Center for Problem-Oriented Policing

Responses to the Problem of Internet Child Pornography


The Internet is a global network comprising millions of smaller networks and individual computers connected by cable, telephone lines, or satellite links. The Internet permits individuals to connect with other computers around the world from the privacy of their own homes. Although the terms Internet and the World Wide Web (WWW) are often used interchangeably, the web specifically refers to the worldwide collection of electronic documents and other files stored throughout the Internet (on web pages and in websites). The web accounts for 90 percent of Internet usage.[91]The web allows individuals to search for and download text, graphics, audio, and video on topics of interest from around the world. They can also upload their own electronic files for others to access. In addition to the World Wide Web, the Internet enables a number of other services and forms of communication, including e-mail, mailing lists, e-groups, newsgroups, bulletin boards, chat rooms, instant messaging, and peer-to-peer (P2P) networks. These services permit a user to engage in conversations with other individuals and share electronic files. Specific terms associated with the Internet, the World Wide Web, and related communication services are in the following table:

The Internet
Term Definition [92]
Host Any computer or network connected to the Internet.
Modem Device for connecting a host to the Internet. Includes dial-up modems that may use standard telephone lines and dedicated cable modems.
Internet Protocol (IP) address A number that uniquely identifies each host using the Internet.
Server A computer configured to provide a service to other computers in a network, including access to hardware and software and centralized data storage. Different servers may be used to perform specific functions (e.g., web server or email server).
Internet Service Provider (ISP) A business that provides individuals or companies access to the Internet (e.g., AOL, MSM, Earthlink). ISPs use authentication servers to verify customers’ passwords.
File Transfer Protocol (FTP) A protocol that permits the downloading and uploading of electronic files. Downloading is the process by which a computer receives an electronic file from the Internet via an FTP server; uploading is the process of transferring electronic files from a computer to an FTP server on the Internet.
The World Wide Web
Term Definition [93]
Web page An electronic document that may comprise text, graphics, audio, and video, as well as links to other pages.
Website A collection of related web pages and associated media stored on a web server.
Home page First page displayed on a website that usually acts as an introduction to the site.
Web cam Video camera that permits live images to be displayed via a web page.
Universal Resource Locater (URL) A web page’s unique location or address.
Web browser Software that allows web pages to be accessed and viewed (e.g., Internet Explorer, Netscape, Mozilla-Firefox).
Hyperlink A link provided within a web page to connect other related web pages. Pop-up links not requested by the user may also appear on some web pages.
Search engine A program (e.g., Google, Alta Vista) that locates websites and web pages using key words.
Communication Services
Term Definition [94]
E-mail A method of communication between individuals connected to the Internet involving the transmission of text messages and attached files.
Mailing lists A group of e-mail addresses given a common name so all members on the list receive the same message. There is a central list owner who controls who is on the list and what material can be sent. Individuals may subscribe to have their name and address added to the mailing list.
E-groups Groups established to share information on a topic of common interest. Potential members need to subscribe to the group. In addition to email, an e-group may offer other features such as a chat room, a bulletin board, and a central home page.
Newsgroups A site, stored on a news server, that allows contributors to have discussions about a particular subject by posting text, pictures, etc., and responding to previous posts. In most cases no one owns a newsgroup and there is no central authority. However, in some cases a password may be required, and some newsgroups filter posts through a moderator. The network of newsgroups is called Usenet.
Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) Bulletin board systems, which predate the Internet, are similar to newsgroups, but tend to be in real time to allow contributors to engage in conversations. Bulletin boards are often hosted by an owner rather than a server, and may be accessed directly via a modem without going through the Internet.
Chat rooms A chat room is a location on a server that permits multiple users to engage in real-time conversations and exchange electronic files. Many chat rooms are open to anyone to log into, but some are closed. They may employ a moderator, but users can nominate a pseudonym.
Instant messaging (IM) Similar to chat rooms, but instant messaging permits private conversations with nominated contacts. Once a connection is established, direct contact between users is possible without the need for a central server.
Peer-to-peer (P2P) A network in which each computer is an equal partner and all work cooperatively together. All computers in the network have a common file-sharing program (e.g., KaZaA, Morpheus, Limewire), allowing users to connect directly to each other’s hard drive to search for and exchange files.

 

Appendix B: Agencies and Programs Addressing Internet Child Pornography

A variety of law enforcement agencies have a stake in preventing and investigating Internet child pornography. Some of these agencies have specific programs or sections to focus resources and coordinate ongoing responses. In the United States, key agencies and services include: [95]

  • Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS): A section of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, CEOS specializes in the investigation and prosecution of child exploitation and obscenity cases, including child pornography. It provides training for federal, state and local prosecutors and law enforcement agents concerning these crimes. www.usdoj.gov/criminal/ceos/childporn.html
  • CyberSmuggling Center: Formed by the U.S. Customs Service, the center focuses particularly on undercover operations into international production and distribution of child pornography. http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/home.xml
  • Cyber Tipline: An online clearinghouse for tips and leads on Internet child exploitation. The program is jointly sponsored by the NCMEC, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the U.S. Customs Service, and the FBI. www.cybertipline.com
  • Innocent Images: The central operation and case management system coordinating FBI investigations into child exploitation via the Internet. www.fbi.gov/hq/cid/cac/innocent.htm
  • Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC): A task force program initiated by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), U.S. Department of Justice. It provides regional clusters of forensic and investigative expertise to assist state and local law enforcement agencies in dealing with Internet child exploitation. http://www.ojjdp.ncjrs.org/programs/index.html
  • National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC): A private, nonprofit organization whose mission includes following up on tips from the Cyber Tipline and providing technical assistance and training to other agencies. www.missingkids.com
  • National Sex Offender Public Registry: A web site supported by the U.S. Department of Justice that provides details on the location of offenders convicted of sexually violent offenses. www.nsopr.gov
  • U.S. Postal Inspection Service: This service has particular responsibilities to investigate the distribution of child pornography via mail. Internet activity is often supported through traditional mail. www.usps.com/postalinspectors

A number of major law enforcement operations demonstrate the need for interagency and international cooperation. A summary of major operations is shown in the table below.

Appendix C: Examples of Coordinated Law Enforcement Operations

Operation Avalanche/Ore [96]
The Problem The Response The Outcome
Landslide Productions was a child pornography company operating out of Fort Worth, Texas. Landslide had a complex network of some 5,700 websites worldwide (especially in Russia and Indonesia) that stored child pornography images. The operation in Fort Worth acted as a gateway into the network. Online customers provided credit card details to obtain network access. Landslide scrambled these credit card numbers to protect customers’ identities. There were more than 390,000 subscribers from 60 countries, generating a monthly turnover of up to $1.4 million. The investigation began in 1999 when the U.S. Postal Inspection Service discovered that Landslide’s customers were sending monthly subscription fees to a post office box or paying them through the Internet. A joint investigation between the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC), comprising more than 45 officers, was conducted over two years (Operation Avalanche). Officers cracked the code that scrambled the credit card numbers and then tracked down the card owners. Landslide’s bank accounts were seized and 160 search warrants were executed that recovered large quantities of child pornography. The investigation was expanded to include the U.K. police (Operation Ore). To date, 120 arrests have been made in the U.S., including the two principal operators who were given life and 14year sentences respectively in 2001. In the U.K. some 7,000 customers were identified, 1,300 people arrested, and 40 children taken into protective custody. Despite closing down Landslide Productions, there has been criticism that relatively few offenders have been successfully prosecuted.
Operation Cathedral [97]
The Problem The Response The Outcome
The Wonderland Club was an exclusive online pedophile ring in which members reportedly had to produce 10,000 child pornography images for membership. At least 180 individuals from at least 33 countries had met this criterion, and seven members between them had contributed 750,000 images. In 1996, two U.S. offenders charged with online child pornography offenses (the Orchid Club) cooperated with police and provided information about a British offender. Evidence from that offender’s computer hard drive led to the discovery of the Wonderland Club. The operation, conducted between 1998 and 2001, involved U.S. and British police coordinating through Interpol. Although agents were unable to gain undercover entry into the club, they were able to monitor transactions and gather evidence from the outside. Eventually, 35 members were identified. Police forces in 12 countries carried out more than 100 simultaneous raids on suspects. The Wonderland Club was destroyed, and there were 107 arrests around the world, 14 of which were in the United States.
Operation Candyman [98]
The Problem The Response The Outcome
Candyman, was an open e-group maintained by Yahoo that was involved in exchanging child pornography. It had 7,000 members, 4,600 of which were in the United States and the remaining 2,400 lived around the world. Undercover FBI agents identified and infiltrated the e-group in a year-long undercover operation ending in 2002. The task force comprised 56 FBI field officers. A court order was obtained to compel Yahoo to provide the unique e-mail addresses of all members, and subpoenas were issued to all ISPs to provide the addresses of U.S. users. The FBI was able to obtain 1,400 addresses, from which 707 suspects were identified, 266 searches carried out, and 89 arrests made to date. Those arrested include a school bus driver, a teacher’s aide, law enforcement personnel, and clergy members.
Operation Pin [99]
The Problem The Response The Outcome
The operation is directed at the general proliferation of child pornography websites and the number of people accessing these sites. In particular it is aimed at casual or first-time offenders. The operation was started in 2003 by West Midlands (U.K.) police and expanded to include the FBI, the Australian Federal Police, the Royal Canadian Mounties, and Interpol. Far from being a covert operation, it was officially launched with media releases by the relevant police forces. It is a classic honey trap operation. A website purporting to contain child pornography was set up. Visitors to the site were required to go through a series of web pages, which appeared to be identical to real web porn sites, searching for the image they wanted. At each point it was reinforced that they were in a child pornography site, and they were given the option to exit. When they did try to access an image they were told they had committed a crime. They were tracked down via their credit card details, which they were required to provide to login. This crime prevention operation has resulted in numerous arrests; however, precise numbers are not available. Its main purpose is to make searchers of child pornography on the Internet uncertain that they can do so anonymously. Details of the sting operation were widely publicized on child pornography sites, contributing to the deterrent effect.