Blocking payments to illegal child pornography websites
There is an innovative new development in the world’s fight to eradicate child pornography. In 2006, the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children (ICMEC), a US-based NGO, launched the Financial Coalition Against Child Pornography (FCACP). The objective is to disrupt the economics of the child pornography business by preventing the use of electronic payment methods for the purchase of goods and services from child pornography websites. ECPAT Child ALERT is now working with the Asia Pacific Financial Coalition Against Child Pornography (AP-FCACP) on how these measures may be introduced into New Zealand to help make the child pornography websites less viable to their owners.
How it began
was concerned about the link between child pornography and the financial system. In one case, investigators identified 70,000 customers paying $29.95 per month on their credit cards to access graphic images of small children being sexually assaulted.
In July 2005, US Senator Richard Shelby, hosted a meeting of representatives from leading banks, credit card companies, payment companies and others. Senator Shelby opened the meeting with this statement:
"If people were purchasing heroin and cocaine and using their credit cards, we would be outraged and would do something about it. This is worse."
After the initial meeting with Senator Shelby, the FCACP was formed. Its public launch took place in March 2006.
In the US, the FCACP is made up of 33 leading banks, credit card companies, electronic payment networks, third party payments companies, and Internet services companies including American Express, AOL, Google, HSBC North America, Bank of America, Microsoft, PayPal, MasterCard, Visa, Western Union, Yahoo! Inc. and more.
What it has achieved
In the United States, FCACP members have focused on leveraging their collective expertise and developing best practices to deter the online exploitation of children. In 2007, the FCACP developed and published a best-practices guide for financial institutions, titled "Internet Merchant Acquisition and Monitoring Best Practices for Prevention and Detection of Commercial Child Pornography
." In 2008, the group published a white paper on "Trends in Migration, Hosting and Payment for Commercial Child Pornography Websites
Ernie Allen, President and CEO of ICMEC, and FCACP Chairman recently commented: "The share of commercial child pornography that is on the Internet is substantially smaller than it was just a few years ago. This Coalition has had an enormous impact on the problem, but we are not ready to declare victory."
While these trends are encouraging, the FCACP is attempting to stay ahead of this process and reach out to additional industry sectors to keep the pressure on.
The goal of the FCACP's global expansion is to disrupt the economics of the child pornography business by building alliances with companies, law enforcement and NGOs, and crafting solutions that are harmonious with local laws and customs. Significant progress has been made in Europe and Asia Pacific.
The AP-FCACP is in the early stages of mapping out work streams and priorities. In 2009, ICMEC opened an office in Singapore, which is playing a key role in building the AP-FCACP.
ECPAT Child ALERT is working closely with AP-FCACP and would love to hear from those within the financial institutions and information technology industry who have facilities to offer this aspect of prevention.