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Authorities clamp down on child porn sites

Police have stepped up action against child pornography on the internet

(Keystone Archive)

Police and crime prevention experts have asked internet service providers (ISPs) in Switzerland to block access to child pornography websites abroad.

According to the Swiss authorities, last year saw a record number of complaints about hardcore child pornography available on the web.

The request for ISPs to block access on a voluntary basis was made by crime prevention specialists, the Federal Police Office and the Swiss Child Protection Association.

Stephan Howeg, a spokesman for Switzerland's biggest cable operator Cablecom, told Swiss television on Friday that "providers" had been asked to outlaw 2,400 sites. He added that Cablecom was supporting the initiative.

ISPs have also been invited to warn customers of the legal ramifications of accessing child pornography. It is not forbidden to view child pornography on the internet in Switzerland but it is illegal to download, possess and distribute it.

"With foreign internet sites, a ban by service providers generally represents the only effective way of stopping consumption [of child pornography]," said Martin Boess, head of the Swiss Crime Prevention Centre.

According to Swiss television, internet users who nonetheless try to visit a website banned by their service provider will automatically be diverted onto a police website. A message will tell them that the site has been blocked because of illegal content.

Internet abuse

In May the federal cybercrime police unit reported a record number of suspected cases of internet abuse for 2005 – the majority concerned hardcore pornography involving children.

The Coordination Unit for Cybercrime Control (Cyco) received 7,345 notifications of possible internet abuse, around 100 more per month than in previous years.

Last month the Swiss Senate came out in support of a parliamentary motion demanding tougher legislation against online child pornography.

The motion called for those who voluntarily view pornographic images of children to be brought to justice. Only internet users who stumble inadvertently upon material, for example via a pop-up advertisement, would be free from prosecution.

In a separate development in March this year the Marche Blanche (White March) association collected 120,000 signatures supporting an end to the current 15-year time limit on reporting sexual abuse.

The non-governmental group wants to scrap the time limit, so that those who were victims as children can take legal action as adults.

At present, if someone who was abused as a ten-year-old doesn't take any action by the time they are 25, the perpetrator is off the hook. The issue will now go to a nationwide vote.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Swiss law does not forbid the viewing of child pornography on the internet but punishes the downloading of images with up to one year in prison and/or a fine.

It is illegal to be in possession of child pornography and the sale of pornographic images of children can result in a prison sentence of up to three years.

The Swiss Crime Prevention Centre recently launched a campaign against the illegal downloading of child pornography from the internet.

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Key facts

It is estimated that the proceeds of child pornography and child prostitution worldwide amount to more than $20 billion (SFr25 billion) a year.
According to Unicef, there are 14 million child pornography websites on the internet.

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