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My Life in Child Porn (wikileaks.com)
76 points by marvin on Mar 17, 2009 | hide | past | favorite | 120 comments

Let me try to keep this "Hacker News":

It seems that the only way to even put a dent into child pornography is to basically outlaw any kind of network privacy hardware and software. As long as you have privacy you will have this kind of thing. If somebody starts a popular service with (close to) 100% anonymity and 100% data privacy (e.g. server provider doesn't hold encryption keys), they are virtually guaranteed that it will be used for this kind of content. In other words, any truly private service is almost certainly an unwilling accessory to this kind of abuse. Further, users of such services are going to be stigmatized for sharing a service with kiddie porn consumers/producers. That is very unfortunate.

Also, since apparently this kind of content is easily available, we are all one click away from becoming criminals. Imagine somebody posted a link to some kiddie porn on news.yc with a title like "Apple Announces iPhone 4G" on some non-alarming domain. Anybody that clicks the link to get their daily Apple rumor will instantly become a criminal.

Eventually, nearly all of us will probably have some kind of incident like this. And, as companies and governments start recording and analyzing everything we do online, this means that we will all eventually get caught. At any time, any of us could be instantly arrested and (nearly) instantly convicted. This is just like how cops claim that if they follow somebody long enough, eventually they will break a traffic law because it is nearly impossible to follow the laws.

Somebody that can solve these problems would be doing society a lot of good. I wonder if they could make any money in the process.

I recall a story about a case where a US government agency put a video file up on a server, linked to it in CP forum(s), and then traced the IPs of and got warrants for whomever downloaded the file.

The catch? The file was nothing but static. Their argument was anyone downloading the file was obviously thinking they were downloading CP, so the actual content of the file was irrelevant.

Can you imagine getting linked to that file, without context/with false context?

I think this is the perfect example of a comment that needs a citation to be taken at all seriously. I'm not saying you're lying, I'm just saying it's a pretty sensational and inflaming anecdote, and it would be nice if you could offer some proof.

Find it yourself if you care. I don't, especially. It was on Reddit within the past 6 months, but it's impossible to find things on Reddit. I'm not about to go googling about for it, personally.

Edit: Ok, ok, "fake" found it: http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-9899151-38.html?tag=nefd.l...

Thanks, and yes, that's a really disturbing tactic, and pretty unbelievable that it's actually court-approved.

To start: This whole topic really irks me.

To your comment: Wouldn't entrapment laws cover this?

I would have no problem with a site (run by the police) offers recycled CP/allows others to upload (ala youtube) then tracks really active users (say, 10+ hard core downloads or 1 verifiable homemade upload) for a long time while rounding up the ones that are abusing their own children.

In court the police would have to prove motive, etc.. But a good event log table should do the trick.

If I happen to get emailed CP spam, that is one thing, but when you can prove that a person clicked on button A then button B then button C and searched for "...", that is pretty good evidence in my eyes.

Egh. I really wish there was an easy way to shut this shit down without massive internet privacy invasion.

> To your comment: Wouldn't entrapment laws cover this?

In USA? Ask the To Catch a Predator crew and law enforcement (sic/sigh) agencies doing the on-camera drama.

> Anybody that clicks the link to get their daily Apple rumor will instantly become a criminal.

No this is not the case at all. It is my job to seperate out things like that - and show use. So a few images in your browser cache would be flagged as a negative. Or perhaps a (non apparent) zip file that was dl'd then deleted a few minutes later (with the images). Traces are left of the PC but you wqouldnt get in any trouble for isolated incidents like that.

On the other hand if the zip got downloaded and unzipped to "mucky pics/blah blah" and then there was evidence of it being viewed.. well....

Intent is the important thing

Two things worry me about the whole 'data as evidence' thing. The first is, the easiest way for a criminal to distance themself it must surely be to snoop some collegues password and log in on their computer after hours.

Secondly, in the old days, the KGB was the master of the 'honey trap': get some clerical worker in a compromising position and then blackmail them into spying. Given that there are many more ordinary people than pedophiles, I would have thought that installing illegal data by virus and then blackmailing would be a lucrative sideline for these Russian 'businessmen' who originate it. I'm a little surprised that you don't get many such viruses. The question is, have they not thought of it yet, does it not work for some reason, or are the viruses too clever at concealing themselves?

One of my favourite "teachers" in this industry that I learned a lot from had a great email I will give you in full.

"""A lot of them will use the defence it was a Virus. Which is the default "you got me but I want to squirm" defence of last resort. It does have merit and you should ALWAYS check for it. But at the end of the day it's a pretty amazing virus if it can search the internet, download 100 images, burn them to CD, write "mucky pics" on it and hide the thing behind the radiator"""

His point is simple: there is always a piece of evidence that will prove or disprove intent. SOmething that requires active, knowing, user input. We look at everything we possibly can do and build the picture as a whole.

In your specific example we carefully check the times stuff occurs. If, for example, there was one download incident at an odd time (compared to normal PC usage) it would trigger alarm bells in our heads. Im not saying it is impossible to frame people in these ways - but I would be

I've yet to see a virus that downloads CP in a form that can be viewed by the normal user. I have found a couple of isolated virus' that were part of a botnet used to distribute material. But the images were carefully hidden and it was obvious where they originated.

Certainly I dont know anyu virii that open IE and google for CP :D

I think the law states that you have to have stuff downloaded to your own computer for it to be incriminating evidence. So if you happen across some child pornography site and click away without downloading anything you haven't committed a crime.

Not sure, I just seem to remember reading it somewhere.

Makes no sense, you download every web page and every resource it links to (images, css, javascript) every single time you clink any link. All those files are saved on your hard drive, it's been downloaded automatically for you. If you don't download it, the browser can't display it.

I would imagine the distinction lies in where it is stored, and whether there has been an intention to save it.

If you can get prosecuted just by having the material on your harddisk then it would be a problem for a lot of people - the article talks about sending out lots of spam with this stuff, which will be saved to our harddisk. Even if it goes in the spam folder and you never see it, it will still be on your harddrive.

It would be reasonable that there's a difference, otherwise more or less anyone could be indicted for child pornography.

But you can't just depend on where it's downloaded, you'd simply manually download everything to your cache folder just to be technically not breaking the law.

