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FBI Arrests Anyone Who Even Clicks On Child Porn. Fair?

computescreenglow

If you merely click on a link that’s purporting to send you to stash of X-rated kiddie pics, should you be held criminally liable for child porn? The FBI says yes. And so do the courts they’ve got to OK this sort of thing.

Call it entrapment or just innovative investigative work for the Web 2.0 era. But here’s what the FBI is doing: Setting up fake websites made to look like child porn troves, then recording the IP address and other identifying info of anyone who even happens upon the site. Click a link and end up on a government-sponsored (alebit fake) child porn site? You could be arrested and thrown in with the To Catch A Predator crowd.

Federal law doesn’t just declare downloading child porn a crime, but the mere attempt at doing so. (Penalty? Up to 10 years in prison.)

That the FBI is devoting resources to catching sickos who prey on children is admirable. But the overarching implications of this practice are, frankly, frightening. How come? Because even your Catholic grandmother, who only uses the computer to check her email for photos of her grandkids, could be lobbed into this by accident. Or, as the FBI would argue, only human stains intent on downloading child porn would bother clicking on such a link.

The implications of the FBI’s hyperlink-enticement technique are sweeping. Using the same logic and legal arguments, federal agents could send unsolicited e-mail messages to millions of Americans advertising illegal narcotics or child pornography–and raid people who click on the links embedded in the spam messages. The bureau could register the “unlawfulimages.com” domain name and prosecute intentional visitors. And so on.

[...] While it might seem that merely clicking on a link wouldn’t be enough to justify a search warrant, courts have ruled otherwise. On March 6, U.S. District Judge Roger Hunt in Nevada agreed with a magistrate judge that the hyperlink-sting operation constituted sufficient probable cause to justify giving the FBI its search warrant.

[...] So far, at least, attorneys defending the hyperlink-sting cases do not appear to have raised unlawful entrapment as a defense.

“Claims of entrapment have been made in similar cases, but usually do not get very far,” said Stephen Saltzburg, a professor at George Washington University’s law school. “The individuals who chose to log into the FBI sites appear to have had no pressure put upon them by the government…It is doubtful that the individuals could claim the government made them do something they weren’t predisposed to doing or that the government overreached.”

The outcome may be different, Saltzburg said, if the FBI had tried to encourage people to click on the link by including misleading statements suggesting the videos were legal or approved.

Child porn laws were created as a safety measure: By criminalizing the action (disgusting adults downloading and producing explicit pictures and videos), legislators hoped to minimize the harm (forcing children to pose naked or engage in sexual activities). But what about CGI-generated child porn? No real children are harmed there, but it’s likely you’ve got the same crop of sickos downloading and creating the fake stuff. And now with child porn links, there’s no chance of actual child endangerment — the FBI’s links and sites contain no actual child porn — so the folks clicking on to these sites do not actually harm children with that act alone. So should they be tossed in jail for it?

[News.com]

By:           editor editor
On:           Mar 27, 2009
Tagged: , ,

  • 22 Comments
    • linolo88
      linolo88

      Oh man… This has potential to be so destructive. I could only imagine this being the next rickroll.

      You know, clicking the .jpeg promising hot frat guys leading to this website. The guys at 4chan are gonna have a field day.

      Though you have to admit… it would be pretty funny.

      Mar 27, 2009 at 2:10 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Tarcash
      Tarcash

      Or what if someone decided to use this link to entrap friends? Sending the link to an “enemy” and they click on it, not knowing where it goes. THAT is enough to raise red flags.

      I mean, how many people on IM just click links friends send them? What if a virus was written to use one of these sites?

      I’m sorry, Big Brother isn’t just watching you, he’s raping you now.

      Mar 27, 2009 at 2:22 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • myrios123
      myrios123

      I was even scared to open this article.

      Mar 27, 2009 at 2:24 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Dave
      Dave

      It’s really no different than the cops who troll chat rooms pretending to be underage and entrapping adults. There’s no victim. There’s no crime, just ruined lives. Even the photos they use are models of legal age.

