June 10, 2008

Blogging about child pornography is a $20 billion industry

You will be shocked to hear that I have some questions and comments about today's front page New York Times story on an agreement by Internet providers to block sites that disseminate kiddie porn. This isn't necessarily an indictment of the agreement or the article, just a reminder that these things have a way of not being discussed as thoroughly as they should be.

First, here's the lede.

Verizon, Sprint and Time Warner Cable have agreed to block access to Internet bulletin boards and Web sites nationwide that disseminate child pornography... Many in the industry have previously resisted similar efforts, saying they could not be responsible for content online, given the decentralized and largely unmonitored nature of the Internet.

Now to the questions.

The companies have agreed to shut down access to newsgroups that traffic in pornographic images of children on one of the oldest outposts of the Internet, known as Usenet.

Which newsgroups? The article doesn't say, lest perverts who aren't already savvy to them try to sneak in some 11th hour downloading, but it's worth knowing. Are we talking about groups that traffic exclusively in kidporn, or groups that attract all sorts of privacy freaks, including hackers, duggies, conspiracy theorists, jihadists and whatnot. It's been a long while since I've looked at Usenet, but I seem to recall several catch-all "red-light" districts.

Update: Oh, it's even better than that. Time Warner is simply going to drop Usenet altogether. Sprint will lose the entire alt.* hierarchy (even alt.barney.die.die.die?!) and Verizon said it may also take that approach. In other words, to block access to 88 groups where the AG found kidporn, the ISPs are ditching between 20,000 and 100,000 groups.

[Officials] acknowledged that they could not eliminate access entirely. Among the potential obstacles: some third-party companies sell paid subscriptions, allowing customers to access newsgroups privately, preventing even their Internet service providers from tracking their activity.

In other words, this agreement is essentially useless, except perhaps to generate revenue for porn middlemen. Update: It took me longer than it should have to put this together, but of course those third-party companies operate on the Internet -- which the end-user accesses via his ISP. If the government can demand that ISPs block access to certain Usenet groups, shouldn't it be able to demand that they block access to any sites that offer access to those groups? Furthermore, how does "tracking their activity" enter into this? Are the ISPs being asked to "block" or to "track"? Those are two pretty different things.

The agreements resulted from an eight-month investigation and sting operation in which undercover agents from Mr. Cuomo’s office, posing as subscribers, complained to Internet providers that they were allowing child pornography to proliferate online, despite customer service agreements that discouraged such activity. Verizon, for example, warns its users that they risk losing their service if they transmit or disseminate sexually exploitative images of children.

There's a whiplash non sequitur for you. The agents didn't find -- and weren't looking for -- evidence that Verizon users were transmitting or disseminating kiddie porn. If they had, I suspect that potential loss of high-speed Internet service would be the least of these people's problems right now. The companies "ignored the investigators' complaints" not despite evidence of violations of their policies (as this makes it sound) but precisely because their policies, as stated in the first graf, had always been that "allowing" or not allowing anything to proliferate online was not their jobs.

“You can’t help but look at this material and not be disturbed,” said Mr. Cuomo, who promised to take up the issue during his 2006 campaign. ... "To say ‘graphic’ and ‘egregious’ doesn’t capture it.”

We'll have to take his word for it, because it is, of course, illegal for the media or any other independent observer to verify government claims on this subject. But that's OK, because the government would never lie, exaggerate or mislead. Especially not when election campaigns are involved.

Internet service providers represent a relatively new front in the battle against child pornography, one spearheaded in large part by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.... As part of the agreements, the three companies will also collectively pay $1.125 million to underwrite efforts by Mr. Cuomo’s office and the center for missing children to purge child pornography from the Internet.

Ah, here's what the agreement will definitely accomplish: lining the pockets of the NCMEC, the quasi-governmental agency responsible for some of the most dubious claims on child porn out there, including the infamous $20 billion lie.

One considerable tool that has been assembled as part of the investigation is a library of more than 11,000 pornographic images. Because the same images are often distributed around the Web or from newsgroup to newsgroup, once investigators catalog an image, they can use a digital identifier called a “hash value” to scan for it anywhere else — using it as a homing beacon of sorts to find other pornographic sites.

This creation of this library permits the Times to acknowledge what often goes unmentioned in articles about child porn: there's not a lot of it being created fresh. Rather, the same relatively few images get recycled for years and decades. It just took me .13 seconds to find 204,000 images of toe sucking. In eight months, a team of investigators only found 11,000 unique kiddie porn images?

But, sure, that's 11,000 too many, so it's a good thing that they can now hunt down and eliminate these wherever they appear, right? Unless of course there's some sort of economic law that would now require the creation of a new supply of images to meet the continued demand for them -- but that's crazy talk.