Obviously, I think people who like child porn are bad; however, I can't help but think all these attempts to prevent it is just pissing in the wind. You simply cannot filter information that people, however misguided, want to trade with each other. They will find a way around any system you attempt to put in place.

Haven't everyone figured this out yet by watching all the failed attempts at killing mp3 sharing? Information wants to be free. You just can't stop people from communicating.

Computers store huge amounts of information if you know just how to extract it :) doing the above suggestion would leave traces for us to find (this is not a 10 minuts job; your looking at days of work per HDD).

Although that sounds correct, I suspect it's difficult to argue the distinction between an image download and an image cached by the browser to people who are extremely untechnical.

I couldn't finish this article. Not because it was written by a sick person -- it was -- but because it didn't seem to have a lot of interesting things to say.

As a libertarian I'm all for wide-ranging freedoms, but I'm also a parent and not a complete moron. I retain the right to have moral opinions even if I think it is wrong to impose them on others. As a parent, I can see that kids don't have the cognitive abilities to make decisions until later in life. I don't want my 9-year-old joining the army. I also don't want my nephew with Down's Syndrome to be sold life insurance, or my senile grandmother in a nursing home to open a credit card account. We limit freedoms based on cognitive ability -- that's just common sense. We should not provide the tools for kids to do things they will regret the rest of their life. CP, from our experience in many past cases, is something that leaves lasting scars.

I was especially amused at his fierce stance against fundamentalist Christians, those bastards. Seems like he is convinced they are the only ones keeping law-abiding perverts from their child porn.

If that's the case, you can count me in as a fundamentalist Christian.

With the technical angle, I'm sure its HN, but I'll let somebody else dig out the good pieces. I feel like I have to go wash after reading the small part that I did.

The most useful thing I got from the article was that the web is not really used much for commercial trade of child porn. The traders have gone on to much more sophisticated methods such as renting out encrypted remote access to virtual machines full of material.

This is important to remember next time a politician tries to tell you why there should be a secret list of banned websites, something we're grappling with in Australia at the moment.

We limit freedoms based on cognitive ability -- that's just common sense.

This sounds like a slippery slope. I'm all for helping to protect innocent people who are incapable of defending or protecting themselves, but there's a reason why, in the US, you're considered an "adult" at certain ages, rather than based on the results of some test that determines your cognitive abilities.

Your being a parent gives you no special insights. It gives you anecdotes, nothing more.

I don't know about DanielBMarkham in particular, but usually, being a parent (especially a mother, but fathers, too, to a lesser extent) does change how you think about things, purely from a hormonal, biological standpoint. In many cases, it can change your whole value system. Whether you view this as insight or the loss of insight is another matter, of course.

Everything you experience in life is an anecdote. What does give you special insight? Something you have not experienced, but read about?

Being a true professional in some area gives you special insight in that particular area.

You don't have to repeat all experiments from Galileo's era till nowadays to make scientifically sound statements but it doesn't mean that anything one says should be regarded as such.

Moral is poor guidance for scientist. One doesn't not tell the Universe what it should be. One hope to find out what it is.

Yes. Reading a solid scientific study will give you more valid insight than experience.

Regardless of the subject matter?


Would a reading a scientific study give me more insight into how to better painter, programmer, car driver, hockey player, or parent than actually doing these things? Reading about anything bestows more insight than collecting anecdotes (experience) in it?


Doing something is completely different than knowing about something. Parenting is likely the best way for a person to learn how to parent (though supplementing reading, mentoring, and so on will likely be even better), but reading a scientific study is going to give you a more accurate concept of the mental and emotional capabilities of children in general than your experiences parenting a single child (or several).

As the saying goes, the plural of anecdote is not data.

The saying is irrelevant, whether it's wrong or not. I shouldn't have even added it, lest I give you another way to deflect.

Isn't it correct to say "the plural of invertebrate is not lobsters"?

Similarly, the plural of anecdote can be many things, including data, but it is still correct to say "the plural of anecdote is not data."

So basically you say that you didn't read the article, don't have any privileged information, but because of your beliefs you strongly disagree with it? And of course, you're not biased because you're a libertarian.

As far as little arguments you provided, the article's author would probably agree with you. Nine is too young an age to make career or sexual decision (he mentioned post-puberty at least 3 or 4 times), as for people with Down Syndrome or senility...

The thing we really should have an open debate about (not on HN, though) is how much of a scar CP leaves on the children. There is a lot of "common knowledge" floating around and way to little fact.

Also, some of the technical part was really cool. At one point he mentioned how zombie computers can be turned into something like Freenet, offering distributed storage and hosting. I always thought this could be one possible future for the Internet (a real "cloud"). It's somewhat a shame the first people doing it are outside the law. (Not that i dispute that they should be - most of them do stuff much more obviously harmful then porn).

Sigh: "seriously creepy", "Evil lurks in the heart of man", "deleting browser history".

These are typical responses, which lack any perspective on life and culture. At face value, child pornography is not necessarily bad, child pornography is not necessarily damaging and child sex does not need to be a bad thing.

Damage comes from rape, violence and emotional abuse (which is the worst because it lasts).

But these things are not inherent to child pornography and very common outside child pornography. The argument is child pornography leads to damaging events. But it certainly isn't the source. People who do such things are usually emotionally disturbed themselves. And making child porn illegal is not going to change that (almost hard to believe it wasn't illegal not so long ago).

You might even have the same "make it illegal, it will become worse" effect as there is with drugs.

So, I guess there is no point to this post, but I do think it's wise to keep perspective on subjects. Even though everyone is inclined to err on the safe side, continuously making the safe side more extreme.

As usual, there is a continuum there. While some young teenage girls (and all boys ;) might be interested in sex, at how young do we put the limit? 13, like in Spain? 12? 11? When does it becomes really uncomfortable to talk about their "sexual drives"?

When it comes to teenage sex becoming criminalized, though, the author is right on the money: this is just crazy. When I was a teenager I knew some girls my age who were having sex with young men in their 20s. None of us thought this was creepy. They were boyfriend/girlfriend, and that was it. But it was in France in the 80s, and I'm not sure people would be so understanding today.