      Mar 27, 2009 at 2:27 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Alec
      Alec

      Well, a few things:

      1. These individuals aren’t clicking on child pornography. They’re clicking on links that advertise actual child pornography. What the FBI appears to be doing is creating these links to give them probable cause to access their computers.

      2. With respect to the title, YES! It is the act of “possessing” child pornography (usually exercising some form of dominion or control over it; clicking on the picture and viewing it is sufficient in the child pornography context) that is prohibited. So yes, clicking on actual child pornography is prohibited. And unless you disagree with the law, fairly prohibited.

      3. I agree with one of the attorneys that there does seem to be a sufficiency of the evidence problem. That is to say, that the evidence introduced at trial and used to prove attempted possession is problematic. But I have no idea how the courts will handle that one. My guess is that, since this survived a Rule 26 motion for a directed verdict, the defendant will lose this round. In any event, I don’t know what evidence was put on in his case, although it appears that there were 5 attempts to visit the links over a period of two days. An additional concern would be the actual text of the advertisements, which were “4yo hc with dad” followed by a parenthetical explanation that the image contained “toddler, some oral, some anal).”

      4. As for this:

      “And now with child porn links, there’s no chance of actual child endangerment — the FBI’s links and sites contain no actual child porn — so the folks clicking on to these sites do not actually harm children with that act alone. So should they be tossed in jail for it?”

      As most Americans are aware in the context of attempts to have sex with children, the possibility of “actual child endangerment” is irrelevant. Nor can you get away with hiring a hitman or arranging to purchase drugs simply because the other party to the transaction turned out to be an undercover. The more interesting question here is what evidence should be required to prove that you specifically intended to possess child pornography simply by clicking on the links. I do think that the risk of an unjust verdict is greater here, but almost entirely because of evidentiary concerns.

      Mar 27, 2009 at 2:30 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Michael Berkens
      Michael Berkens

      We blogged about this issue almost a year ago in relation to another case:

      http://www.thedomains.com/2008/03/21/click-on-a-link-go-to-jail/

      Mar 27, 2009 at 4:31 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Andrew Triska
      Andrew Triska

      This is so wrong! Sure, their intentions are good. But you know how you always have that one friend who tricks you into clicking on links that lead to pictures of gross-out porn? The same guy is going to trick you (or your poor old grandma) into clicking on FBI sting links.

      I think it’s going to backfire once public figures or police officers get tricked into clicking on these…

      Mar 27, 2009 at 4:52 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Andrew Triska
      Andrew Triska

      Actually, what if someone clicks on one of these links with the intention of reporting it? What if they think, “Gee, there’s some sicko out there with a bunch of child porno. I’d better click it and report it to the police…” and then get arrested for allegedly being a sicko?

      Mar 27, 2009 at 4:54 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • shivadog
      shivadog

      I have zero sympathy for anyone involved with child porn, but they should definitly make sure that innocent people aren’t caught up in this. It would be horrible if someone was wrongfully convicted.

      Mar 27, 2009 at 5:06 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • duckie
      duckie

      now if these links come up in a google porn search, then so be it. but baiting people via personal email?! my computer-illiterate mother, despite my telling her not to time and again, will open/click/download pretty much any spam email she gets. she just doesn’t understand how it all works. there are millions of people just like her, one blind click away from 10 years and registering as a sex offender. this is just wrong.

      Mar 27, 2009 at 6:38 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • HYHYBT
      HYHYBT

      It depends on what the FBI’s actually done, and I can’t tell from this article. If, as the earlier part implies, they’ve made a page that could be linked to from anywhere (and therefore could have a misleading description *somewhere*) then no. But if, as it sounds later on, they’ve made a page that basically says “click here for kiddie porn!” and you have to get to it from that page, by all means charge them!

      Mar 28, 2009 at 1:40 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Andrew Triska
      Andrew Triska

      @HYHYBT: There’s no way that I know of to have a page that you can’t link to from elsewhere. (Feel free to correct me — I could be wrong on this one.) I have a feeling that some prankster is going to find out about this and it’s going to become the ultimate Rick Roll. So much the better! Once innocent people start getting arrested, the whole thing’s going to blow up in their facees.