Update: Ted Frank has a roundup of criticism of the deal, including an article in the Washington Post (that seems slightly off-topic to me). The number of sites some of my commenters would have ISPs ban for "defending child porn" grows.

Posted by Daniel Radosh


Mark Foley redux

These laws and the frauds that were used to enact them and the billions spent on propaganda to create the hysteria in the first place, represent one of the greatest frauds and hoaxes ever perpetrated on a people in the history of the mankind.

It is so successful, count on government cameras eventually finding their way in bedrooms, including those of children, in order to "protect" them.

The new airport see-through-the-clothing scanners are great sources now, of government produced child nude imagery, to supplant the virtually dried up industry of child pornography and modeling sites, that supposedly flourished bigger than even television or Hollywood and the movies, before.

Which sounds more like something a journalist/author would say:

"sexually exploitative images of children?"


"kiddie porn?"

Also, I prefer "alledged" prevent.


I agree with Cuomo, isp's really shouldn't be in the business of publishing kiddie porn. Time magazine couldnt get away with printing kiddie porn, why should Verizon be allowed to? Thats how the internet works, an isp can just deny responsibility for the images they publish. Just like Time magazine, Verizon needs to edit the internet.

Good thing Time still runs that front of the book toe-sucking column.

You might think child abuse is a joke Mr. Radosh, but I am dead serious. someone needs to protect these children from having their picture transmitted by the isps. hopefully your sicko, child pornographer defending site
will be blocked too.

Dear Ironically Challenged Anonymous:

I don't think anyone here is suggesting "child abuse" is a joke. Far from it. We are mocking the lengths to which people will go to accommodate any effort--midguided or otherwise-- to "protect these children." The topic is the third-rail of intellectual discourse, that's all we're saying.

(BTW: Why "these" children. Are you suggesting there are children who aren't worth protecting?)

Also, shouldn't that be alledged sicko?

Im not ironically challenged, I just dont think child porn is funny or somehow morally equivalent to toesucking. No effort to protect children can be misguided, THEY ARE CHILDREN, go nuts! I dont think you understand that I am saying someone needs to edit the internet that is published by the isps. And by these children I mean the children in the pictures that are being so unabashedly transferred by internet service providers, they are the ones that are hurt a little bit more every time their picture is published.

I agree with anonymous. No effort to protect children can be misguided.

This is why I recommend that every child be outfitted with a hand grenade and then be trained so that, if anyone sketchy ever tries to talk to them or touch them or take dirty pictures of them, they immediately pull the pin.

The beauty of this plan is that, since the pervs will KNOW that the children are all equipped with hand grenades and trained to use them, they'll leave the kids alone. It's foolproof.

Ogdred: Foolproof? No, it's not. Because accidents happen. And determined enough adults bent on debauching children will surely find ways to disarm them And I don't know about the rest of the people in this world, but children as suicide bombers? There's something seriously wrong with that picture.

".... Anonymous": Yeah, child abuse is not funny... but what is funny is that you actually think that the government is doing this to protect children. The government is doing this to CONTROL and only to control. The government wants to be able to control the entire population, they couldn't care about protecting children from child abusers, etc. They are just using that excuse to control more things in people's everyday life.

"Dead serious"? You mean kind of like Hitler stopped the Jews?

Are you pushing to imply that you are a terrorist for what is in your mind a perfect just cause?

You claim infallibility over a system that is symbols, not the reality itself, such as Roscellinus' theory that the object which is symbolized is independent from the writing, (or pictures), which has no objective real existence beyond mere vocal utterances, or writing, (or pixels), or mental imagery. Thus, we can never wholly know a thing, but merely perceive its effect.

Further, these general categories of symbols are ever-expanding, to include more and more categories, such as swimsuits and fashion and drawings and paintings and computer generated graphics. And of adults of all ages, if they merely look young.

And there are record keeping requirements of adults (§2257) so no kid might pose as an adult; yet the adults sacrifice their privacy to that call for "protecting the children".

Susan, sweetie, I'm guessing you own cats.

TOA, cats? Why not ask if I own dogs? or rabbits? Why would you guess that, my use of purr words?

Maybe I own snakes, rats, spiders or sharks. It makes no difference here because it does not matter simply because this topic has nothing to do with animals.

Didn't mean to hit a nerve. I just figured someone who could write somethng like:

"Thus, we can never wholly know a thing, but merely perceive its effect."

probably owns cats

Anonymous speaks of absolutes and "Dead Serious" and you go condescending with "sweetie" and off-topic on a tangent that does not bear on the issue at hand, and is therefore irrelevant?

