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Schwarzenegger wants California ISPs to terminate online child porn

June 20, 2008 |  2:26 pm
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger at a computer lab

UPDATE 4:20 P.M.: AT&T issued a statement saying it also was blocking newsgroups with child pornography. The company said:

"On June 6, AT&T received written notification from the New York Attorney General's office that an investigation conducted over a period of several months identified 88 Usenet newsgroups that each contained multiple images of child pornography. Based on information provided by the New York Attorney General, we had a good faith basis for concluding that these newsgroups contained illegal content and we removed them from our servers."

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On the heels of last week's announcement that Verizon Communications, Time Warner Cable and Sprint would block access to child pornography traveling through their online networks, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown want the state's other Internet service providers to do the same.

They sent a letter to the California Internet Service Providers Assn. today asking for its help in "cracking down on those who exploit children." They wrote:

Protecting the safety of our children must be a top priority, not just for government, but also for businesses with the direct power to reduce the ability to conduct illegal activity. Your association stands in a unique position to help.

We applaud three of the largest Internet service providers -– Verizon, Time Warner Cable and Sprint -– for taking steps to block access to child pornography. It is not enough, however, for only a few Internet service providers to join the fight against online predators. Child pornography is not protected by the First Amendment, and distributing this material is illegal.

The California Internet Service Providers Assn. is the largest association of Internet providers in the country, and we are asking your members to strongly assume the leadership role that status provides. The association can begin by working with its more than 100 members to remove child pornography from existing servers and blocking channels, which include newsgroups, used for distributing this material.

Verizon, Time Warner and Sprint committed to block websites and newsgroups that contain child pornography as part of an agreement with New York Atty. Gen. Andrew Cuomo. The companies committed to extend the blocking nationwide.

The state Internet provider group is ready to help and has offered to meet with staff for the governor and attorney general to work out the details, said W. Mark Esser, the group's chairman. But he's concerned about replicating the deal the three larger Internet service providers struck with Cuomo.

"The New York model is a brute-force model. It ends up punishing the non-guilty,'' said Esser, chief executive of Markon Computer Science in Lomita, which runs a small ISP called the SuperNet . Esser's not alone in that belief. CNet's Declan McCullagh said on his blog last week that Verizon was blocking far more usenet discussion groups than necessary.

Esser suggested that the ISPs help the state develop a continually updated list of child pornography sites -- "a real-time black-hole list," he called it -- and just block those. Such a system could be running 60 days after state officials and ISPs agree to the details, Esser said. "It could end up being an ideal example for the rest of the country," he said.

Camille Anderson, a spokeswoman for Schwarzenegger, said the governor has an open mind. "We are more than willing to review different proposals," she said. "But anything that falls short of guaranteeing the protection of innocent children from exploitation will be unacceptable."

-- Jim Puzzanghera

Puzzanghera, a Times staff writer, covers tech and media policy from Washington, D.C.

Photo: California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger watches second graders at a computer lab at Hart Street Elementary School in Canoga Park. Credit: Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times

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