      Mar 28, 2009 at 2:06 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • HYHYBT
      HYHYBT

      There are at least a few ways, though I don’t know the technical details. It’s certainly possible to make pages that require registration. Or it could be a Javascript link. Or, it’s been a while but when you click any link at all doesn’t the web browser send the address of the referring page? If so that’d be simple to check.

      Mar 28, 2009 at 2:36 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Kenster999
      Kenster999

      “Or, it’s been a while but when you click any link at all doesn’t the web browser send the address of the referring page?”

      Yes, browsers normally send the URL of the referring page (ie, the page which contained the link that you clicked on).

      However, they’re just sending the URL of the page, not the text of the link itself. I would think the government would need to prove that the link said “click here for child porn”, rather than “click here to get free government money” or something else. What did the link actually say? When was the page changed? Is there independent documentation of the change history? I think courts should require a reasonable guarantee of this.

      Mar 28, 2009 at 3:44 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Alec
      Alec

      @Kenster999: Both parties could have experts testify to this. But they could also document times and give information on the probability of a change in text. So I don’t know how much that helps.

      Mar 28, 2009 at 3:53 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • HYHYBT
      HYHYBT

      @Kenster999: Exactly. So you have a page announcing “KIDDIE PORN! CLICK HERE!” with a link to, say, a zip file; anyone accessing that file *from that page* gets arrested, because they know exactly what it says because they put it up. Since you can’t control how any other page labels the link, ignore anyone from elsewhere.

      Mar 29, 2009 at 12:45 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • CP Explosion
      CP Explosion

      Here’s an interesting revenge idea. Find such a link but don’t click it. Remember the URL. Visit the pad of someone you secretly don’t like like your ex-husband, ex-boyfriend and navigate to the link in HIS computer and click on it a few times.

      CP Explosion

      Apr 6, 2009 at 4:36 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Andrew Triska
      Andrew Triska

      @HYHYBT: Still, what if someone thought it was a joke? What if they thought, “Hey, kiddie porn, that’s disgusting. I should report it to the police… *click* ” Or what if someone else used your computer? Your unsecured wireless network? What if someone wrote a virus…et cetera. I won’t go on. There are a billion things that could go wrong with this.

      Apr 24, 2009 at 8:44 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Brandon
      Brandon

      i hope i dont get in trouble for this but i happened to come across such a site and wrote it down. plz tell authorities to remove it (anna.at.home.be) that is the site. idk who to tell to get this site shut down. its sick. :(

      Jul 27, 2009 at 12:51 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • tangyo
      tangyo

      O MY GOD SOME ONE HELP ME PLEASE I DID NOT MEAN TO DO THIS HELP I WAS TRYING TO REPORT A SIGHT AND MY CAT JUMPED ON ME AN SCARCED ME AND MY SHOULDER ACCIDENTALIY HIT THE ENTER BUTTIN AND THE COMPUTER SAID YOUR BUSTED SO SOME ONE HELP ME FAST PLEASE PLEASE I AM NOT A CREEP WHAT SHOULD I DO? DO THEY alWAYS CATCTH THE PERSON? PLEASE RESPOND

      Aug 28, 2009 at 10:11 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • tangyo
      tangyo

      SEROULSY I DID NOT MEEN TO CLICK ON THE ENTER BUTTON PLEASE HELP

      Aug 28, 2009 at 10:13 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Rob
      Rob

      This doesn’t surprise me. I’m sure that this strategy can work to ensnare pedophiles. However, the elite criminals controlling our government also benefit from having convenient ways to frame potential political dissidents. The prison industry benefits from having more people incarcerated. Claiming that someone clicked a link is far easier than throwing drugs into someone’s car. Unfortunately, the majority are still laboring under the assumption that the Constitution, and Bill of Rights are valued by our elected officials. This model has been developed in China. Political dissidents are often accused of other crimes. People in the U.S. still cling to the misguided notion that this type of thing doesn’t happen here. We now have the NDAA. People can now be “legally” disappeared. This country has become a high-tech, heavily propagandized, banana republic. The time has come for the people to reclaim this country.

      Feb 2, 2012 at 7:34 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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