Utah Task Force Claims to Shut Down 155 Child Porn Sites

Matt O'Conner
SALT LAKE CITY — The head of Utah’s Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force is claiming that a controversial law passed in March already has yielded the closure of 155 websites containing child pornography.

However, the ICAC’s choice of words may be overstating the results. While the ICAC called the action a porn “bust,” there haven’t been any arrests made or charges filed.

Technically, in fact, the ICAC hasn’t even shut down the sites — rather, it has made it difficult for them to make any money by working with the FBI, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and credit card companies to prevent targeted sites from processing credit card payments.

“If money is not coming in, they’re not going to keep the site operating,” ICAC Director Chris Ahearn said. “A lot of these billing sites are overseas, which makes it tough for the task force to reach out to them, but the partnership with private industry has allowed them to dry up the flow of money.”

Ahearn said the task has been made at least a little easier by the development of technology that automatically searches the Internet to find sites that appear to be posting images of children in sexual situations.

“Having a partnership with private industry makes for a much more effective means to combat problems that come up, and I think this is a prime example of how that can be done,” Ahearn said.

In an effort to place further financial constraints on the sites, the task force also is encouraging credit card companies to seek civil penalties from sites that use their company logos illegally; most credit card companies require sites to submit to a review process in order to use a company logo on their billing forms.

ASACP Executive Director Joan Irvine said she agrees that the best way to shut off the commercial distribution of child porn is to cut off the flow of money, but added that most child porn is not commercially distributed and that commercial child porn sites often use alternative billing methods to avoid dealing with credit card companies.

“Many of the child porn images are traded among pedophiles and do not involve the use of credit card payments,” Irvine told XBiz. “In fact, just as the ASACP’s empirical data demonstrates that 99.9 percent of the validated child porn reports have nothing to do with the professional adult entertainment industry, other data indicates that a high percentage of the payments are through a non credit card option.”