Porn site veterans vow to clean house

The king and queen of Internet porn say too much of their content is being seen by minors and pledge action

The king and queen of Internet porn -- Dannie Ashe and Andrew Edmond -- have decided that their realms are pretty seamy. They say email sleaze-entrepreneurs and thousands of money-hungry porn sites are making everything from bestiality to kiddy porn available to anyone, including children.

Now Ashe and Edmond are trying to clean up the industry before regulators do it for them. They told a panel of commissioners that they will be helping Congress rewrite the nation's child pornography laws in October.

The two are perhaps the closest thing that Internet porn has to leadership. Ashe heads a Web porn empire with more than 100 million customers. Her website, Danni's Hard Drive, is the most popular destination of any genre that is owned by, or features, a woman.

Edmond is chief executive officer of Flying Monkeys, which has a stable of more than 280,000 adult entertainment sites in cyberspace.

"The type of dent we can put into this problem of protecting children from pornography is enormous," Edmond said during a break in hearings held Thursday by a panel of industry executives and academics exploring possible changes to the nation's Child Online Protection Act. Ashe agreed, but said it is Edmond who wields the real influence because his way of doing business, trading traffic or sending out email lists, is more the norm for the industry.

She's so well established after five years that her marketing is mainly word of mouth. But by lending her name to the cause can only help, she said.

Edmond said the first house he'll be cleaning, or at least trying to clean, is his own.

He believes that nearly a fifth of everyone who visits his sites are under the age of 18. His goal, he said, is to lower that percentage to single digits in six months, then to four percent after a year.

Edmond is exploring what type of filters he can put on his Web sites to keep children away. His team of engineers is testing ten different ones now and hopes to check out at least two dozen other software packages to find the best one. But when they are done with their own sites, there will be plenty others out there to target, Ashe said.

The online porn industry is made up of mainly small, home-based Web sites that have managed to establish rather complicated, and dangerous, traffic-sharing agreements.

While competitors like Dell and Compaq would never dream of sharing traffic, the "mom and pop" porn sites survive on it, Ashe said.

Email lists are "at the heart of what I believe is the most egregious problem we all face," Ashe said.

Email addresses of children and adults lifted from newsgroup postings or picked up from cookies. The lists are bought, then used to often solicit for extremely violent and illegal forms of porn, Ashe said.

Porn sites also play dirty tricks on the search engines. Porn Webmasters deliberately add country names or the word "girls" to a Web site so they will show up on search results, Ashe said.

Theft is also a huge problem. Porn that Ashe posts on her site's password-protected areas shows up in user groups accessible by children within minutes, she said.

There are also spammers setting up "mushroom URLs" that exist only long enough to send out thousands of porn-filled messages and links, she said.

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