D'oh! In effort to arrest child porn users, FBI inadvertently distributes million porn images - Firstpost
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D'oh! In effort to arrest child porn users, FBI inadvertently distributes million porn images


In a case of role reversal, a case was filed on Monday against the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for reportedly distributing nearly one million images of child pornography.

In an attempt to arrest users of child pornography site Playpen, the FBI inadvertently improved the working of the site. It is located on Tor or the 'darknet', which makes it almost impossible to locate users.

According to a tweet by one of Motherboard's contributors Joseph Cox, the FBI distributed as many as one million images of child pornography.

The users started commenting on the improvements since the FBI took over in February 2015. Cox also argues in his Motherboard article that on the archived messages of the Playpen site, users were complaining of slow and poor service before it was taken over by the FBI.

Steven Chase, the original administrator of Playpen, is accused of participating in a "child exploitation enterprise".

File image of FBI investigators. Reuters

File image of FBI investigators. Reuters

Instead of shutting the site, the organisation continued to operate the site for two more weeks in an attempt to inject malware in the computers of the users. The FBI managed to harvest around 1,300 IPs and charge 137 people, according to Security Affairs. This included computers in the UK, Chilem and Greece.

The operation was famously dubbed as ‘Operation Pacifier’. Peter Adolf, an assistant federal defender in the Western District of North Carolina, in a motion to dismiss the case wrote, "The FBI distributed child pornography to viewers and downloaders worldwide for nearly two weeks, until at least 4 March, 2015, even working to improve the performance of the website beyond its original capability."

He also quoted some users' comments in his motion. The number of visitors increased from an average of 11,000 weekly visitors to around 50,000 per week. The number of unique visitors also quadrupled.

While arguing why his client Chase’s indictment should be thrown out, Adolf cited two more cases of 1984 and 1986, reported RT News. He pointed out that these cases were dismissed even when the government agents were “intimately involved” in the production of contraband.

As part of Operation Pacifier, the government “actively aided and abetted more than 100,000 users in posting, viewing, and sharing illegal pictures and videos,” DailyCaller quoted the defence attorney as saying.

They compare this operation with the infamous ATF’s ‘Operation Fast and Furious’ because the government ended up spreading far more child pornography.

They also made another surprising and pathetic revelation. The FBI had reportedly also maintained a ‘How To’ section. It involved advice on how to sexually abuse children and avoid detention, states DailyCaller.

As far as the legality of Operation Pacifier is concerned, an article in the NextWeb quoted New York attorney Joseph Potashnik as saying that this sort of conduct by law enforcement in federal cases is legal.

Another attorney argued that it was not only legal but it was “abused by the government on a regular basis”.

Another attorney, Chistopher Eskew disagreed but added that it would not be a case the United States government would prosecute.

First Published On : Aug 25, 2016 15:09 IST

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