Ultimately, this should be a case of "has there been violence or coercion?", and "how did the minor perceive the experience?". Anti-rape laws should suffice for this, with the youth of the victim as an aggravating factor. As to when to decide that the child was unable to give consent, that, ultimately, should be in the hands of the judge, as advised by a psychologist. Not a perfect system, but far more humane than automatically putting a 18-years old behind bars for boinking his 17-years old girlfriend.

Agree with last paragraph. I had my first sex at 17 with a 15 yo girl who then became my girlfriend for seven years. Guess America would gladly brand me a pedophile.

I'm not sure people would be so understanding today

The focused brainwashing by the media that led to this recent change in people's opinions should really be the focus of discussion here.

It's useful because we have a common-sense post to upvote. Common sense is much underrated.

As someone who works weekly on such cases I would like to point out that the technical content of this article is largely correct, however the sections about the origins of the abuse and the accused is incorrect.

Could you elaborate? I found those sections to be the most interesting.

// Disclaimer: I work in investigating these crimes \\

His assertsion about the number of wrongly convicted people are very wrong.I would say that around 80% are "users" whereas the rest have usually stumbled across it (this is very obviosu btw: there is not often a fine line). A lot of the defence is "it was a virus" so it is one of the first checks and has been the case in only one example as I recall.

We deal with all sorts of computers weekly & I have never identified CP on any of the machines that cross my desk (bar the odd image or 2 come across whilst browsing legitimate pron sites)

In terms of the origins: a lot of the mild abuse is "homebrew" with a small proportion of the worst images being homemade. The majority of extreme images are, from their context, commercially produced.

I cant say much about the children being forced or not (or comment on the argument of whether they are innocent or not) because I am biased due to my job and because it is wholly subjective (actually I deliberately emotionally detach from such thoughts to allow me to do my job fairly). And finally because I am involved purely in the technical side and have not met any abused persons :)

I am a bit worried to say any more: it really is grazing close to a line here (silly laws ;)). Im well on the right side of said line (i'll add) but....

EDIT: edited slightly after chatting to a colleague :)

"I deliberately emotionally detach from such thoughts to allow me to do my job fairly"

How do you do that? (neutral question)

Great question thanks

In terms of viewing images it is quite hard. Partly I manage it due to my personality (empathy troubles etc. which is ideal for disconnecting). Mostly though it is by multi threading: I program & pen test for the company I work at so I occupy my mind with programming/hacking problems for later whilst leaving part of me on neutral to process cases. And then just through sheer will power :)

At first it was difficult to do but I find it easier and easier to function perfectly normally (i.e. thoroughly and effectively do an investigation) whilst not fully connecting with the content :)

(Also we use hash analysis to cut down the amount of actual content we view - standard practice).

If you mean in terms of not feeling angry at suspects etc. - that is difficult but I find ways to channel my dislike outside of work (kickboxing, occasionally alcohol, arguing with my GF):) and carefully control it when in the office. Again - practice makes that easier.

Not for everyone but I (and I hesitate to use this word because of the context) enjoy it.

I salute you. Most people who deal with the darker side of humanity see / learn things they wish they could unsee. But, I suspect your job is far more difficult than most.

Well I don't salute him at all.

Think about what he's doing. He is examining computers for illegal information. An illegal series of bytes. This is utterly insane.

You can make up whatever justification you want, but to me the very existence, the very possibility of existence, of illegal information is absolutely, 180˚ opposed to everything I believe in. As far as I am concerned, people like ErrantX are actively working to undermine free society.

The fact that many of these illegal files are simply scans of magazines you could apparently buy, completely legally, over the counter, in the 1970s, just adds that last twist of "We have always been at war with Eurasia" doublethink frisson.

To me that's like arguing it's crazy to pursue anyone committing violent crimes because they're "just moving atoms around."

That said, I think it's totally ridiculous they don't devote 100% of the crime fighting effort to eradicating producers, slamming down on abusing parents, etc. That they're wasting time on easy targets seems sick to me. The argument is that by killing the market, the producers won't abuse kids, but I ain't buying that because I bet a dollar to a nickel that there's always been a small section of society that has sexually abused kids for their own sick pleasure from it.

The notion that child abuse would end because there would be no market for commercial child abuse is a stupid idea.

It's also the kind of idea that so frequently bubbles up in law enforcement: the eradication of visible crimes is more important than the eradication of the unseen ones. It's also because the visible ones are so easier to catch and give so much more TV coverage.

Going after the producers/abusers is the goal. Going after users do next to nothing to protect exploited children.

I have seen a similar attitude when I followed the investigations after I had a laptop robbed here in Brazil. Police officials were much more worried about catching the guy with the gun than the guy who bought the computers to resell. If you take down the guy in the spike, the buyer can quickly recruit another. If you take down the buyer, the hub, the whole "market" collapses for a while and crime drops (or migrates to other activities).

An that brings me to another story: when bank cashiers here started to use ATM-like equipment in their desks and had no meaningful amount of money easily accessible, bank robberies dropped to next to nothing. Interestingly, shortly after that, kindnapping spiked.

The notion that child abuse would end because there would be no market for commercial child abuse is a stupid idea. [...] Going after the producers/abusers is the goal. Going after users do next to nothing to protect exploited children.

Agreed, but that's exactly what I just said, lol :)

I upvoted this because I didn't feel it was stupid (certainly not enough to hit 0 points). Condemning Gitmo is not endorsing terrorism.

Condemning the idea of "illegal information" is not endorsing child abuse. Child porn is usually a result of child abuse. Child porn may be a contributing factor in child abuse. That still does not equate child porn and child abuse.

I don't agree with sho, but I don't think is argument is stupid or invalid.

Photography is strange; it exists solely to please the eye. One can say that the act of looking at it, is similar to how one would USE other sorts of information, and although that's not quite right either it serves well-enough (in reality intentions matter when talking about this issue, otherwise the cops that verify someone has CP are criminals themselves.)

So, that said, it's not the HAVING the information that matters, it's the using of it. If I have your bank account information on my computer it's not illegal for me to have it (I think), but it would certainly give me jail time if I used it to take money out of your account.

Right. And your free society would actually celebrate people that produce and distribute things like child pornography, hell, you'd actually sell your own children into the business, right?

I'm sorry but anarchy and freedom from coercion such as taxes are good things that we'd be interested in talking about as hackers, but you're coming out in support of child porn to support your claim of freedom. There is no doublethink here, child porn is wrong, that is objective reality.

