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Pimps and Predators on the Internet
Globalizing Sexual Exploitation of Women and Children

   

Independent Tiplines and Vigilantes

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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 predator’s 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 predator’s 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."[259]

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 others.

PedoWatch

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 Internet where

Ethical Hackers Against Pedophilia

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.[260] 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. "That’s who we hunt."[261] 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 we’re not – but I’m not saying that we break the law."[262] 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 don’t support any law breaking that may occur to get the information, of course.[263]

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.[264]

Se7en -- Genuine Hacker Terror

Christian Valor, known as Se7en, spent 17 years in the hacker underground and didn’t 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 wasn’t a victim of child pornography, but I know what these kids are going through."[265] 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."[266]

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 hacker’s 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."[267]

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 children’s 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 Se7en’s war on child pornographers, one poster’s comment reveals what may be closer to the real situation: "The government can’t enforce laws on the Internet. We all know that. We can enforce laws on the Internet. We all know that, too."[268]

Valor reminded the Internet community of what everyone likes to ignore, "…somewhere in the chain, someone is putting these images on paper before they get uploaded. Your freedom ends when you start hurting other people."[269]

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, "…they didn’t care. Those people never do anything." StRyKe acknowledges that what they are doing is illegal, but moral, "I do think of myself as moral. …I don’t attack anyone who doesn’t deserve it. We are talking about people who deliberately harm minors."[271] 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 predator’s computer, then using a virus, called Codebreaker, developed by an Australian friend, he wipes out material on the predator’s hard drive. StRyKe says, "I’ll do anything if I think it will ultimately help to protect children."[272]

Predictably, the Internet Watch Foundation, the Internet industry supported tipline, condemns the Internet Combat Group’s 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."[273]

Morkhoven

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. [274]

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. [275]

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.[276]

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.[277]

Globalizing Women's Rights and Dignity

 

 

 

 


Published by The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, 1999
Donna M. Hughes, dhughes@uri.edu
http://www.uri.edu/artsci/wms/hughes