Last week, the FBI disclosed it had taken over and operated a child pornography bulletin board service for two weeks in 2012 as part of an investigation into the site’s activities. They identified over 5,600 users of the site and, at this point, have conducted at least one raid in Washington state to gather further evidence as a result.
The FBI reportedly obtained a judge’s approval to operate the site after they determined they couldn’t identify users just by accessing the site’s logs. And, while it doesn’t appear the agents actively distributed child pornography, they did allow the board’s users to continue doing so.
According to an article posted on The Verge:
Over the course of two weeks, the [FBI] attempted to identify more than 5,600 users, responsible for sharing over 10,000 photos of children being abused. In total there were 24,000 posts on the site. The posts contained discussion related to pedophilia, including guides on how to avoid police detection by utilizing encryption and other tactics.
The board also reportedly had threads where users described how to lure and sexually harm children, including one user who wrote in reaction to an image of a girl being raped, “Jesus I would enjoy hurting that child.”
Sting operations are not a new idea, of course. They’re used to investigate many different types of crime, including drug trafficking, theft rings, and espionage. The difference here is that the sting operation didn’t just allow criminal behavior to continue, it also perpetuated the distribution of illegal images of children for those two weeks.
Some may feel – like the agents and the judge involved in this case did – that allowing images to be traded on the board was worthwhile because it potentially aided in identifying the perpetrators. What it also allowed, however, was the further sharing of images that are incredibly damaging to the children pictured, and those who love them.
According to one former victim whose images were shared over the internet in a different case:
“Every time they are downloaded, I am exploited again, my privacy is breached, and my life feels less and less safe,” she continued. “I will never be able to have control over who sees me raped as a child. It’s all out there for the world to see and it can never be removed from the internet.”
Which leads us to this week’s poll question. Should the government be allowed to perpetuate distribution of child pornography when doing so would aid an investigation?
Participate in this week’s Monday Poll and see the results!
Want posts conveniently delivered to your email inbox? Just follow crimeandjusticeblog.com by clicking on the link in the left sidebar, or sign up for our monthly roundup of top blog posts.
Share this article with all your favorite services!