Wow, you really demolished that straw man you set up there. I'm not advocating child porn, nor anarchy, nor any other of your bizarre projections. Get a grip.

"child porn is wrong, that is objective reality."

Your proclamations of what is right or wrong have no place in "objective reality", my friend. Objective reality simply is.

"you're coming out in support of child porn to support your claim of freedom"

Well I didn't really mean to "come out in support of" it but why not, sure, for the sake of argument. And I presume you're "coming out" in favour of a world in which you can be thrown in jail at any time for the existence, on a computer under your control, of a copy of a photo you didn't take?

I would like to say that I would encourage you to come and do my job before you try to make claims like these :)

> And I presume you're "coming out" in favour of a world in which you can be thrown in jail at any time for the existence, on a computer under your control, of a copy of a photo you didn't take?

This is precisely my job: to figure out if the suspect downloaded the image deliberately (which is a crime) or not (which isnt). As you might have gathered from my earlier figures 20% of the computers I look at are innocent (and I prove them to be)..... :)

Your "freedom" is for the computer users and doesnt consider anyone else.

For arguments sake, if sho had 10gb of <7yo children in sexual acts distributed amongst photos and videos on his computer, would he be guilty in your opinion? Sho - I would like to hear from you too.

Well yes I would report that as a positive: i.e. that I had found material. Depending on the grading of the images the CPS would then decide what to prosecute him with (i.e. all level 1's would probably get you a talking too and advice on places to get help if required, a decent number of level 5's would prompt prosecution).

I'd also look at how he organised them. For example if it was a few 100 MB's of borderline images (even if we know they are illegal) and they were spread randomly in his porn collection then I would possibly consider it a negative. If then I found google searches for "download lolita" etc. and evidence of hanging out on 12chan et al then I might revise that view.

Each case varies considerably :) as I am sure you can imagine.

Currently possession of the material in large quantities is a crime.

What legal reason could there be for holding that quantity on disk? (bearing in mind the checks and paperwork we have to go through to hold the material per the requirments of our contracts).

That amount of data (10GB is a lot) would prompt me to look very closely at the sources and other activity as it would suggest distribution too (indeed I would be surprised if there were no distribution at that scale).

1 image wont get you jail time. 100 would depend on the context & the grading. 1000+ is, I hope, fairly obvious :)

The only thing I was thinking was if I were going to do something clearly illegal, and had technical ability, surely I wouldn't store my stash in plain site. E.g. hack someones machine, store the data on their computer. How do you prove 'intent'?

I have known a few shady types throughout life, and none of them were stupid enough to store their stolen goods at their home, regardless of how poor their educational abilities :)

Ah yeh I see what you mean there.

Well everything leaves traces - you juust have ot hunt it out and figureout where they hide things ;)

That said your assuming technical ability: which these consumers dont really have. The mid level (i.e. community) distributors probably dont have it either. Top level distributors? Pfft try catching them :) barely happens.

At the end of the day it is all about the trail. You tie together their chat, web activity, downloads, and where images are stored. Factor in things like times (can be useful to confirm who used the PC) and extraneous usage (eg: download images, followed by checking email followed by more downloads is pretty incriminating :D).

You build up a picture of what happened and it quickly shows the intent.

If you get someone googling for normal porn and downloading a couple of borderline CP zips it is fairly obvious compared to somone searching limewire for "lolita" and setting 100 related torrents off to download :)

EDIT: example, that I am allowed to mention, try the case of a school computer teacher coming into class in the morning and setting Limewire off to download CP before teaching a class. He took steps to hide what he did (encrypted containers etc.) but in the end it was easy enough to prove via log files, thumbnails and internet usage etc. That is the most technical ability I have seen in a consumer.

Good to know you go to such lengths. From some of the posters here you would think it was as simple as looking at a website with CP gets you 10 years :)

Respect, and good hunting :)

Well, your question is ambiguous. Guilty according to what? According to the law, of course this hypothetical person would be guilty. Very guilty.

In terms of my own ideal moral boundaries? Well, it depends on the circumstances. I will refer to this hypothetical person as X.

1. If X made/caused to be made the images: Guilty beyond doubt. Lock X up and throw away the key. Sexual assault of a 7yo? Are you kidding? Absolutely wrong and absolutely should be removed from society before more harm is caused.

2. If X did not make the images but contributed to their creation via payment: Guilty. By payment, he has directly helped fund this and future crimes.

3. If X did not make the images but contributed to their creation by other means: Grey area. Could be considered part of a conspiracy to commit a crime. Would depend on the circumstances.

4. If X did not make the images and had no link to the person(s) who did: Not guilty, of course. There is no link between him and the crime. He merely has a visual record. Obviously a promising candidate for counselling, however. To be treated the same was as, say, someone found with 10GB of execution photos/videos.

I wonder what answer you were expecting? I am sorry but I just cannot accept that making a copy of a file can be considered a criminal offence or even wrong.

I consider anyone who rapes 7yo kids to be utterly reprehensible, by the way. That is fucking sick. Lock up anyone who does that, forever, and I will applaud you. But possessing an image of the crime in progress? That should not be a crime, that should never be a crime, that should not even be able to be a crime.

FYI possesion of 10GB of actual execution porn would probably get you a significant jail sentence (I dont think it gets you on the sex offenders register though). Never come across a case though.

The end users though do contribute to creating the crime: they create a market and a community. For example an individual may have innappropriate thoughts related to abusing children and creating the imagery - by creating a community from which he/she can gain access to the material they could well be encouraged to put thoughts into action.

You cant pin any specific blame but removing them from society is always going to help :)

Plus of course you dont know what they may do in th future. Looking at images may develop into actual abuse. Leave that person free? Or put them in jail and attempt to rehabilitate? Not a choice IMO.

Whether the rehabilitiation process works is a seperate debate in my opinion (I would say it doesnt as it happens) but there isnt much I can do about that for now.

Execution porn? When did executions become porn? And if possession is illegal, better round up everyone at Youtube, because I know they've distributed videos of people getting killed.

Your argument that creating a community and market creates demand has some merit, but note that I specifically specified anonymous downloading with no ties to the "community" whatsoever. Would that render it OK, then? If not, why not? And why doesn't your argument apply to, say, news coverage of school shootings, which definitely creates a "market" for horrible crimes?

