company’s chief security officer, Joe Sullivan, the two executives were guided by FoxNews.com through the site’s seamy subculture – an encounter that left Sullivan sounding dumbfounded, unaware of and unable to explain the extremely graphic content on the site.

In the interview, FoxNews.com told the executives to enter “PTHC” in the website’s search box. The term “PTHC” — short for “Pre-Teen Hard Core” — is frequently found in connection with child sexual exploitation activity and materials, law enforcement officials say. Multiple sources confirmed that “PTHC” is on the NCMEC list of keywords.

You mean to tell me that perverted individuals who get their kicks from criminal sexual deviancy don’t use conspicuous tags like, “Child Porn Right Here?” I’m…not exactly shocked.

Interestingly, the term PTHC is actually on the NCMEC watch-list, yet Facebook missed that in its previous purge. Fox continues:

Having searched for “PTHC,” the two Facebook executives were then instructed to click on the first result — a public group Page called “PTHC,” with 197 members. That’s when the executives came face-to-face with a post directing users to a video purportedly featuring an 8-year-old boy being sexually abused.

Then, when asked to click on the profile of any of the group’s members, the executives were ushered into a subculture dedicated to using Facebook to traffic child pornography and to target and interact with children.

At this point, there was silence for nearly a full minute, except for the sound of furious, rapid typing. Axten and Sullivan sounded stunned, unable to explain why this happened and how their filters could have failed.

The two executives made profuse apologies, clarifications and, according to Fox, removed the offensive pages from the site after claiming to have launched an internal investigation that day.  Only…

It’s still there.

But despite their efforts, FoxNews.com found an entire underworld of widely recognized terms, code words and abbreviations on Facebook — hundreds of pages with “PTHC” and “Incest” in their titles, and many others that are unprintable. Both terms are on the NCMEC keywords list, sources said, and they were found on Facebook’s public, private, group and profile pages. Many of those pages purported to host video links to child pornography, and many had been active for months.

Ernie Allen, President of NEMEC, said there were three reasons the content would still be up: law enforcement requested it remain for investigative purposes, the content itself didn’t merit action according to Facebook’s standards, or Facebook simply hadn’t seen it. As the two executives explained:

[...] they face greater challenges than any other social networking site, many of which can be tied to the evolution of what once was a closed network for college students to a global behemoth facing real-world criminal threats. Add increasingly savvy criminals and the sheer volume of content — more than 1 billion files shared daily by its half-billion users — and the challenges grow.

Plus, Sullivan said, scrubbing users from Facebook will be a game of whack-a-mole until law enforcement figures out how to track down predators who hide behind computers.



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