How to Report Child Pornography

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It is illegal to own or to create child pornography in the United States and to distribute it. Child pornography is generally defined as sexualized photos or videos of children under 18 or of children under the age of 18 performing sexual acts. There is no free speech, or First Amendment, protection for child pornography.

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) refers to these images as child sexual abuse imagery (CSAI), which the organization believes most accurately reflects what is depicted: the sexual abuse and exploitation of children.

If you encounter child pornography either online or through the U.S. mail, it is important to report the crime to the proper authorities.

Online 

If you encounter child pornography on the Internet, you can report the site address to your internet service provider and to your local or state FBI or Customs office listed in your hardcopy telephone directory or online. Federal law requires that U.S.-based service providers report instances of apparent child pornography to the NCMEC’s CyberTipline. 

You can also report child pornography online by sending the site address directly to the NCMEC at cybertipline.com. NCMEC will forward your report to the appropriate investigative agency for follow-up.

To collect the address, or URL, of a child pornography website, click on the address in your browser's address bar to highlight and select it, then paste it into a text file or email message.

U.S. Mail

Sending images of child pornography through the U.S. Mail is a violation of federal law. Such pictures are not constitutionally protected speech; they are evidence of the sexual exploitation.

If you have information about the use of the U.S. Postal Service to send child pornography, contact the U.S. Postal Inspection Service listed in your telephone directory or online.

Why Report It

If you happen upon an image of child porn online, you might think that there is no point in reporting it because the image could have come from anywhere in the world. If you believe no one could track down those involved in its creation, you're wrong. FBI investigators are skilled at the type of forensic investigation required to track down the people producing these images.

There have been cases in which investigators used the wallpaper and bedsheets in the images to identify the hotel being used by a ring of child pornographers. By reporting child pornography when you see it, you're raising the chances that a child could be saved or that evidence could be found to put someone who hurts children behind bars.

Prevalence

As of November 20, 2018, the NCMEC's CyberTipline had received 42.9 million reports of CSAIs. The organization's Child Victim Identification Program (CVIP) had reviewed more than 267 million images and videos, and nearly 16,000 victims had been identified by law enforcement.

Other Tips

The U.S. Postal Service offers these additional tips for protecting children from sexual exploitation:

  • Report suspicious activity, even when you just have a “gut feeling” that something doesn’t feel right.
  • Never share personal information online, such as addresses, phone numbers, school names, information about friends, or email addresses.
  • Use security software, including filtering or monitoring software, for all your computers and devices.
  • Talk with your kids and encourage them to talk to you about their online activities.

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