Through the mid-1990s citizens of Western Europe and the
United States observed that the problems of child pornography and predators on the
Internet were escalating rapidly and police officials were lagging far behind in their
ability to detect and prosecute these criminals, mostly due to lack of resources and
training. Alarmed and frustrated by predators unlimited use of the Internet to
transmit images of the sexual abuse of children and make contact with future victims,
concerned citizens formed groups to monitor the Internet, inform police of suspected
crimes, create tiplines for reporting criminal activity, and in some cases, operate
clandestinely to stop predators use of the Internet.
In an open letter to the Justice Community in 1997, individuals who
founded PedoWatch, an independent tipline, claimed that national law enforcement agencies
had been non-responsive to reports of sexual exploitation on the Internet.
Some national agencies are paying a lot of lip service
to Internet child pornography investigation, but fail somewhat in application. For
example, US Customs moved their child pornography web site without leaving a simple
forwarding address. Similarly, the email address on their site, the one they said to use
to report evidence of crimes against children, was defunct for more than a month (our mail
was returned a day or two later). We and several others informed them but saw no effort to
correct it. To our knowledge, some time sensitive evidence of a company marketing child
porn videos was lost as a result of this down email address and Customs failure to
follow up on a telephone report in a timely manner.
We have also had letters from
people who have contacted their local FBI field offices with incriminating evidence, only
to be brushed off."
All of the independent tiplines focus only on crimes against children.
Sexual abuse of women, pornographic images, and sites promoting violence and hatred toward
women are ignored. This decision seems to stem from two rationales. 1) If there are only
laws (or laws being enforced) against crimes against children, then collecting information
on other abuse and violence would be inefficient or an ineffective use of time and energy.
2) Philosophically the groups made strong distinctions between what is done to children
and women. They assumed that all women who were no longer minors were consenting adults,
therefore no crime was being committed. Some groups took a stronger stand and action than
PedoWatch is a non-profit organization in the United States composed of
unpaid volunteers who are committed to reducing the sexual victimization of children by
predators on the Internet, especially preteens. They believe there is a strong link
between the distribution of child pornography, the social tolerance of this material, and
the sexual abuse of children. They take an active and tough approach to sexual
exploitation of children on the Internet. Upon locating or being notified of sites on the
Ethical Hackers Against
Ethical Hackers Against Pedophilia (EHAP) is a 17 member
secret organization of skilled computer technicians that surfs around the Internet looking
for sex offenders who abuse children (www.hackers.com/ehap). A California man known only
as "RSnake" founded the group in 1996. Their secretary, known only as
"Oracle," said that the main reason many child molesters and traders of child
pornography were able to operate on the Internet was due to anonymity. Ethical Hackers
Against Pedophilia decided to use their hacking talents to find, identify, and expose the
predators. They find the identity and physical location of predators that post child
pornography to newsgroups and trace the sources of video streaming sites that are
transmitting the live sexual abuse of children. They specialize in investigating
"secure" sites that use special security systems to hide their activities. They
are selective in their targets, going after only those who are producing child
pornography. "Thats who we hunt." Ethical Hackers then passes
the information along to law enforcement agencies, including the US FBI. The Ethical
Hackers keep their methods confidential, refusing to say whether or not they stay within
the law while gathering information on predators. "Law enforcement are restricted
in ways were not but Im not saying that we break the law."
The group claims police have used their information. Police sources say they appreciate
the information and "respond aggressively when information is brought to our
attention," but dont support any law breaking that may occur to get the
information, of course.
In September 1998, William H. Prugh, Pennsylvania, USA was charged with
15 counts of possessing and disseminating child pornography. He posted and downloaded
child pornography from the newsgroup alt.pictures.erotica.pre-teen using the name
RAMM@intothewall, which he thought was untraceable. Ethical Hackers Against Pedophilia
traced his identity and assisted the police in collecting evidence for his arrest.
Se7en -- Genuine Hacker Terror
Christian Valor, known as Se7en, spent 17 years in the hacker
underground and didnt believe the reports about increasing child pornography on the
Internet. Then two crucial experiences connected and Se7en declared war on those who trade
child pornography on the Internet. He acknowledged his own victimization and someone sent
him child pornography. He was able to use empathy to understand and feel the harm from sex
predators, which is grossly lacking in most people in the Internet and sex industries. "I
myself was abused when I was a kid. Luckily, I wasnt a victim of child pornography,
but I know what these kids are going through." After receiving the JPEG
image, he entered the underground of IRC chat rooms with names like "#littlegirlsex"
and "#100%preteensexfuckpics." He found ftp (file transfer protocol)
directories filled with image files like "6yoanal.jpg" and "8&dad.jpg,"
and newsgroups like "alt.binaries.pictures.erotica.pre-teen."
