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AUS: ACCC/US F.T.C.Break Global Internet Porn Scam

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has helped the US Federal Trade Commission to break an global Internet scam which took unsuspecting Internet users to pornographic sites and then effectively prevented the user from quitting a series of 'adult erotica' sites.

When users attempted to click on to legitimate sites they were, instead, 'page-jacked' onto a page offering various types of pornographic material. The users were then 'mouse-trapped'. The site's software disabled the users' Internet browser so that if the user tried to quit the site more pornographic web sites were displayed. This 'mousetrapping' process occurred up to 20 times before the consumer was able to shut down the browser.

Sites 'webjacked' included information about children's Internet games, folk music or movie reviews. When Internet users search for this material, the results include the copied sites which are described in the same manner as the original site on the search engine results.

The US Federal Trade Commission has gained temporary restraining orders ordering the de-registration of the domain names involved.

The ACCC is investigating the Australian links to the US parent. The ACCC believes that the conduct breaches the Trade Practices Act 1974 as it is misleading or deceptive, it represents that the copied web sites have sponsorship, approval or affiliation that they do not have and that the disabling of users Internet browsers may amount to undue harassment or coercion in connection with the supply of goods or services to consumers.

"This is an example of how international cooperation can assist putting a stop to deceptive or misleading conduct on the Web," ACCC Deputy Chairman, Mr Allan Asher, said today. "This sort of conduct inhibits the growth of e-commerce and discourages consumers from using the Internet to its full potential. It also affects individual e-commerce operators can be directly harmed by losing their customers through diversions from the legitimate site. There is potential for users to damage files on their computers if they hurriedly shut down their computer to escape the 'mouse-trapping'.

"Users could lose their jobs or suffer ruined reputation by unintentionally accessing these sexually explicit web sites at their places of employment in violation of employers' policies.

"In other instances children could unintentionally access these adult sites in spite of the efforts of parents to protect their children against such access".

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