First of all I own a few cats and I think a sensitivity towards felines does indicate (although not causally) a greater likelihood of understanding the difference between symbols and utterances. Second, @Susan, obviously government can control the abuse of children through the production of child pornography by forcing the isps to edit all the material they publish to the net, whether it is in usenet, emails or BBS. Maybe you dont trust the government to stop rampaging isps, but I do. Our roads, bridges, toll booths and ICBMs are so called 'controlled' by the government, and they sure as hell work so it is high time the government gets to work controlling the publishers of the internet and making them take responsibility for the things they put online. I havent driven into a pothole or a tollbooth lately and so i trust the government to lower the toll arm to these disgusting isps and their willingness to just publish anyones sick ideas. @Ogdred, i suspect you are making a joke since grenades can only be given to soldiers and a child might become exploded, but you are right that what we need is symbolic (not merely uttered) grenades of isp self control when they put immoral pixels into your email inbox or onto an internet webpage.

I am ashamed to share a name with person so woefully ignorant as yourself. I'm sorry to break it to you, but the children in those kiddy-porno picture are not symbols independent from reality, they are real children. It is because of existentialist-femacrats like yourself that kiddy-porno even exists. You mention Hitler? Well it seems to me and everyone else on this board that Chamberlain's like yourself, so gleefully marginalizing the suffering of children, that isp's like Verizon aren't willing to take responsibility for the things they publish on the internet. God willing,perhaps one day Verizon and yourself will decide to stop propagating the abuse of children.

Susanne, it's clear that you, too, support the abuse of children through child pornography, because at no point did you acknowledge that "No effort to protect children can be misguided". Through existential logic, you must therefore be against some efforts to protect children, which demonstrates your willingness to sell toe-sucking videos of children. Won't someone think of the children?

We need to shut down all Internet sites beginning with the letter "p" just to be safe, because I've seen "pedofile" spelled a bunch of different ways, including some perverts who spell it with an "a."

Child pornographers will find a way around any agreement between the ISP and Government baring a total breakdown of the Bill of Rights. And as Daniel mentioned, a new class of middlemen might be created, hawking encrypted privacy schemes. Worse yet, and as Daniel also points out, a new generation of kiddy porn could find a market in order to avoid the HUSH tracking of registered images. IMO, fuck these politicians and their grandstanding schemes. Cuomo should be busy policing the territory he's been assigned to. Why not go after child pornographers in New York(using websites as evidence). But I guess that's too much work and not enough glory for your typical asshole politician.

Wait, aren't blogs about child pornography illegal? I'm afraid I'm going to have to make a citizen's arrest.

My government-issued content software has identified all of you as porn merchants. Please step out of the car and place your hands on the hood.

I'm sorry, I cannot resist reacting to Susan's comments. "Roscellinus' theory"… wow. I'm sure the master's thesis from which you lifted this gem had everything to do with dudes spanking their monkey to images of 8-year-old girls and boys. Let us not try to find relevance in pop social theory please, but can we try to be original in our attempts at understanding and recrimination?

Do we wish the government to exert such control in a scatter-gun approach to censorship that, like a car bomb, destroys far more than the intended target, while often failing to destroy the target itself?

Since our blessed government is already scanning content, why shut down free speech over the simpler option of using those same scans to file charges against those that download the specific content we would all agree is harmful? I agree there are better options and agree this is control veiled as greater good.

Heck, if the current car-bomb approach is truly implemented, one would therefore assume no catholic seminary would be allowed to have internet access at all. Surely they need that access to do some of the good works that garner them a bit less press than sodomy.

Also, shouldn't that be alledged sicko?

No, it shouldn't, because "alledged" isn't a word.

Or if it is, it should only be used thus:

"Look! Up on the side of that building! A suicide jumper!"

"Correction: Alledged suicide jumper."

(In the spirit of solidarity with all the anonymouses who apparently don't want to be tracked from this thread I have cleverly encrypted my name, leaving only my obsession with correcting other people's spelling to identify me. (Excuse me. My alledged obsession.))

I stopped paying attention to this thread when I saw the word Hitler, but I do continue to be amused by all the anonymousing, since I can see everyone's fracking IP addresses.

(Don't worry, I would never violate confidentiality, Nick.)

...perhaps a suicide jumper who's out on alledge?

Actually, I'm not sure one can even allege something like "sicko", as any proof of a person's mental position on sexuality must be subjective. Otherwise, one might just as well allegedly like the color red.

No one can be an alleged suicide jumper. One is either standing on a ledge, or one has committed suicide. Intent, on the ledge, is not an allegation.

