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AOL makes Finding Kiddie Porn Easy

From the norwich bulletin: Popular Florida U.S. Rep. Mark Foley was a shoe-in for re-election. But, during the course of a few days, he was labeled a potential Internet predator and resigned his congressional seat; it seems the congressman had a penchant for e-mailing sexually suggestive comments to young male pages. Federal investigators are now searching for more sordid information concerning the ex-congressman’s fascination with teenage boys.

The same week the congressman was crashing and burning, I found myself sitting in the FBI’s computer forensics laboratory investigating a cyber porn case on behalf of a client and being educated on how the feds snag an alleged Internet predator. I was working on the defense of what the feds call a “traveler” case; that is, someone allegedly caught in an Internet sting exchanging salacious e-mails and instant messages who then travels to meet the “child” only to be met by some burly cops with guns and handcuffs. Chris Hansen and NBC’s “Dateline” have made “To Catch a Predator” the pervert’s “Deal or No Deal,” and with much higher stakes. They have demonstrated how this Internet sex trolling has evolved into almost epidemic proportions.

Today, Google will point you to any manner of unthinkable human depredations in nanoseconds.

In some gulag half a world away, a child is forced to perform unspeakable acts in front of a webcam for the profit of faceless exploiters. Little technical skill is needed to create Web sites and upload graphic images to feed this perversion. Despite formidable skills in tracking criminals through the Web, the purveyors of this perversity are rarely unmasked.

The kindly Internet giant AOL permits anyone to create chat rooms, even those the names of which bespeak the kinky desires of the chatters. Fantasy role-playing chat rooms exist to satisfy every manner of cybersex.

Sitting at a computer console in a quiet space somewhere has emboldened people who may never have taken their perverse interests beyond mere fantasy. The Web has created a seeming cloak of invisibility that fosters these misadventures into forbidden Web sites.

There are certainly instances most Web browsers can point to where a seemingly innocuous Web page title pops up a porn site. Accessing an adult Web site that does not exploit children is not illegal. But one doesn’t accidentally stumble onto child porn. What most don’t understand is merely downloading child pornography is a felony on a state or federal level. Prison sentences for mere possession are severe. Utilizing the Internet to solicit sex with a minor is a mandatory five years at Club Fed.

So why do they do it?

The answer is simple enough: No one thinks anyone is really watching.

But these guys get caught in a variety of ways and the cloak of invisibility disappears. In its place comes the public pillorying of another Internet pervert, prison and eventual sex-offender registration.

But the answer does not lie in allowing a Big-Brother-like monitoring. We shouldn’t all abrogate our personal privacy because of a misguided minority. Maybe the solution lies with the Internet providers.

How about it AOL? Can’t you cyber geeks find a way to filter potential kiddie porn sites? We have sophisticated anti-spam filtering programs that save us from the barrage of Internet spammers hell-bent on giving us cheaper drugs and larger sexual organs, so keep the kiddie porn purveyors at bay.

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