Upon finding out the kind of horrible child pornography
that exists, Valor promised a "genuine hacker terror" against child
pornographers. On 8 June 1997 Valor posted a message on the mailing list for DefCon, the
annual hackers convention. By mid-June he claimed that he had "taken
down" a "major player," who was an employee of Southwestern
Bell. He collected evidence and sent it to the President of Southwestern Bell, who replied
a few days later that the man was "no longer on the payroll."
Valor also seemed convinced that the police were not likely to
intervene, and pointed out that the child pornographers could hardly complain to the
police if he wiped out their hard drive by remote access.
Such declarations and action produced much anxious, hand wringing about
"rights," and condemnation of "malicious, destructive hacking"-
concerns and sentiments that are never expressed for the devastation of childrens
lives caused by sexual predators.
When solutions to illegal activities on the Internet are discussed,
Internet industry people like to make excuses and say that nothing can be done to stop
that particular criminal activity. During the discussion of Se7ens war on child
pornographers, one posters comment reveals what may be closer to the real situation:
"The government cant enforce laws on the Internet. We all know that. We can
enforce laws on the Internet. We all know that, too."
Valor reminded the Internet community of what everyone likes to ignore, "
in the chain, someone is putting these images on paper before they get uploaded. Your
freedom ends when you start hurting other people."
Internet Combat Group
The Internet Combat Group is a hacker vigilante group in
England dedicated to knocking predators of children off the Internet. The group, which
started in 1997, is the first vigilante group in the United Kingdon to combine technical
skills and hatred of predators who prey on children. In mid-1998, they had 15 members.
StRyKe, a member of the group, says he got started when he found a link to a child
pornography site in Amsterdam. He reported the site to the Internet Service Provider who
controlled the server, but nothing was done. StRyKe said, "
care. Those people never do anything." StRyKe acknowledges that what they are
doing is illegal, but moral, "I do think of myself as moral.
attack anyone who doesnt deserve it. We are talking about people who deliberately
harm minors." StRyKe works in two ways. First, he tries to trace and
identify predators, then turns the information over to police. He claims Scotland Yard
will accept information on predators with no questions asked on how he got the
information. Second, he uses flaws in computer operating systems (such as Windows 95) to
gain access to the predators computer, then using a virus, called Codebreaker,
developed by an Australian friend, he wipes out material on the predators hard
drive. StRyKe says, "Ill do anything if I think it will ultimately help to
Predictably, the Internet Watch Foundation, the Internet
industry supported tipline, condemns the Internet Combat Groups methods.
"We have a general brief against illegal activity on the Net
and that includes hacking. There are legal ways of dealing with the problem, even if these
methods can seem laborious and slow. Hackers may be able to do more damage but they are
not as well connected to the police, which is ultimately what matters."
Morkhoven, a Belgian anti-pornography vigilante group
does not operate on the Internet, but in July 1998 was instrumental in exposing an
international Internet child pornography ring. Morkhoven was founded in 1988 to oppose
child abuse and police brutality. Currently, they have a membership of 20 to 25 people
from Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. They are known to use illegal tactics, such as
burglary to seize evidence, and have been accused of trying to extort money from
perpetrators. One of the leaders, Marcel Vervloesem was convicted of extortion of money
from traders in child pornography. 
In July 1998, when Morkhoven illegally seized 1,000s of computer disks
containing child pornography from one flat in Zandvoort, Netherlands, they went to the
media, not the police. Members of Morkhoven found the disks while searching the flat of
Gerrie Ulrich, a convicted German pedophile, who was murdered by a gang in Italy.
Originally, they were looking for information leading to the whereabouts of a German boy
who disappeared in 1993, when he was 12 years old, and thought to be under the control of
Lothar Glandorf, a German man under investigation for producing child pornography. They
had been seen together in Amsterdam. The Amsterdam police were later accused of negligence
when they failed to investigate. Claims were later made that the boy died while under
torture in the making of a pornographic film. In 1997 Glandorf was sentenced to six years
imprisonment for trafficking in human beings and indecency involving minors, but the
charges were unrelated to the missing boy. 
Jan Boeykens, another leader of Morkhoven, said they have no confidence
in the police to act in cases of child sexual exploitation. They claim members of the
justice system, police and politicians are involved, and therefore, are reluctant to work
within the system. Boeykens says the police had information about another child
pornography ring in Tamise, a small town in Belgium, since 1991, but only acted on the
information recently, when more than 300 videocassettes with child pornography were found
in the home of a child molester.
After Morkhoven went to the media, instead of the police, with the evidence of the
international child pornography ring, the police arrested Marcel Vervloesem for refusing
to turn over the evidence. The police also initiated an investigation of the Morkhoven
organization. Eventually, the evidence was turned over to police and no charges were filed
against members of Morkhoven.
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