Internet companies to block child porn sites

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is seen in New York June 5, 2008. REUTERS/Chip East

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Verizon VZ.N, Sprint S.N and Time Warner Cable TWC.N have agreed to block Internet bulletin boards and websites nationwide that disseminate child pornography, New York's attorney general announced on Tuesday.

The ISPs also agreed with New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to contribute more than $1.1 million to help the state combat the spread of child pornography. The news was first reported in the New York Times late on Monday.

The companies have agreed to block access to newsgroups that traffic such images on one of the oldest online outposts, known as Usenet, as well as sites that host child pornography.

The agreements will affect customers not just in New York but throughout the country.

“The pervasiveness of child pornography on the Internet is horrific and it needs to be stopped,” Cuomo said in a statement. “We are attacking this problem by working with Internet Service Providers to ensure they do not play host to this immoral business.”

His office said its undercover investigation uncovered a major source of online child pornography known as “Newsgroups” -- an online service not associated with websites.

Users can use Newsgroups as online bulletin boards where users can upload and download illicit files. The investigation uncovered 88 different Newsgroups that contained a total of 11,390 sexually lewd photos featuring prepubescent children.

After ISPs initially ignored the investigators’ complaints, the attorney general’s office threatened charges of fraud and deceptive business practices and the companies agreed to cooperate and began weeks of negotiations.

Reporting by Christopher Kaufman and Yinka Adegoke; Editing by Louise Heavens and Braden Reddall