EU to Crack Down on Child Pornography and Cyber Crimes

Operators of child pornography web sites will have no place to hide, under a program being started by the European Union.

The names of people suspected of putting illegal pictures and videos online will be sent to authorities in each of the 27 European Union nations under the plan agreed to Friday by the EU justice and interior ministers.

The aim is to ensure that illegal Web site operators do not escape from one EU country to another EU undetected, said French Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie, who presided over Friday's talks.

Child pornography has become a multibillion dollar industry worldwide, and is one of the internet's fastest-growing businesses, according to the European Commission and the advocacy group Missing Children.

Last year there was a 16.4 percent increase in child abuse images on the internet, according to a study by Missing Children Europe, which represents 21 children's rights groups across Europe.

The plan agreed to Friday calls for European Union countries to improve the coordination of their efforts to fight child pornography and other illegal content on the Internet.

A Europe-wide alert system will be created, linking national authorities of all EU countries. Alliot-Marie said the EU's policing and serious crime agency, Europol, will coordinate the alerts.

"It will enable EU member states to exchange information more effectively and tackle this serious crime," Jacques Barrot, the EU's justice and home affairs commissioner said.

Europol, based in the Netherlands, will also run a site where the public can report illicit content.

The European Commission, the EU's executive body, announced plans earlier this year to find ways to stop payments for child porn online from being made by credit card or other electronic means.

The EU's justice and interior chiefs have focused more attention recently on combating cybercrime in general. The organization has already set up a cyber security agency to coordinate European efforts to protect computer systems from hackers and terrorist threats.

That agency deals mostly with efforts to counter attacks aimed at crippling the Internet, as well as data loss, identity theft and fraud.