Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Lydia Cacho on Child Pornography and Social Networks

Lydia Cacho, a Mexican journalist who has won awards from Amnesty International, International Women's Media Foundation, and UNESCO, is tackling the issue of child pornography on social networks.  She is calling on Facebook to report child pornography to the police.  Facebook's position has been that they do when it comes from a country that has an agreement with the U.S. to prosecute it.

As I've said before, one technical problem here is that large social networks may not always be aware of child pornography because not all of it can be automatically detected.  If a user who lives in the U.S. posts a file that the system recognizes as known child pornography, that user probably will be reported to law enforcement.  But if the image does not match any known child pornography hashes, the system will not automatically flag it no matter how bad it is.  Since many of the child pornography traders seem to use closed and secret groups for posting their material, they're also unlikely to be reported by other users.

From what I understand, most account shutdowns happen as a result of an automated process, not a human review.  The system is capable of detecting certain anomalies that are likely to be associated with abusive accounts, but it is unlikely to be smart enough to recognize accounts that need to be reported to law enforcement.  Once an account is shut down, the clock starts ticking and the information is automatically deleted after 90 days.


  1. Hi,
    There is more than the viewing of abused children going on in Facebook. The site is a place where active pedophiles communicate about and perpetuate actual child molestation. These horrible crimes must be stopped. We have seen petitions and emails get ignored. We offer a way to send real post-cards via the US Mail directly to Facebook owners and your Federal legsislators to shame them into action. They have Billions of dollars to spend and they do nothing. Please visit to join the movement. Thank You...John Kotuby

  2. What about pedophile facebook members using people's profile pictures of children to doctor images of child pornography? Is this known to happen? I cannot believe how many of my friends post profile pictures of their children for the world to access.

  3. Erin, I think that there's probably enough real child porn out there that it would be unusual for someone to bother trying to turn a regular photo of a child into something that looked like CP. However, pedophiles sometimes do use non-pornographic photos of children as their profile image to signal their interests.