Watch what you click, there

FBI posts fake hyperlinks to snare child porn suspects (Posted at from C|Net, 20 March 2008)

The general idea is this: An FBI agent went to a forum they suspected was frequented by child porn downloaders, and posted a link to a new website. The FBI had created this new website, but it really had no content a child pornster would want. But if someone clicked, they would be able to trace who it was and go find him. It’s a crime in the U.S. to attempt to download child porn, even when no files are actually downloaded.

It’s hard for me to defend those into child porn; in fact I’m amazed there have been so many busts for it (every one gets tons of media coverage)—how could there be so many into this, um, sick filth? But this method of apprehension just seems too much. Remember those early days of the Web when when you could click on a link—maybe you were feeling adventurous, or maybe you were expecting something totally different. Whatever, the website you found with those photos was something you didn’t want, so you tried to close the browser or go somewhere else. Suddenly a lot of windows would open, and they’d all be sites you really shouldn’t have looked at (and probably didn’t want to), and they keep coming and the only thing you could do was pull the plug? Now, what if an illegal FBI-created site was somehow inserted among those pop-ups? Granted, the endless popups don’t really happen anymore, but mistakes could still be made.

Moreover, it’s easy to see how this sort of thing can be taken further into other areas. It’s the sort of technique that wouldn’t be so chilling if certain sectors of the federal goverment hadn’t proved untrustworthy over the last few years.


About songdogmi

I'm a longhaired almost-hippie stuck in the inner suburbs of a major rust-belt metropolis who's thoughtful, creative, and kind of geeky. In exchange for a paycheck I run around in a cubicle maze most days. When I escape, I play music, hang out in coffee houses, dink around on the computer, take naps, and think I should be off in the woods somewhere. Every once in a while I get in my car and drive far, far away, though I've always come back so far.
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6 Responses to Watch what you click, there

  1. altivo says:

    I’ve been saying for a long time that the rate of arrests for child pornography and child sexual abuse are far too high to be real. This has long been a productive and lucrative field for some politicians and states’ attorneys with political ambitions. They use entrapment tactics that ensnare the innocent, some so extreme that they can’t possibly be justified no matter what.

    The sexual abuse thing is even worse. They coach and coax children into saying what they want them to. The targets are often people who never would have committed the acts of which they are accused, but they are unpopular with the right wing majority for other reasons, such as race, ethnic origin, or sexual orientation. Sometimes, I suspect, it’s even just for being of the wrong political leaning and making one’s views too obvious.

    • songdogmi says:

      I’m glad that I’m not the only one who thinks that there may be an issue with the rate of arrests for child pornography and sexual abuse. Maybe it’s just that every single arrest gets publicized, unlike arrests for any other crime; sure seems that this sort of crime gets loud and prominent coverage.

      My initial thought about the FBI’s fake web link was “Entrapment!” but the article says that they can’t argue that in court. I kind of get why, as long as it wasn’t there wasn’t a big arm-twisting effort to get someone to click the link, I suppose. But that technique and similar efforts seem awfully close to the line.

      As for what you say about the targets being other groups unpopular with the would-be American Reich, well… that’s where my sadness over the untrustworthiness of the government comes in. No one should think to do that sort of thing, and it should be so off the table that we shouldn’t be able to propose that it’s possible. But, of course, we’d be naive to think that.

      Maybe we’re naive, anyway, and there really is a huge demand for child porn, and always has been, in which case I’m really not sure I like this planet anymore.

  2. bonezman says:

    Although I do not condone Child Porn, the act of clicking into a website should not constitute the intent to download. That should be reserved for attempting to click further. We’ve all landed on sites we didn’t intend to and many were accidental porn clicks. Not paying attention while clicking shouldn’t result in an arrest. If one lands on a child porn site that should be the last click they make before going back and asking the question, “what the hell was that?” Then clicking on the link we intended on clicking on. The FBI must be forgetting that these links can sometimes get into search engines and mixed in with entirely unrelated searches. Just because someone is tired and clicking down the row shouldn’t put them in jail.

    It will eventually be challenged and the practice adjusted to be more fair. It is a good ideal to use the net for sting operation’s, but they need to operate under the same rules and real world stings. I smell entrapment in this method, but simply taking the links one more level further will dispel doubts about intent. The nae sayers about MySpace and the sexual predictors that once roamed it freely ignored the reports that the police were cleaning the streets at never before heard of rates. All legitimate? Nope.. A friend of mines 14 y/o son was busted for hitting on an alleged 13 y/o girl. Duh!! Normal activity, but it took over 6 months to get her computer back, WIPED by law! For some reason the police thought it was her ex husband who had not lived with them legally for over 4 years. She lost a lot of stuff on that computer to a mistake and poorly written law.

    Oh well. When it comes to sex crimes we tend to go overboard and way beyond constitutionally legal. Because all agree that these crimes need to be given high priority we allow our rights to be violated in ways we are resistant to for far more dangerous crimes such as murder, organized crime, or terrorism (wow, will the cyber cops flag this post??). What gives? When will we take back our rights and set more reasonable limits on what law enforcement can and can not do in pursuit of criminals? This is American and not some 3rd world back water where government can do what they want, or is it?? We have allowed our government far too much wiggle room and since we are that government by law we should do something about it. Alas, as Americans we are lazy asses when it comes to politics.

    Rant long enough?? If you never hear from me again it’s because I used the word terrorism and America[n] in the same post. Wonderful home land security can hold me forever if they want. We let them do it. We need to stop it.

    • songdogmi says:

      If I read the article right, the FBI agent posted that link in a forum where child porn downloading was suspected in some way already. I don’t think it got picked up in a search engine, or at least that wasn’t mentioned. So the chances that this link was an accidental click were pretty low. I’m a little disturbed that the attempt to download child porn is a crime, even if none was actually downloaded. In an attempted murder, harm was likely done; attempted downloading, not so much. But society seems to want to err on a very cautious side, and it’s hard to find fault with that… except when off-the-wall stupid things happen like what happened to your friend and her son.

  3. hellmutt says:

    Yeah, that’s one rickroll that could ruin your life. :/

    And unrelatedly, happy birthday!

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