And your argument about individuals with "inappropriate thoughts" (how sad that we even have to type such a phrase) who "could well be encouraged to put thoughts into action" - perhaps, but our entire legal system is supposed to be based on things you have done, not things you may or may not do in the future.

You cant pin any specific blame but removing them from society is always going to help :)

Plus of course you dont know what they may do in th future. Looking at images may develop into actual abuse.

I cannot disagree strongly enough with the above. If you can't pin specific blame, what that means is that they haven't done anything. What they may do in the future is not something you can arrest them for today.

Using your logic, why don't we, say, go and arrest anyone who looks like they might be in a gang? Who knows what they might do in the future!

You disagree with that, right? So why does it suddenly become a valid argument with child porn? And "because I really, really hate them" is not a good enough reason.

It's a circular argument. We make having these files illegal, because they show someone might do something wrong. Oh wait, they have done something wrong, they have these illegal files! Do you see what's wrong with that?

Rehabilitation? For what? They haven't done anything! Look, if they rape a child, punish them! Throw the book at the bastards, lock them up for life! You have my complete support!

But locking people up for things they haven't done yet is wrong, wrong, wrong. That is not how our legal system works, no exceptions, not even if we really, really hate the accused. That's why, in case you didn't know, Lady Justice wears a blindfold.

You've taken off that blindfold, and in doing so, corrupted the system. That is what makes me angry enough to "come out in support of" something I personally find reprehensible. I don't love child porn, quite the opposite, but I do love the legal system, and this kind of thing is fucking it up.

Execution por: I mean snuff. I assumed that was what you referred to. I dont think images of simple executions would get you in trouble (tho 10G might).

> I specifically specified anonymous downloading with no ties to the "community"

Anon downloadings via P2P usually still seed the content for others. Via websites, well, it's hard to be anon and have access to the sites. You have to show a "face" on boards, IRC, usenet etc to be shown access.

And, anyway, you should take your own advice ;) and do the research. The majority of people do partake in the community.

Fair enough. Maybe I will do some reading. I've been thinking about collecting my thoughts into an essay anyway, might be able to express them better without enraging people.

Despite what it might sound like, I actually have no interest in child porn beyond its corrosive effects on society. I would mount a similarly impassioned defence of the legal rights of terrorism suspects or against drug prohibition. I do not particularly condone drug use or terrorism either. I just don't want populist fearmongering and government overreaction to tear even more of society's freedoms and legal foundations apart in pursuit of these phantoms.

I'll bow out now before I piss anyone off even more.

Interesting opinion. In regards to 4, I disagree, as I believe that possession promotes creation indirectly by creating demand & fueling an already unhealthy mind.

Well, your own unproven theories are no basis upon which to ruin other people's lives.

Your ideas, by the way, could equally well be applied - and are, by some fanatics - to violent video games, and yet I bet you oppose efforts to even curtail their availability, let alone imprison their fans.

I would really like to emphasise that I think that someone who's interested in collecting 10G of pictures of kids being raped is obviously pretty sick. If I found that someone I knew had such an interest, I'd probably never speak to them again. If I had kids, I'd keep them the hell away from such a pervert. But illegal? For having copied some files, but having had nothing to do with the crime involved in their original creation? Those pictures are depictions and records of a crime, but they do not embody it.

The whole concept is ludicrous and I can't believe I am so alone in pointing that out. If you have a picture of a murder, and I copy it, we haven't somehow created another murder out of the ether. If I possess a picture of someone doing illegal drugs, I don't magically become partially responsible for the drug use. I think a reasonable person would agree up to here with everything I said. So why does all rationality fly straight out the window when it comes to a crime that happens to involve a child? The arguments weren't valid before, but change the subject to an emotionally charged topic and suddenly they make perfect sense?

I just don't buy it. You can't cut and paste pictures of crime, and in doing so create more crime. You can't create more crime by viewing a recording of crime. I am utterly baffled why anyone would argue otherwise.

Your analogies don't work. With drugs, producing and using them are crimes. The intent and act of viewing Child Porn is the same - producing or using the produce is the crime.

If someone downloads Child Porn, or knowingly copies it from somewhere, this could be giving someone the idea that they better keep producing it.

I was going to write a long response to his obscure and reprehensible views. But this sums it up more eloquontley :) good show.

Maybe I haven't made myself clear. I am not arguing that "using" child porn is not a crime; it plainly is, in my country at least. I don't think it should be, though, as I have said. Its production should continue to be a very serious crime, for obvious reasons. For what it's worth, I see nothing immoral about drug production or use, and consider drug prohibition another pointless and destructive law.

As for your second point, yes, it might. Or it might not. Either way, speculation such as this does not belong in a legal setting. And if you take your thoughts to their logical generalised conclusion, watching anyone do anything bad at all makes you partially responsible. I don't agree with that, of course, and I doubt you do either.

Anyway, I've said all I'm going to say on this - I was just trying to make a point, I'll bow out before things turn any nastier.

I'm not talking about viewing illegal things as a crime, and I don't agree that my arguments logical conclusion is that watching anything wrong makes you responsible. I'm talking about production and use. Watching a video of taking drugs is not using drugs, it's therefore not a crime and won't encourage drug producers to produce more drugs. Watching a video of Child Porn is using the produce of an illegal activity, could very well encourage more production, and is therefore a crime.

ErrantX's job is to determine the intent of the viewer by seeing if they actively downloaded and used the produce of an illegal activity. If he does his job well, I see no problem with putting people in jail for this crime.

Dude, have you even had a cursory look at the research? I am betting you haven't. I am not basing my words on little data. There is ample evidence for my reply.

One study, from the first page of pubmed for CP: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18307171?ordinalpos=15...

There are plenty more if you go looking. We know there is a link between viewing rates (obsession) and acting.

Dude, did you even look at that study you linked to? It is about adult pornography. If you seriously believe it, if you think that porn leads to rape, why aren't you arguing against banning all porn?

Look, I'm not an expert. I'm talking about this topic because I believe in certain general principles of freedom and legal process. I have no special interest in child porn beyond its prohibition's corrosive effects on what I consider to be important aspects of society. I haven't read any studies, nor plan to. I haven't read any studies about violent video games causing violence either, yet I reject any ban on them out of pure principle - same here.

