ALBANY, N.Y. – Internet providers Verizon, Sprint and Time Warner Cable have agreed to block access to child pornography and eliminate the material from their servers, New York's attorney general said Tuesday.
The companies also will pay $1.1 million to help fund efforts to remove the online child porn created and disseminated by users through their services, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said. The changes will affect customers nationwide.
Time Warner Cable acted as soon as it learned that users were posting objectionable material and eliminated the newsgroups, a mainstay of the Internet from its early days, said spokesman Alex Dudley.
He emphasized that Time Warner didn't host or provide any of the content and was simply a portal, allowing groups to be created with content provided by the users.
"As soon as we were made aware of the issue ... we took steps to correct," Dudley said Tuesday.
The agreements follow an undercover investigation of child porn newsgroups. Cuomo said in a prepared statement that his investigation of other service providers is continuing. He has used similar probes and the possibility of civil or criminal charges to extract concessions on Internet safety in the past.
Last year, Cuomo reached agreement with the social networking sites MySpace and Facebook to toughen protections against online sexual predators.
Verizon acted immediately to shut down the sites, Verizon spokesman Eric Rabe said.
"There are people doing whatever they do on the Internet all the time and we can't possibly scan every use group," he said. "But there are some things we can do and as soon as it's brought to our attention, we work very quickly."
"The tension there is between allowing customers the ability to communicate with their privacy rights protected, and preventing people from doing things that are illegal," Rabe said.
Verizon and Time Warner Cable are two of the five largest internet service providers in the world. Verizon has 8.2 million subscribers and Time Warner Cable's Road Runner has 7.9 million. Sprint is one of the three largest wireless companies in the United States.
"We are doing our part to deter the accessibility of such harmful content through the internet and we are providing monetary resources that will go toward the identification and removal of online child pornography," said Sprint spokesman Matthew Sullivan. "We embrace this opportunity to build upon our own long-standing commitment to online child safety."