Porn-to-Porn Networks?

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I'm sure I've posted on this topic before, but I see the GAO is telling Congress [PDF] that "users of peer-to-peer networks can readily access child pornography." Now, I'm sure there's some floating around out there on the p2p networks—I'd be shocked if there wasn't, frankly. But I'm more than a little sceptical when I read this:

In one search, using 12 keywords known to be associated with child pornography on the Internet, GAO identified 1,286 titles and file names, determining that 543 (about 42 percent) were associated with child pornography images.

And then read how they went about it:

Because child pornography cannot be accessed legally other than by law enforcement agencies, we relied on Customs to download and analyze image files. We performed analyses based on titles and file names only…. Our analysis of 1,286 titles and file names identified through KaZaA searches on 12 keywords showed that 543 (about 42 percent) of the images had titles and file names associated with child pornography images.

So, as far as I can tell, we've got an estimate largely based on an analysis of text descriptions, presumably meaning that any time a file purported to contain images of "young teens" or "schoolgirls" some such thing, that was taken at face value. Then there's a smaller sample that a Customs agent examined visually, and "determined" that a comparable proportion were child porn. I'm curious: How? Pigtails? Petiteness? Plaid skirts? Counting the rings?

The report then says that:

Juvenile users of peer-to-peer networks face a significant risk of inadvertent exposure to pornography when searching and downloading images.

Again, what they seem to mean is that (as with Google) searching for an innocuous term may yield file descriptions of pornographic images. I don't know how you'd go about inadvertently downloading them. But this will doubtless serve as fodder for the draconian Protecting Children from Peer-to-Peer Pornography Act.

NEXT: Desperate, But Not Serious

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  1. Not that adults should be producing child pornography, but isn’t it a weensy less worrisome if 12-17 year olds access it than if 40 year olds do? I mean, fantasizing about their peers is OK, right?

  2. You’re welcome to do a little research on your own… You KNOW it’s out there, the only question is how much and how easily accessible it is. While 40% sure seems high, how much are you willing to let slide? 10%? 5%? 1%?

  3. Well, I’m not interested in doing the kind of “research” that’d be required, but I’m not sure what you mean by “let slide”. Any time actual child porn is found, I’m all for trying to track down and punish the creators or distributors. But I don’t think I’d ever be in favor of trying to hamstring an entire medium just because some of the data flowing across it is bad.

  4. In fact if anyone did this “research” they would probably be committing a crime since :child pornography cannot be accessed legally other than by law enforcement agencies”

  5. “Counting the rings?

    I have to remember not to take a drink of anything right before reading a post here. This place really is like a box of chocolates…you never know what you’re going to get. In this case, I have a fruit juice stained white blouse from laughing at the wrong time.

    Anyway, I concur with kmw. One more law is not going to do any more than the many which already exist. The only thing that may resolve this, is censorship…and NO law will be passed to do that.

  6. Julian, I too am never in favor of trying to hamstring an entire medium. The bigger problems is, this is one example of where a new law would have no effect. The politicians drafting this bill obviously have no clue about online distribution.

    It looks like they?re trying to get rid of P2P software by banning its availability for download. But no US laws can prevent the distribution of software by servers in, say, England. So ?madeup.kazaa.uk.co? will still be available, no matter what US law says. And all it takes is one country in the world to have lax p2p laws.

  7. Beyond surfing the web and writing e-mail, most people know nothing of technology, and that makes them scared. They would be only to happy to have scary P2P networks closed if they think it would protect the fucking children. But P2P is more or less a buzzword, and it would be so easy for the government to classify programs not currently thought of as P2P for the purpose of law enforcement.

    Most of the big IM programs, for example, will let you send files to anyone with a Hotmail or Yahoo or AIM or ICQ address. I haven’t tried it, but I believe I can already send a file via IRC. I have a couple of clients that will let me log into both IRC and all four of the big messengers at the same time. Might not Trillian or any number of Jabber clients be considered Peer to Peer should people start trading files thusly?

    Besides, I suspect that most of the child porn on the net is hidden in FTP servers, much like Warez or MP3s used to be before Napster. If we’re going to pass laws prohibiting the distribution of software to protect children from pornographers, shouldn’t we start with all FTP Servers everywhere? Are you guys at Sourceforge paying attention to this? The bell tolls for you!

  8. as re: inadvertantly downloading

    “downloading” is defined as transferring data across a network from a remote server to the client computer. In that sense, every time you view a web page, you’ve technically downloaded all the information it contains – you’ve simply downloaded it to a particularly volatile storage zone (ie RAM or cache). “Downloading” something doesn’t have to mean transferring it from A to B in such a way that the user at B can archive it long term, that’s simply what it’s evolved to mean.

    So if I do a search on “cheerleader camp” in Google Images and wind up with a thumbnail of child porn, technically I’ve inadvertantly downloaded it.

  9. I’ve always been at a loss to define what P2P software really is. If I run a webserver on my desktop PC and I let you access it, is that P2P?

    If your desktop computer has its own mail server on it and I send you an email, is that P2P?

    Or is P2P software something that’s both client and server in one? In that case if I separate out the server and client components of a Gnutella tool into two programs that I run at the same time, isn’t that P2P?

    Sounds to me like every web browser and desktop email program is P2P software, as are any webservers run on a computer that is also used as a desktop. Does this mean nobody under 18 can use Windows, MacOS or Linux without a record of parental consent, since all three include a personal webserver as part of the default installation?

    Heck. Aren’t, y’know, the LAN file-sharing features built into every desktop OS since at least 1993 peer-to-peer?

  10. True, but that doesn’t really apply to peer-to-peer clients, where you typically get a list of file descriptions and then download them. And Google images has a pretty good built-in filter.

  11. It seems to me from reading this PDF that they’re using the COPA definition of “child porn”, which is that it looks like it contains, or claims to contain, someone who’s under 18. I’m not surprised that a large percentage of online porn would be classified as “child porn” under that definition, since it’s pretty easy for a government official to claim that an 18, 19, or 20-year old “looks 17”.

    On a side note — “young teens” is code for “child porn”? Judging from the spam that clutters my inbox, “young teens” appears to be code for “28-year-old women with pigtails and breast implants”.

  12. So, in a search for keywords that are “known to be associated with child pornography” they found images with titles and filenames that are “known to be associated with child pornography.”

    Was this a surprise? Do they even know what a keyword search does?

  13. The problem is one of definitions.

    Fifteen year olds ain’t children.

    Seven year olds are, and those among us who enjoy the attention of the pre-pubescent deserve nothing worse than a shotgun to the back of the head.

  14. Have you ever seen the keywords some of that porn has? Most of it has every dirty act, word and fetish in the description to get as many hits from the porn loving public as possible. “Asian bukake” will be a couple keywords even if you have an interracial lesbian scene. There’s a legit issue with someone who is looking for legitimate porn and getting in deep shit because they accidentally got something illegal (like rich’s “cheerleader camp” example).

    Dan: I thought “young teens” was codeword for girls with pigtails, botox and small breasts. It’s the college teens that get the implants. 🙂

  15. “…using 12 keywords known to be associated with child pornography on the Internet…”

    Um, WHICH keywords…? It’s for my, um, Sociology 101 class.

    Really.

  16. No need to count the rings, if I remember right: the actual age (or nonexistence) of the person depicted is no defense – if a pornographic image includes what appears to be a minor, then it is child porn by legislation.

  17. I wonder how many of those files were copies of
    worms. Some of the Netsky variants copied themselves
    all over hard drives (into any folder with “share”
    in its name) with various names that suggested
    child/teen pornography.

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