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Monday, January 18, 1999 Published at 18:55 GMT


New war on Internet porn

Paedophile networks are a global problem, says Unesco

Experts from 40 countries have gathered in Paris to co-ordinate an international offensive against child pornography on the Internet.

Correspondent Stephen Jessel: "Looking for an international solution"
Federico Mayor, director-general of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), said laws were needed to cope with the worldwide problem and called on Internet access providers to co-operate.

He said: "We must try to co-ordinate efforts worldwide to stop the sex abuse of children, a kind of violence that is so perverse and inadmissible."

About 250 international experts and scores of official and non-governmental organisations are to focus on establishing ways of tracking down those using the Net to exchange under-age pornographic material.

In France, offenders can be jailed for up to three years in prison.

[ image: Federico Mayor: Called for filtered search engines]
Federico Mayor: Called for filtered search engines
But not all countries have legislation banning the trade in indecent pictures of children, and there is often inadequate co-operation between various law enforcement agencies.

Our correspondent says access providers are sometimes accused of dragging their feet in eradicating the trade in pornographic images.

Carole Bouquet, a spokeswoman for the Voice of Children group, said: "We need the industry to be involved with us.

"There is no debate about freedom [of speech]."

International framework

Senior Unesco officials, who organised the two-day conference, say paedophile networks represent a serious global problem which needs a global response.

The conference, at Unesco's Paris headquarters, is to look at the establishment of an international legal framework to tackle the problem.

Mr Mayor suggested designing search engines with filters - systems that would block access to paedophilia sites.

He also proposed to set up a global electronic watchdog and a group of leading international personalities to support major actions against the misuse of the Internet.

Experts will also examine a number of other issues, including the need to alert doctors, police officers and judges and warn parents and children of the dangers of paedophilia.

Police crackdown

The meeting was announced last September, a day after 100 people in 12 countries were arrested in a major international operation against paedophiles trafficking child pornography on the Net.

Police officers leading the investigation codenamed Operation Cathedral allegedly discovered more than 100,000 indecent images of children as young as two from a US-based paedophile club on the Internet.

French police computer experts have also begun identifying Internet paedophile networks. They have cracked three rings over the past two years, placing more than 200 suspects under investigation.

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