Anyway, I think I'll bow out now before some misguided soul calls the cops on me, or worse. I was just trying to explain why I believe what I do, because you asked. Seems we have irreconcilable differences. C'est la vie.

Hmm. Perhaps I am tired! This is still evidence for the argument, and there is ample evidence to justify making it illegal in my opinion. E.g: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15974425?ordinalpos=1&...

I understand you are taking a philosophical stance on this. It's cool by me.

I disagree on your ban of violent video games though. Once we get the technology to design games with addictive, psychology-changing content, there is bound to be a game that actually causes real world violence.

When that day happens, I will support the ban, even if it's in a sub-section of the population.

grin. sorry for sounding annoyed, that wasn't the idea (so much for being objective :)

Since you didn't mean to come out in support of child porn (which is what it sounded like you were doing, by proclaiming the government shouldn't be able to go after our bits) - I think it's been determined in this thread that having mistakenly had a copy of a photo on your computer doesn't make you a user, or prosecutable by law.

My point was that being associated with Child Pornography (user, distributor, creator) knowing that you're doing it willfully is wrong and should be prosecutable. Now I'm not sure whether we disagree.

Thank you for saying so :) I dislike getting "sympathy" or "understanding" for my job (not that you've done that). I chose it :D I do my bit and that is it's own reward.

I've quite enjoyed chatting about it on here though (I do feel a bit of a cheat that it's earned me nearly 100 Karma in total). You guys have asked much more interesting questions than anyone else does :D

Okay, then I guess you won't mind answering a few questions I have.

Down to it, what is so fundamentally wrong with CP? There is no universal consensus of what is beautiful, what is ugly -- the human libido desires whatever it desires; black, white, brown, tall, fat, short, thin, male, female, etc. etc. Why is it a problem that one person prefers the flesh that of the youth? Centuries ago, the traditional relationship actually WAS between one person of considerably older age with one of a significantly younger age.

I anticipate the following responses:

1) Because it indirectly creates a demand for CP in general and it is thereby criminal.

2.1) Because it is immoral (religiously, culturally, etc.)

2.2) Because children aren't mature enough to decide for themselves, they should not be involved in CP and adults should not pursue relationships with them.

My responses:

1) Which is precisely why it should be made legal. I think it would expunge the market of concretely illegal media. This, in my thinking, is appropriately analogous to the drug situation. If drug X is legalized, the availability of a safer form of drug X would likely appear in market and the impure, dangerous forms of it would naturally cease to circulate (in ideal conditions). OBVIOUSLY I don't condone any physical violence toward anyone. One thing that I CANNOT wrap my head around is BSDM-related porn. And by God, if anyone harms their child, or any other's for that matter, get them some counseling. Pronto.

2) It is decided merely as such by the culture. I take it that the general populace on HN is of atheists -- why then, as atheists, would you shun the the preference of a certain type of body as unnatural, immoral, or illegal?

Your thoughts?

//Disclaimer: I'm not involved in/with CP in any manner whatsoever, I only believe that it should be "legal" in the same manner free speech is. I believe NOTHING should be censored by ANY governing body, rather, it should be with products and services offered by private entities that CP and other related things should be "blocked for viewing" solely at the behest of the end-user. And yes, then I would encourage any such user to turn that "feature" on to block questionable material. But in the general scheme of things: ZERO CENSORSHIP.

//P.S.: Please pardon spelling/grammatical errors, I don't have time to check what I've written.

EDIT: HN, please stop downmodding/marking/whatever-you-call-it-here me, it would be against the HN-etiquette as I understand it (downvote for troll behavior, but not for differing opinions). Furthermore, I invite any discussion that goes against what I have said to what I have said. Cheers!

Im not going to reply except to say that your simply using this as a soapbox to sound off on your version of freedom of speech and anti-censorship. Are the children subjected to CP free? Why does the freedom of XYZ person who wants to see children (children here, 3 or 4 years olds or younger for example) come before the freedom of 100's of youngsters who are abused.

I thoroughly encourage you to actually come try ot work in the industry before making claims that it is against free speech :)

> I thoroughly encourage you to actually come try ot work in the industry before making claims that it is against free speech :)

Although I have never worked in anything involving investigation of CP, I do have experience in other fields in which I gained insight that I believe is relevant here in these matters. In real life I do stick to my guns and practise what I preach.

> Are the children subjected to CP free?

I'm not exactly sure I understand what you mean by 'free'. Though, the decision whether a child participates in CP or not should ultimately rest on that child.

> Why does the freedom of XYZ person who wants to see children (children here, 3 or 4 years olds or younger for example) come before the freedom of 100's of youngsters who are abused. You've totally misconstrued what I've said. By all means, if children really get that kick out of it that they'd like to do it for free then let them, but I would normally expect them [or their parents] to charge a fee and pursue CP as a business just like normal pornography is nowadays.

What I really have trouble realizing is how appreciating a youthful body is inappropriate. I don't think it is, I think it's simply natural.

So it's accurate to say the distributors are almost impossible to find?

What do you spend more resources on? Going after customers, distributors, or creators?

Customer: but only because they are the easiest to track (and we get most of the cases from a 3rd party).

Distributors fall into "community" who download and share as much as they can for free and commercial. The former are often caught, the latter next to none are tracked - most are in Russia. Thel atter are usually also creators - the commeercial creators are cuaght once in a blue moon.

I do do private work (for ourselves) to track these networks but it is incredibly difficult.

I hope I'm not the only person who after reading this immediately deleted their browsing history; the thought of the title of this article appearing in my browser/address bar history in front of certain/most people, is cringe worthy.

EDIT: To the people down voting me, all I meant was I'm often showing stuff on my laptop to different people and I would be afraid of their assumption if I typed the letter "m" into my address bar and "My Life in Child Porn" popped-up because they might come to the wrong conclusions that's all. Whether their assumption is right or wrong, is irrelevant, I was just saying; it's something I'm aware of and wouldn't want to happen!

So you read somebody's writings about child porn. Does that make you a bad person? Is mentioning the phrase child porn a crime? Is reading the words of a child pornographer wrong?

There's nothing wrong in reading an article. Anybody that thinks so is either deluding himself or is twisted in a really awful way.

