Online Child Pornography Innocent Images National Initiative

Computer telecommunications have become one of the most prevalent techniques used by pedophiles to share illegal photographic images of minors and to lure children into illicit sexual relationships. The Internet has dramatically increased the access of sex offenders to the population they seek to victimize.

The Innocent Images National Initiative (IINI), a component of the FBI’s Cyber Crimes Program, is an intelligence-driven, proactive, multi-agency investigative initiative to combat the proliferation of child pornography/child sexual exploitation facilitated by an online computer. The IINI provides centralized coordination and analysis of case information that by its very nature is national and international in scope, requiring unprecedented coordination with state, local, and international governments, and among FBI Field Offices and Legal Attachés. The mission of the IINI is to: *identify, investigate, and prosecute sexual predators who use the Internet and online services to sexually exploit children; *establish a law enforcement presence on the Internet as a deterrent to subjects that use it to exploit children; and *identify and rescue witting and unwitting child victims.


While investigating the disappearance of a juvenile in May 1993, FBI Agents and Prince George’s County, Maryland, police detectives identified two suspects who had sexually exploited numerous juveniles over a 25-year period. Investigation into the activities of the suspects determined that the adults were routinely utilizing online computers to transmit child pornography. Further investigation and discussions with experts, both within the FBI and in the private sector, revealed that the utilization of computer telecommunications was rapidly becoming one of the most prevalent techniques by which some sex offenders shared pornographic images of minors and identified and recruited children into sexually illicit relationships. Based on information developed during this investigation, the Innocent Images National Initiative was started in 1995 to address the illicit activities conducted by users of commercial and private online services and the Internet. During the early stages of Innocent Images, a substantial amount of time was exhausted on commercial online service providers that provide numerous easily accessible “chat rooms” in which teenagers and pre-teens can meet and converse with each other. By using chat rooms, children can chat for hours with unknown individuals, often without the knowledge or approval of their parents. Investigation revealed that computer sex offenders used chat rooms to contact children. Chat rooms offer the advantage of immediate communication around the world and provide the pedophile with an anonymous means of identifying and recruiting children into sexually illicit relationships. TODAY’S INNOCENT IMAGES Today, the FBI’s IINI focuses on: *individuals who indicate a willingness to travel interstate for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity with a minor; and *major producers and/or distributors of child pornography. In addition, the IINI works to identify child victims and obtain appropriate services/assistance for them. Online child pornography/child sexual exploitation is the most significant cyber crime problem confronting the FBI that involves crimes against children. Throughout the FBI, there was a 1,997% increase in the number of IINI cases opened between fiscal years 1996 and 2002 from 113 to 2,370. It is anticipated that the number of cases opened and the resources utilized to address the crime problem will continue to rise during the next several years.

The FBI has taken the necessary steps to ensure that the Innocent Images National Initiative remains viable and productive through the use of new technology and sophisticated investigative techniques, coordination of the national investigative strategy, and a national liaison initiative with a significant number of commercial and independent online service providers. Innocent Images has been highly successful. It has proven to be a logical, efficient, and effective method to identify and investigate individuals who are using the Internet for the purpose of sexually exploiting children. To report child pornography and/or sexual exploitation of children, please contact your Crimes Against Children Coordinator at your local FBI Field Office or link to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s CyberTipline at The CyberTipline allows parents and children to file a report by submitting an online form. This form is then reviewed by analysts and forwarded to law enforcement including the FBI, the U.S. Customs Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and state and local police agencies. For additional information on Internet safety, please consult the FBI brochure titled ‘A Parent’s Guide to Internet Safety’.

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