Center for Problem-Oriented Policing

Summary of Responses to Internet Child Pornography

The table below summarizes the responses to false burglar alarms, the mechanism by which they are intended to work, the conditions under which they ought to work best, and some factors you should consider before implementing a particular response. It is critical that you tailor responses to local circumstances, and that you can justify each response based on reliable analysis. In most cases, an effective strategy will involve implementing several different responses. Law enforcement responses alone are seldom effective in reducing or solving the problem.


The table below summarizes the responses to Internet child pornography, the mechanisms by which they are intended to work, the conditions under which they ought to work best, and some factors you should consider before implementing a particular response. It is critical that you tailor your responses to local circumstances, and that you can justify each response based on reliable analysis. In most cases, an effective strategy will involve implementing several different responses. Law enforcement responses alone are seldom effective in reducing or solving the problem.

Computer Industry Self Regulation
1. Removing illegal sites Reduces availability of pornography; ISPs agree voluntarily to refuse to accept child pornography sites and to remove any sites once identified …all ISPs agree to participate There is a financial advantage for some ISPs to continue to accept child pornography sites. Pressure may be applied to ISPs by police to increase compliance; some international ISPs are beyond the reach of formal codes of conduct
2. Establishing complaint sites/hotlines Facilitates reporting; public is given the opportunity to report illegal sites …existence of the complaint sites/ hotlines are widely known Although many reported sites will have already been identified by the ISP, sites that have escaped the cyber patrols may be uncovered
3. Filtering browsers/ search engines Prevents customers from accessing child pornography sites …all providers agree to use filters Not all illegal sites will be identified; applies only to child pornography located on open areas of the web
# Response How It Works Works Best If… Considerations
Legislative Regulation
4. Making ISPs legally responsible for site content Enhances screening and surveillance of child pornography; ISPs to be legally required to identify and remove illegal sites …there is national and international consistency in legislative approach Resisted by computer industry, which favors self-regulation; debate about the balance between protecting society and free speech
5. Requiring the preservation of ISP records Facilitates criminal investigations; records of customers’ Internet use are retained in case required as evidence Same as No. 4 above Same as No. 4 above
6. Requiring user verification Deters offenders from seeking child pornography on the World Wide Web; ISPs should require verification of an applicant’s identity before providing an account Same as No. 4 above Same as No. 4 above; this problem will become more critical as greater integration of Internet and mobile phone services occurs
7. Regulating anonymous remailers Reduces anonymity of offenders; remailer administrators are made legally responsible for material forwarded Same as No. 4 above Same as No. 4 above
8. Using key escrowed encryption Reduces anonymity of offenders; encryption keys held by a trusted third party Same as No. 4 above Same as No. 4 above
# Response How It Works Works Best If… Considerations
Strategies for Related Industries
9. Blocking credit card transactions Deters offenders and/or reduces profitability of online child pornography; credit card companies refuse to authorize payments for child pornography …all companies agree to participate Not all child pornography requires payment
10. Boycotting sites by advertisers Reduces profitability of online child pornography; companies refuse to place advertisements on networks that carry child pornography …the boycott is widespread and highly publicized The aim of boycotts is to pressure service providers to monitor illegal activity
Workplace Responses
11. Adopting and enforcing workplace codes of conduct Deters offenders by removing excuses for using workplace computers to access child pornography; organizations that maintain their own servers have explicit policies governing computer use by staff …codes are formal and clearly communicated to all staff Applies only to child pornography accessed or stored at work
12. Auditing computer use Deters offenders by increasing surveillance of their computer use; staff Internet use is routinely monitored …staff are aware in advance that audits will be conducted Same as No. 11 above
13. Filtering web usage Reduces access to online child pornography; companies restrict the sites that employees may visit Same as No. 11 above Same as No. 11 above
# Response How It Works Works Best If… Considerations
Citizens' Groups
14. Educating the public Enhances awareness and improves web surveillance; information is provided to parents and teachers about Internet child pornography …it is done in cooperation with law enforcement agencies Directed mainly toward preventing online exploitation of children and access by children to child pornography
15. Searching the Internet Enhances web surveillance; hotlines and Internet searches by volunteers identify child pornography sites Same as No. 14 above Volunteers need to be careful not to download pornography and thus commit a crime
# Response How It Works Works Best If… Considerations
Parental Strategies
16. Encouraging parents to use filtering software Reduces exposure of children to online child pornography; software installed on home computers that restricts sites that may be visited and/or keeps a record of sites visited …combined with supervision of children’s computer use and education about appropriate sites Specifically targets children’s access to child pornography; police have a role in educating the public about safe Internet use
17. Encouraging parents to review web ratings Reduces exposure of children to online child pornography; websites independently rated for age suitability Same as No. 16 above Same as No. 16 above
18. Promoting the use of child-oriented search engines Reduces exposure of children to online child pornography; search engines specifically designed for children, where sites are manually inspected for inappropriate material Same as No. 16 above Same as No. 16 above
# Response How It Works Works Best If… Considerations
Law Enforcement Responses
19. Locating child pornography sites Increases an offender’s risk of apprehension; law enforcement agencies conduct their own searches of the Internet for child pornography …coordinated with other agencies and jurisdictions Requires specialized expertise to access hidden areas of the Internet
20. Conducting undercover sting operations Deters offenders through increased risk of apprehension; undercover law enforcement agents enter pedophile newsgroups, etc., to collect evidence against offenders Same as No. 19 above Same as No. 19 above; may target novice or low-level offenders
21. Setting up honey trap sites Increases an offender’s risk of apprehension; phony child pornography sites are established that capture the details of offenders who attempt to access the supposed pornography …the existence of the sites is widely publicized to increase the deterrent effect Same as No. 20 above
22. Publicizing crackdowns Increases the perception among offenders that the Internet is an unsafe environment to access child pornography …publicity is widespread and sustained Same as No. 20 above
23. Conducting traditional criminal investigations Increases an offender’s risk of apprehension; police uncover information about child pornography in the course of their daily work …police have strong links with key community groups Key role for local police
# Response How It Works Works Best If… Considerations
Responses With Limited Effectiveness
24. Engaging in vigilantism Increases an offender’s risk of apprehension; vigilantes disable suspected offenders’ computers and disrupt pedophile newsgroups   Actions may be illegal