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Seizure of Child Porn Websites Reveals FBI Hypocrisy

By Elisabeth DellaMonica

What is hypocrisy? The practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform. It is a word that now comes to my mind when I think of the FBI. “For nearly two weeks last year, the FBI operated what it described as one of the Internet’s largest child pornography websites, allowing users to download thousands of illicit images and videos from a government site in the Washington suburbs,” according to USA Today. While some may view this as an act of justice and a way for criminals to be tracked down, the tactic went significantly against the government’s previous approaches for combating online child porn. “What the government did in this case is comparable to flooding a neighborhood with heroin in the hope of snatching an assortment of low-level drug users,” said defense lawyer, Colin Fieman, in his interview with USA Today. I couldn’t agree more.  

As with any story, there are two sides to this issue. It should be known that according to government officials, taking over this website and allowing it to run as intended is the only way that the criminals using the site can be caught. “The government always considers seizing an illegal child pornography site and removing it from existence immediately and permanently,” Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr said. “While doing so would end the trafficking of child pornography taking place on that one website, it would do nothing to prevent those same users from disseminating child pornography through other means.” However, in 2012 the government used this tactic for the first time. The FBI seized and ran a child pornography website for a short period of time, which led to a mere 25 charges against users. Out of those 25 charges, at least nine of the people are still identified as “John Doe” in the court’s record today. To me, this clearly illustrates the fact that this method is not very effective. If running a child pornography website has left the FBI unable to identify the real identities of some of the users, then what is the point?

In this most recent case of online child pornography, the name of the site taken over by the FBI was Playpen, and according to the Justice Department, it had grown to become “the largest remaining known child pornography hidden service in the world.” The FBI kept it up and running under their control for thirteen days. That is thirteen days that more than 23,000 sexually explicit images and videos of children could have been downloaded and redistributed. Thirteen days that images and videos of “toddlers” and “prepubescent females” having sexual intercourse with adults were under the government’s control, but were not protected in any way and could easily be saved to another computer. It is thirteen extra days that more than 100,000 registered Playpen users visited the site.

“At some point, the government investigation becomes indistinguishable from the crime, and we should ask whether that’s OK,” said Elizabeth Joh, a University of California Davis law professor who has studied undercover investigations such as this one.  She goes on to say that we must identify the costs and benefits of certain methods that the government uses, and we must see who they are really helping. I feel that this is where I stand on the issue. Of course I would love to see every disgusting human being that partakes in the viewing and distribution of child pornography put behind bars, but this tactic that the FBI is using doesn’t seem like it is helping much towards that goal. It does seem like the government is allowing these horrible transactions to occur while they watch from behind a computer desk, and that is what has been happening. I don’t think that the amount of good it has done for society justifies the fact that, for a period of time, a top government agency is in charge of a child pornography website, and does nothing to even remotely change the content or the way in which the site runs. I guess that I would just expect more from an establishment such as the FBI, perhaps a different and more effective way to go about combating child pornography on the web. As Americans, we are allowed to question our government’s decisions, and in this situation I feel that that is necessary.

1 Comment on Seizure of Child Porn Websites Reveals FBI Hypocrisy

  1. Interesting article . Glad I found this site , has many current events that I’ve never seen covered anywhere else.

    Like

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