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CHILD PORN AND P2P: A REALITY CHECK

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By thisistwitchy  •  March 29, 2005 03:49 PM

The Supreme Court weighed in today on the pros and cons of file-sharing (which I’ve blogged about here, here, and here). Record companies and movie studios have sued to shut down peer-to-peer software makers such as Grokster and Morpheus, arguing that the millions of songs and movies copied each day over these networks have cut into sales. From AP:

During a lively argument, justices wondered aloud whether such lawsuits might have discouraged past inventions like copy machines, videocassette recorders and iPod portable music players – all of which can be used to make illegal duplications of copyrighted documents, movies and songs.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer said the same software that can be used to steal copyrighted materials offered at least conceptually “some really excellent uses” that are legal.

I am all for protecting those “really excellent uses.” And I am all for protecting software entrepreneurs and their right to create new products. This blog wouldn’t exist without them. But there’s a cloud of unreality hanging over the P2P debate. It’s not just high-minded geek revolutionaries against Big Media/RIAA/MPAA who are benefiting from P2P. And P2P ain’t just about trading your favorite tunes.

It’s also about sickos and smut purveyors who have unprecedented access to an unimaginable volume of child porn–not to mention photos of children made available to child sex predators through indavertent file-sharing.

Rick Wallace, who has blown the whistle on security lapses over P2P networks and worked with clueless military officials on the problem, has investigated this new angle on his invaluable blog, See What You Share. Every parent should take the time to read his eye-opening site and understand what’s going on. Today, Wallace posted screenshots from searches for child porn on a major P2P application. Here’s a sample of the lists of files that were retrieved:

screenshot1.jpg

Yes, read closely. The 16th file listed is titled “2 yo getting raped during diaper change.” The 17th file listed is titled “3 yo gets raped during bath time.”

Here’s another:

screenshots2.jpg

It doesn’t take a computer engineer to replicate these searches. Download Lime Wire and enter the search term “yo.jpg.” The amount and names of the files that will be retrieved will turn your stomach. (I hope I don’t have to warn you NOT to download the files.) I pray to God that federal law enforcement officials have a better clue about this stuff than the military does.

As I’ve discussed with Rick, a concerned father who is trying to spread the word to the public and policymakers, this is evil stuff and it’s out of control. I don’t know what the legislative or regulatory solution is, or whether there is one. I do know it would be easier just to turn away and pretend the problem doesn’t exist. But ignorance is inexcusable.

***
Related: Barbara Comstock at The Corner has a link round-up on the Grokster case.

Update: Lots of mail coming in. Let me respond to a few knee-jerk misconceptions.

First, nowhere do I call for outlawing P2P or shutting down the Internet. Crikey. Reread what I wrote. It’s in plain English: “I don’t know what the legislative or regulatory solution is, or whether there is one.” What I’m calling for is for users of this technology–especially parents–to take personal responsibility for knowing what they’re sharing and what others are sharing on these networks. I also would like to see the P2P Pollyanas acknowledge that this crap is out there and take increased corporate responsibility for doing something about it.

Second, many readers are in denial and casting doubt on the files. Could some of them be trojan horse viruses, bogus files, misnamed files, jokes, sting material, etc.? Um, yeah, maybe. But wake up, people. The volume of this trash is real. Vast amounts of sick, twisted photos and movies are real. The people accessing it are real. It is real. If you want to live in tra-la-la-land and bury your heads in the sand, be my guest. See ya.

Third, some readers point out that child porn is available using other methods from e-mail to chatrooms to Usenet groups and every other Internet protocol. Well, yeah. Those other methods are common knowledge. The scale of the problem on P2P networks is not. That is what Rick Wallace is trying to change. Me, too.

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