A May 21, 2014 story from the Associated Press reported a sting by federal law enforcement that lead to the arrest of 70 people for allegedly collecting and “trading” child pornography online.
When most people hear the word “traded,” they think of crime rings or syndicates. Instead, this likely means people were using the internet to download pornography from peer-to-peer services. These file-sharing services first came to public attention for copyright infringement issues when songs and movies were shared without permission. Remember Napster?
Nowadays, numerous peer-to-peer services exist to share, download or stream all kinds of files. Parties who obtain a song, movie, or illegal pornography from a peer-to-peer service do not believe they are “trading” but think they are only “downloading” privately. Unfortunately, peer-to-peer services usually have an automatic “share” feature for quicker downloads. It also means that if someone gets pornographic images using peer-to-peer services, he is likely also “sharing” what he is downloading, even if he is asleep, at work, or out of town while the computer searches and then viewing later.
Among those arrested were police officers, a Scout leader, a paramedic, and a rabbi. As the AP article pointed out, people who possess illegal child pornography are no longer necessarily the unemployed 40-year-old who lives in his parents’ basement and gives out the good candy on Halloween. The ease and anonymity with which average people can access formerly secret or forbidden areas has broadened that group of offenders from would-be child molesters to the man in the next cubicle at work. I can say “man” because although the 70 people arrested for possession of pornographic images came from many different backgrounds, 69 of the 70 were men.