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Egroups under fire for child porn pics

Public kids porn pulled, but what of the members-only stuff?

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Updated Email and picture-sharing Web site Egroups.com has found itself the target of attack after one of its groups entitled "kidsporn" appeared on view to the public.

Complaints about the folder - which includes more than a dozen intimate photos of naked children and links to two "Lolita" Web sites - have quickly done the rounds on parenting news groups and Egroups has received a number of threatening emails over the issue.

According to one complainant, the company has said that the source of the pictures is in France and as such resides outside US Federal Law. The two linked-to Web sites are run by the same people and make a point of pointing out their lawfulness according to US law. Apparently, by not featuring any active sexual act or giving due prominence of sexual organs, the pictures are perfectly legal. While this explanation is unlikely to find favour with parents, it is fair. Otherwise pictures of our own kids without clothes on would be deemed pornographic.

However, there are 14 pictures in one folder named "some of pugs" which are blatantly sexual in their content and are pushing the law to the edge. There are another two shots of a young girl with an older man which it seems very unlikely are legal, no matter which country they originate from.

Internet law remains a grey area and the fact that pages are viewable by anyone instantly creates an extremely difficult situation that has not existed before. If someone is not breaking the law from where they are, they should be entitled to behave as they wish. That said, Egroups should also be entitled to control what is on its site.

In this case, Egroups should ask itself whether it is the kind of site that wants to be linked to pictures of naked children.

Update: Fortunately, Egroups appears to have followed our advice and has pulled the kidsporn folder off its server. The folder is still located in a search, but none of the material is available. We're pleased about it, although we do think that it should have a fast-track system for such occasions.

However, there still remains a very tricky situation. Also on the Egroups site is a members-only group called "kids n' sex". It is not directly viewable, and to join the group you are asked to send hardcore pics or video files to underagelove@wowmail.com. It's not hard to see the kind of material that is easily available on a well-known Web portal. It has 58 members so far.

Is Egroups monitoring this stuff? We feel it ought to be morally obliged but is it legally obliged? Well, while the company devolves itself of any legal responsibility in its terms & conditions, if it knowlingly held illegal and tasteless pornography on its servers, T&Cs are unlikely to sway a judge.

As for its own guidelines, they state: "By way of example, and not as a limitation, you agree that eGroups may remove Content or terminate your account or any group created by you, without notice, if eGroups believes, in its sole discretion, that you, or any member of your group, are engaged in any of the following activities:

a) uploading, posting, emailing or otherwise transmitting any Content that is unlawful, harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, tortious, defamatory,
vulgar, obscene, libellous, invasive of another's privacy, hateful, or racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable;
b) harming minors in any way;"

etc etc (goes on up the alphabet). We think that hardcore child pornography very clearly fits these two categories.

What of the liberal arguments about pornography being a useful release? Frankly, when it comes to child porn, we have a very low tolerance indeed. If Egroups isn't approaching this problem right now, it damn well ought to be. ®

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