Published September 28, 2010
The world’s largest pro-pedophilia advocacy group uses Facebook to connect with its members throughout the world; to find and exchange photos of children; to hone its members' predatory behavior; and to identify, target and reel in child victims, an investigation by FoxNews.com reveals.
Facebook says it has a strict policy against the posting of content that supports groups engaged in child exploitation, yet a simple, five-second search on Facebook, conducted on Sept. 23, yielded dozens of pages devoted to the infamous North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA). Many of those pages featured numerous photos of unnamed boys, some of whom appeared to be too young for kindergarten.
The same day, FoxNews.com found hundreds of links to NAMBLA’s website on Facebook, which has more than half a billion users worldwide. And posts on known pedophile blogs and chat rooms show an organized effort by pedophiles to use the social networking site to prey on children.
“This is just the downright filthiest of society setting up on Facebook in a public way, and the question is, 'Why is Facebook allowing this?'" said Hemanshu Nigam, co-chairman of President Obama's Online Safety Technology Working Group and a member of the board of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Last month a joint investigation by U.S., Canadian, United Kingdom and Australian authorities brought down an alleged international child exploitation syndicate that operated via Facebook, and 11 suspects were arrested. Australian officials criticized Facebook for not alerting them to the online activities of at least one suspect; Facebook responded by reaffirming its commitment to preventing pedophiles from using the social networking site.
“We take safety very seriously and have a strict policy against the posting of child exploitive content or content that supports child exploitive groups," a spokesman for Facebook told FoxNews.com in an e-mail. "Facebook is highly self-regulating, and users can and do report content that they find questionable or offensive. Our team of investigations professionals reviews these reports, removes content that violates our policies, and escalates to law enforcement as necessary.”
But, a search for “North American Man/Boy Love Association” on Facebook on Sept. 23 produced 87 different groups. Some appear to have been created as a joke, or in protest, but there are others that appear nefarious.
The page for “Greensburg group of the North American Man Boy Love Association,” in the category of “Common Interest-Philosophy,” features a photo of a child around 4 years old.
“N.A.M.B.L.A. (East Lansing Chapter) also has a photo of a child, who appears to be about 5 years old.
Another, “NAMBLA” in the “Organizations-Advocacy Organizations” category, features a photo of a man being kissed on the cheek by a small child. Its description reads: “We are the North American Man/Boy Love Association. Our sole purpose is to push forward the concept that a consenting man (18+) and a consenting minor (-18) can have a sexual and loving relationship legally. Feel free to send your questions comments or constructive criticism to [redacted e-mail address]. Thank you for your time and support and remember keep fighting the good fight!”
The web address for NAMBLA’s Wikipedia page is provided in the contact information section.
An e-mail sent by FoxNews.com requesting comment from the group's administrator was not returned. Neither was an e-mail sent to an address listed on NAMBLA’s website. (Editor's Note: See update at the end of this article.)
Another Facebook group, “N.A.M.B.L.A.,” says it “advocates the legalization of sexual relations between adult males and under-aged boys" and that it has resolved to "end the oppression of men and boys who have freely chosen mutually consenting relationships," in spite of what it acknowledges is "the fact that such relationships are seen as child abuse where the minor is unable to give consent.”
When alerted to the presence of these four groups on its site, the Facebook spokesman said, on Thursday, “We're investigating these and will remove any that are reported to us.”
NAMBLA's existence as a group advocating for the legalization of sex between minors and adults isn't illegal in itself, says Michelle Collins of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Thinking or advocating for adult-child sex is protected by the First Amendment, but committing acts of adult-child sex is illegal.
"The challenge for law enforcement is identifying when something goes from free speech to a crime being committed," said Collins, who emphasized that people who come across apparent child pornography should report it through NCMEC's tipline.
But Nigam says NAMBLA not only is positioning itself as a group dedicated to changing laws, it is actually using Facebook to seek out like-minded individuals to help victimize children, exchange crime scene photos and give one another advice on how to be better criminals.
“That should be alarming if you’re Facebook, that it’s not that difficult to find these group pages and links going out to NAMBLA organizations and supporters,” said Nigam, who headed security divisions at Microsoft and MySpace, and now, in addition to his board membership and co-chairmanship positions, runs SSP Blue, an online security consulting firm.
That post goes on to say that it takes some effort to be accepted as a Facebook friend of this person, but that “once you’re in, you’re really in.”
Another user wrote, “Facebook stalking isn’t real stalking is it?”
Other posts point to a profile page with a cache of children's photos. A user says the page is based in Norway and is run by a "boy lover."
Federal law requires companies like Facebook with electronic servers in the U.S. to report suspected child pornography to law enforcement through the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), which is then charged with sorting through all the tips it receives from companies like Facebook and from members of the general public. Then, if a jurisdiction can be located, NCMEC passes along the information to that branch of law enforcement.
James Marsh, an attorney who represents victims of child sexual exploitation, says Facebook must do more than just what is required by law.
“Facebook has a moral and public duty to monitor and stop this activity on their site. Hiding behind legal technicalities is not enough to be a good corporate citizen in the digital age,” Marsh said. “Facebook needs to put children ahead of profits and do what Congress and the American people expect -- protect our kids from criminals like NAMBLA.”
“Every company has the ability to disable certain sites from being linked to, and Facebook can make a very simple decision to not allow people from Facebook from linking to NAMBLA.org,” Nigam said.
Facebook provided this statement to FoxNews.com:
“Facebook and Law Enforcement share a common goal of having a safe Internet. That is why Facebook works closely and cooperatively with Law Enforcement around the world.
"Unfortunately, people have attempted to use technology to distribute illegal and deeply offensive content from the early days of the public Internet. We will not allow people to get away with using Facebook in this way, and in the U.S., we have partnered with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to use their databases of child exploitive material to actively search for this material on Facebook and bring those responsible to justice. “
But Nigam says Facebook has been providing a platform for an organization promoting child molesting.
“Does Facebook want to be friends with NAMBLA?" he asks. "By allowing these groups on Facebook, that’s exactly what they’re doing.”
UPDATE: On Tuesday, Sept. 29, following the publication of this article, NAMBLA spokesman Arnold Schoen replied to a request for comment that was emailed to him six days earlier. Schoen wrote: "If you really investigated, you would learn that actually we have never set up any pages on Facebook. And we certainly haven't ever used facebook to connect with our members, to find or exchange photos, to "hone predatory behavior:, or to "identify, target and reel in child victims. This is a wild fantasy boogeyman FoxNews is holding up for their fans."