No, Daniel, Anonymous, (like you point out that nick is a misnomer), went absolute. He has claimed a cause, (his mind absorbed surely from the unprecedented barrage of propaganda to vilify something, as was the campaign to make a war on CP as big or bigger than the war on drugs, and out of mere wholecloth, at that), as being so perfect a just cause (as Susan points out) that there can be no stops, no challenges, no examination, no limits to the wholesale death, damage and destruction that government can wreak upon the planet, in pursuit of that claim. Hitler is the obvious logical paradigm for personification of that extension of such extremes.

where did the original famous anonymous go, I dont know what you all are mocking anymore and I certainly dont understand all the irony I perceive is being used here. Cant we just make the isps edit the CP they publish on the internet, I dont think any of you have hardly touched on this aspect of the debate.

"Don't worry, I would never violate confidentiality" I sure hope so, and I dont see the need for the threat. Alot of people had fun in these comments, im just one of them and my IP is two (check the MAC address). Ive read your blog for over a year and I never expected you to lose your sense of humour.

".... Anonymous": Perhaps you didn't understand what I said, I said that the government doesn't care about controlling the spread and production of child pornography. They only care about controlling the citizens and by using child pornography as an excuse, they are really giving themselves the opportunity to be able to see what we look at and the opportunity to filter out whatever they want - sites that have NOTHING to do with child pornography.

Susanne: I'm not even going to bother commenting on what you said. Thanks for the laugh though.

Famous Original Anonymous: You know, every time someone accuses someone else of being a child abuser or supporting the abuse of children, it makes me wonder if they are accusing to draw the attention away from themselves. And why do you call people who spell "pedophiles" with an 'a', perverts? Maybe they are just in need of a spelling lesson, like yourself.

[Quote from Susan]

"Further, these general categories of symbols are ever-expanding, to include more and more categories, such as swimsuits and fashion and drawings and paintings and computer generated graphics. And of adults of all ages, if they merely look young."

That's very true. But I think you go too far when you genericlly lump all government with wanting total control. It's a tendancy of government to want control everything because that is their job. So it should be the public's obligation in a democrasy to prevent that.

Remember the infamous secret room 641A in AT&T's San Francisco facility with data-mining equipment, called a Narus STA 6400, and accessible only to NSA-approved personnel, that ex-AT&T employee Mark Klein revealed? It is said to be only one of many that were installed around the nation.

Ostensibly set up to monitor foreign terrorists, it failed to pass the smell test, as the system sucks the entire bitstream. We later heard talk that it was, low-and-behold, in place to catch CP traffic, too, as well as myriad other things.

It was immediately envisioned that the entire system would be summarily turned upon the People themselves, and it was rumored that file-sharers would soon be in the crosshairs. Well that Big Brother monitoring system is now in place, so for those of you in doubt of Susan's claims, have look at this, the next domestic war in the making.

...so for those of you in doubt of Susan's claims, have look at this, the next domestic war in the making.

RC, I take it that the feds are trying to update copyright law to make it relevant for the Internet age. Is there anything in particular to worry about? Are you against all attempts at government control of the Internet.

The Internet sprang from DoD's DARPA.

"[P]layers ... often use cheap, ubiquitous communications means to transmit their messages
with immediacy and with world-wide coverage and impact. These actors, often uninhibited by the need to be truthful, are also devoid of a bureaucracy that demands clearance and approval of public statements."

The promise of the Internet as a modern day printing press, an information sharing and exchange and enabling device, to serve all mankind rather than the monopolistic interests of a powerful few, who would use the technology principally to subjugate, enslave and destroy the multitudes, is my preference.

Creating bugbears and bugaboos by design, is not my idea of the government's best role in growing the Internet.

I'll take that as a yes.

It's just not that simple. There would not even be an Internet but for government.

They can take away our Usenet, but they'll never kill the spirit of inane web bickering.

It's just not that simple. There would not even be an Internet but for government

Like everything in life, a mixed bag.

The Mets really need help in the bullpen if they are going to make the playoffs.

"The Mets really need help in the bullpen"

Is "bullpen" what the kids are calling it these days? Your an alledged sicko.

Susan said:
"I said that the government doesn't care about controlling the spread and production of child pornography. They only care about controlling the citizens and by using child pornography as an excuse..."

For an example, the FBI ignores a request to investigate why footage prosecuted as child porn is still being distributed: http://trewthe.wordpress.com/

The reality is the government is known to charge and prosecute copyrighted commercial adult porn as child porn.

They want to decide what is illegal content, and they want to control the infrastructure of the Internet. Cuomo's found a way, but he's starting to look like Spitzer.

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