EDIT: Okay, that makes sense. Sorry if it sounds like I was being scoldy.

Is mentioning the phrase child porn a crime?

Well, yeah. Porn is bad, and kids need protecting. Put porn and kids in the same sentence and you have 100% concentrated evil. It is like a mini-9/11, every time you say the words. Do you hate America? I think you should be executed just for thinking about thinking about children.

Oh sorry, I was just pretending to be an elected official.

No it doesn't make you a bad person, no mentioning the phrase isn't a crime and no reading the words of a child pornographer isn't wrong--in my opinion. However, not everyone shares my opinion and I can't take the attitude that my boss, client or whoever sees it pop-up in my address bar history is deluded or twisted, just because they don't share the same opinion as me.

And filtering/tracking software seems to be pretty naive. So if the network administrator uses tracking software, that article will probably raise a red flag. I would be somewhat surprised if a person thought that this article was inappropriate.

But I wouldn't be very surprised if this article got your internet history reviewed. That is at least an invasion of privacy.

And I think this would be most likely to happen on a network with a strict internet policy, like at a company. Also, if your history is checked, there is a possibility they will be reviewing how much time you spend on non-work related websites. But I'm probably being somewhat paranoid.

Oh, no. Many of us read Navokov's Lolita! (or watched the movie.) We should go to jail.

Don't fall into hysteria. And try to avoid stupid people who are well into it. Same with terror and drugs. Meanwhile bankers walk away with gigantic bonuses, right below your noses.

Also there are tough economic blocks to Cuba and Iran while the US-friendly governments of places like Thailand don't get any trouble at all. I haven't been there but the tales of relatives and what I read are revolting. That's not taking some pictures, that's wholesale slavery, rape, prostitution, and even murder. Why doesn't US media make a reality show on busting US-ians going there for sex vacations?

[Disclaimer: I actually got bored with the pseudo-romance drama of Lolita and dropped it after not that many pages. Overrated as hell. But now I know that.]

I would be afraid of their assumption if I typed the letter "m" into my address bar and "My Life in Child Porn" popped-up

Why do you value the thoughts of people like this? Someone that is going to dislike you for something in your browser history doesn't sound very thoughtful.

No matter what your opinion on porn is, it's obvious that it is viewed as a moral controversy. If it's child porn, it's virtually guaranteed to be viewed as immoral.

And people treat others differently if they are viewed as immoral. I know I'd treat someone differently if I thought they were involved with child porn.

A lot of people care more about what people think about them than about what they actually are.

(Not saying this about Dawson, but about the sorts of bosses and clients who would be offended by an accidental happening like that.)

There is also the fact that you need to get along with the other monkeys in your tribe, no matter how neurotic and panicky they may be.

That's why it's very, very important to make sure you've got a good tribe to begin with.

But it's very, very costly to switch tribes for most people, so by the time they're thinking about that, it's too late.

Costly? Really? Perhaps it takes some time, but the switch itself happens pretty quickly, if people are willing to put up with some hard times as they adjust.

I think most people would rather start over with no possessions at all than drop almost everyone they know and try to make all new social connections. In fact, I think most people would rather start off with no net worth and their entire net worth in debt than do that.

This is something that changes as you grow older, when you have commitments to family members, to career goals or whatever.

You think twice about creating new problems that don't need to be problems in the first place.

Okay, fair enough. Perhaps I have too youthful a perspective on this right now, when my circle of friends largely changes once a semester.

He doesn't need to value their thoughts, he just needs to be potentially affected (financially or otherwise) by their perception of him, which could be heavily influenced by seeing the title My Life in Child Porn

Use Tor to anonymize, and if you're really worried, download Freenet and get someone to post a mirror of the article and read it there.

I found it seriously disturbing that there were some parents who actually thought it was ok to involve their kids in child porn.

I think the question that these parents asked themselves was do we let our (other) kids starve to death, let them live on the street and sniff glue , or etc... or get money from something that is "controlled" by them. With the collapse of Eastern bloc it was dark times for many..... and certain forces used the situation for personal gain. And it is not different from parents in Arab country or India selling their 9 years old daughter for arranged marriage.

I'm afraid that you're correct, but I think there is also a "darker" side to it. As the OP mentions, parents involving their kids in CP crosses class barriers and happens in both poor and rich families.

A few weeks ago, I took a primal therapy course, aimed at improving participants self-awareness and quality of life by letting them express pain experienced during childhood trauma. Anyway, the reason I am bringing this up is that some people in this course had childhood stories of abuse that would make anyone puke. And these were all high-income people with good jobs.

I believe all parents try their best, nobody wants to be a bad person. But if your perception of good parenting includes fucking your kids, that can make you do horrible things.

"good parenting includes fucking your kids" - eh? I didn't read that in the article, i.e. that sexual molestation by parents was a significant source of revenue (that was done through one-upmanship, apparently); it was rather children who "posed naked" with the consent of parents.

I do think it's important to recognize a spectrum here; and also, rational discussion requires avoiding emotive language.

the technology part is pretty interesting, the business model too.

Which brings me to a question...if you are that tech savvy to do all the stuff they talk about under technology...why risk all that for the peanuts they talk about in the business model?

As the writer of the letter states the majority of this is conducted by the russion organised gangs. Usually as one part of their larger cyber-crime operations.

That entire "industry" is a multi-million dollar one.

I'm assuming that the parts can be used for many different things.

The botnet can be rented out. And it can be used used to distribute ads. There was recently an article on HN about a guy who got arrested for putting spam on a botnet.

And I'm sure having access to private servers can be monetized in other areas too. At the very least you could use it to sell pirated material.

And of course the money laundering method they're using can probably be used in other areas too.

yep - the botnets are usually multipurpose. You can buy botnets containing a few thousand machines all over the place fairly cheaply now.

Do you know how likely it is for the police to arrest a bot herder?

Somewhere between low and impossible.

Usually it would be the users (the ones that send out the spam etc. via the networks) who get caught - and that is a very low number as well really (compared to those uncaught).

I found the bit about the US prison population growth rate interesting. The author points to a Reuters article that pegs prison population growth rate at about 4% (http://www.reuters.com/article/bondsNews/idUSN07275062200710...), and, according to Google, the US population growth rate is 0.883%. I wonder why the former is so much higher than the latter, and how those numbers compare to historical trends.

