General Question

bolwerk's avatar

Is the FBI still posting fake URLs to entrap child pornographers?

Asked by bolwerk (10327points) March 14th, 2011

This sounds like it could be used to ruin someone’s life, perhaps by hijacking an Internet connection or using a trojan. I didn’t even hear about this until recently, entirely by accident. Has this practice stopped? Has it escalated?

See http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-9899151-38.html

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10 Answers

incendiary_dan's avatar

They’re probably too busy keeping tabs on completely nonthreatening activists.

kevbo's avatar

If I remember correctly, they used to run similar sting operations via U.S. Mail with mail order catalogs (or something) sent surreptitiously to the homes of “persons of interest.” So probably this hyperlink deal is still a tactic.

Buttonstc's avatar

I hope it hasn’t stopped and I hope it does escalate in regards to porn involving those clearly of minor age.

Somebody needs to protect children from these predators. Does a child need to actually suffer in order to deter these sickos?

The argument that someone could have accidentally found their site just doesn’t wash with me. All that does is authorize them to search someone’s home and hard drive.

If I had somehow “accidentally” clicked onto that site and they wanted to search my home and hard drive for evidence of child pornagraphy (search warrants do have to specify precisely WHAT is being searched for) they would be quite welcome to do so. They would find zero anything to connect me with child pornagraphy or sexually abusing children.

Of that I am 100% certain. That would be the end of the matter.

This clearly was not the circumstances in the case described in that article. I read through it carefully and the prosecution was based upon what was found in the search NOT upon the fact that he merely clicked on that link.

Plus he attempted to totally destroy his hard drive and an additional thumb drive in the few seconds before they were at his door. Those are not the actions of a naive innocent who ended up at the site accidentally or had someone else using his computer and/or wifi network. Let’s apply a little common sense here.

And they still managed to find several sexually explicit photos of pre-pubescent girls. The jury saw through the fallacious “accidental” scenari and found him guilty based upon the evidence and his own actions in attempting to destroy all evidence.

I wouldn’t need to destroy my hard drive or anything else connecting me with sexual abuse of minors simply because it doesn’t exist.

Before the majority of these creeps are caught and jailed, they have already done incalculable damage to dozens or even hundreds of kid’s lives already. So if a little preemptive action and the fear of consequences saves even one child from exploitation and lifelong misery, I’m quite OK with that.

Some people turned the Dateline series “To Catch a Predator” into a smarmy cynical cultural joke, but I’m sure that most parents of young innocent children applauded the intervention.

And you really didn’t see any significant (if any) of those cases getting thrown out of court for entrapment either.

Some of those caught included clergy, coaches and teachers. They were in authority positions over children so knew full well what they were doing.

Yes, there were a few hapless nitwits in the bunch, but the majority were truly dangerous to the safety of children of both sexes.

So, I’m not losing any sleep over proactive efforts by law enforcement to keep these predators away from actual victims.

As for the argument that this particular website method could possibly entrap innocents, it’s clear that if they are truly innocent, neither their hard drives nor homes would yield any items upon which to base a successful child-sex predator prosecution.

The simple truth remains that those who have nothing to hide, will hide nothing. It’s that simple. Really.

If one is not a sex predator who preys upon children, they would have nothing to fear from a sting designed to catch those who do.

john65pennington's avatar

It’s not a good idea to let all the secrets out of the bag, right?

aprilsimnel's avatar

@Buttonstc, I think that what @bolwerk is saying is that anyone with a vendetta who also knows how to hack computers can destroy someone’s life with a few lines of code. There is always that possibility, and I think the FBI is aware of that.

bolwerk's avatar

The reason zero-tolerance laws of any sort shouldn’t exist is the high potential for evidence planting, either by the police or third parties. The FBI is certainly aware of that, but I doubt they particularly care.

Buttonstc's avatar

@april

With a few lines of code?

That’s why I read through the entire article carefully. It wasn’t merely a few lines of code which resulted in this guy’s prosecution. There was actual evidence which he knew would cook his goose if found by law enforcement. Or else why try to destroy the hard drive?

This guy was no naive innocent and the jury saw through the attempt to portray him as such.

A successful prosecution before a jury of one’s peers must also involve actual evidence of involvement in child pornography.

A few lines of code are not sufficient. All it can do is provide the possibility of a search warrant. If that warrant turns up nothing (in the case of a truly innocent person) that’s the end of it.

To posit that someone must have broken into his house to plant evidence takes the improbable a bit too far for me to swallow.

And if someone would go that far for a vendetta, that person has far more problems than just a few lines of code could ever create.

A frame up of that level is just not a common everyday occurence.

And if he were truly innocent then he wouldn’t have known why the FBI were coming to his door. An innocent person who is supposedly being framed doesn’t go deliberately destroying his own hard drive on a mere whim.

Those who have nothing to hide…..etc…..

When Bolwerk said that “this sounds like it could be used to entrap someone”

And presumably someone who’s actually innocent.

But that just it. It only “sounds like” this could be done.

As I’ve pointed out, ACTUALLY doing it requires much more than a few lines of code.

The most that a few lines of code could do would be to focus attention on this person perhaps resulting in a search.

But there would be nothing to find in the case of a true innocent.

“sounds like” is quite different from ” will certainly result in prosecution” They are not the same.

Haleth's avatar

@Buttonstc In the article, one of the two charges that stuck was clicking on the FBI’s link. It’s not implausible that you could be charged just for clicking on the link. The titles of the links themselves were pretty generic. It would be easy just to copy and paste those links somewhere else, out of context- then nobody would have any idea that they led to the FBI.

Buttonstc's avatar

Just for curiosity, are you in the habit of trying to destroyyour computer’s hard drive when someone comes knocking on your door to speak to you about your car?

I’m not and I really don’t know of anybody who does. That could get ridiculously expensive, don’t you think?

And why would anyone take such extreme measures?

Hmmm…....,.

bolwerk's avatar

@Buttonstc: it’s bad enough when a “truly innocent person” becomes the subject of a search warrant because of a prank (by a family member, “friend,” coworker, rival, jaded SO, or whatever) or, perhaps even more frighteningly, by police deliberately planting evidence. But clicking on such URLs is itself actually illegal and could mean hard time. It’s not clear that it’s obvious to lay people what these URLs are so they could be employed in pranks/evidence planting, which was kind of the gist of my question, but that potential if this is escalated or leaked is there – and it’s pretty chilling to consider if you’re involved in anything competitive or controversial.

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