Most of the growth is thanks to our drug policy.

Ugh, if you ever wanted proof that Evil lurks in the heart of man...

I'm not comfortable using the word Evil big-E. This is human existence, good and bad. This guy obviously thinks there's a reason behind child porn. He made one or two points that sounded like they'd be worthy of debate at the very least, rather than instant dismissal. And the people participating did so for reasons. It isn't all abuse, from what he's saying here.

Calling things Evil is a convenient way of dismissing them. It means you can put it aside and roundly condemn it and feel better for having done so. The truth is more complicated: nothing is roundly good or roundly evil, which is exactly why it's so difficult at times.

While I agree that child abuse laws could use some change, mainly with how it deals with sex between people where the age difference is very small. For example, I'm not comfortable with an 18 year-old being viewed as a predator for having consensual sex with a 17 year-old.

But other than the fringe cases, I really don't see how it ever can be healthy for a child to be involved with an adult, or even be in a situation where they can give consent.

There is too great a power difference. Somebody mentioned earlier that some parents were basically forced to get their kids involved with porn so they could eat. What is the child going to do in that situation, say no? Basically, in that situation, if the child has a choice it's between eating and doing porn.

Also, minors today are taught that it is the acceptable thing to defer to adults. So children already have a lot of pressure to defer to adults instead of enforcing their personal boundaries.

And I can't imagine a child being seriously attracted to an adult. They are both in different stages in life. After I started college, I really viewed high school students differently. They are just in a different place in life. I have different goals, responsibilities, and plans then I did in high school. I really doubt I would have enough in common to be attracted to a high school student, let alone be able to make a healthy relationship work.

I agree. I don't think child porn is at all a good thing. (I also agree with the current age of consent laws, which some people think are too overstrict.) But I don't condemn the people who make it in their entirety. Everybody has a story talking about where they got to be where they are, and most of them aren't stories of pure evil.

"I really doubt I would have enough in common to be attracted to a high school student" - definitely not emotionally attracted, but physically, I would guess there are many who would be, judging by the preponderance of such scenarios in commercial porn.

Oh No! God forbid we call something for what it is.

"Evil (n) - that which causes harm or destruction or misfortune"

It isn't all abuse? Oh, well, fine, I'm so glad that is cleared up because some sick fuck says that "its not all abuse". I can't wait for my kids to hear "Not all methamphetamine will cause you harm" from a speed freak. That logic makes infinite sense.

Whether you like it or not, Evil most certainly exists in this world, regardless of whether or not there is a reason that it came in to existence.

So, there you go, even though you don't feel comfortable labeling something for what it clearly is, feel free to label this post with a down vote.

That was a lot of rhetoric and hand-waving, but you still haven't proven that it is all abuse, nor have you proven that the examples listed in the OP are clearly "that which caused harm or destruction or misfortune" to the people involved, let alone that sex automatically harms or damages minors. While this is merely anecdotal evidence, I do know people who had their first consensual sexual experiences with older partners when they were below the age of 16, and they seem none the worse for wear.

How many of them photographed & videoed it to sell on the internet? :) (there is a distinction there I think)

None of them. Granted there is a distinction, but let's assume for the moment we've established that the sexual acts themselves cause no lasting damage. Where, then, does the damage come from? I think a large part of the damage from being exposed comes from the stigma attached to it. In which case I think it can be argued that the evil was committed not by the pornography, but by the people who have viewed and judged it.

As Elaine once said in an episode of Seinfeld (The Pick)

Because it is not me that is exposed but you. For I have seen the nipple on your soul!

If talk's to be believed, plenty of people I went to school with had sex at 13-14, and some of them were very happy with those decisions.

(As a side note, I find it a little funny that I'm 18, which should be the age that I'm finally able to have sex without it being legally weird, and yet my not being sexually active makes me a late bloomer. Society is odd.)

So, there you go, even though you don't feel comfortable labeling something for what it clearly is, feel free to label this post with a down vote.

I hate to tell you, but even the people who have lots of karma don't play Hacker News for points. We just like talking with smart people. The only thing I downvote people for constantly are the people who talk about getting downvoted (but you replied to me, so you're safe there).

Evil has more implications than the dictionary definitions. The dictionary defines "sacred" as "connected with God (or the gods) or dedicated to a religious purpose and so deserving veneration" but there's meaning lost in such a bland definition. Similarly, evil means more than "not good".

It isn't all abuse? Oh, well, fine, I'm so glad that is cleared up because some sick fuck says that "its not all abuse". I can't wait for my kids to hear "Not all methamphetamine will cause you harm" from a speed freak. That logic makes infinite sense.

I love people who put words in my mouth. I suggested that life is complicated - that, say, a speed freak isn't an inherently bad person even if he's addicted to something that's very bad, and that I dislike people who look at something and call it Evil dwelling in man's heart.

There's a whole argument about the nature of "evil" and "profane" in religion studies, where the argument goes that evil or profane things refer to things that are naturally inhuman (or lacking the empathy with God or other human beings that humanity seems to be defined by). Essentially, when you call something "evil" the implication is that it is without ration or excuse and that it is something that a "good" human is inherently incapable of doing. Big-E Evil in particular goes by those rules.

I believe that the world and human nature is too complex to quickly call evil. It's why I hate that a post like this, long and complex and fascinating, gets called "Evil" in a single-sentence condemnation. It's almost certainly horrible. I think the entire trade is sickening. But I'll give it some level of respect, because these are human beings we're talking about, and because no human being deserves to be judged with a single sentence, especially not when he makes the effort to explain himself in a more complex way.

Whether you like it or not, Evil most certainly exists in this world, regardless of whether or not there is a reason that it came in to existence.

The idea of Evil suggests that there's no reason to evil, that it's original sin and that we are inherently flawed. That follows the ration that there's a such thing as inherent good. I subscribe instead to the belief that good and evil are both a part of human logic, and that the really awful thing is that evil is a part of nature (and not just human nature). As a result, I dislike the people who would assume that evil is an illogical, spontaneous thing, and I think that the best way to combat evil is to give it as much respect as possible. If you reject it outright, you're no better in a way, because you offer it no comprehension.

I also find that if you use your big E for something merely repulsive and ugly, what do you use when you get to Darfur?

This is seriously creepy.

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