Wed. Jun 19th, 2024

By Karla Fetrow

The Safety Net

We are a Nation of controls, regulated for our safety.  At the top of the manifest destiny for control features is the consideration for our children.  The propensity to put children first is the basic impulse of a loving parent.  Therefore, very few people raise objections to such safety features as seatbelt laws, preschool vaccinations, innocent exposure to second hand smoke.  These rules were designed to protect children from the poor value judgments of adults, and any objections can be guilt tripped out of existence.  What is disturbing however, is the growing trend to expand these controls to threaten and intimidate those who do not comply with the social order.  Confidentiality reports can no longer shield a counselor from reporting suspicion of abuse from a law enforcement agency.  Homes are disrupted more through poverty than violent episodes.  A new monster hangs over us; the threat of the Internet pedophile.

Internet predators are enough to make any parent shudder, and they should.  Although cultural differences have flexible laws as to the acceptable age for sexual maturity, loving parents don’t generally wish to see they children sexually exploited.  Responsible parents monitor their children’s activities, place parental controls on their computers and guide their children within their moral/ethical beliefs.  They are understandably upset if their children are electronically seduced through an Internet predator.  They are within their rights to take safeguards to prevent this and to pursue the offender.

A Question of Definitions

With the conception of the Internet and the free flow of information, there was no question as to the creation of laws that prosecuted predators of the innocent:  Federal laws have been enacted to protect children from people who lure or attempt to lure them into an offline meeting for the purpose of performing illegal sexual acts or coercing them to provide sexually explicit photos of themselves.

In April 2003, Congress passed a law that provides wiretapping authority for seven sexual offenses, including child pornography and the sexual exploitation of children. Part of a broader child-protection bill entitled the Protect Act of 2003, which also mandates the Amber Alert system for abducted children, this law expands federal law-enforcement agencies’ wiretapping authority to catch online predators before they strike.

Remaining in debate is what constitutes child pornography.  On April 16, 2002, the US Supreme Court over a congressional ban on virtual paedophilia.  It ruled the First Amendment protects pornography or other sexual images that only appear to depict real children engaged in sex. The judgment is a victory for both pornographers and legitimate artists such as filmmakers. They argued that a broad ban on simulated child sex could make it a crime to depict a sex scene like those in the recent movies Traffic or Lolita. The law was challenged by a trade association for pornographers.

According to “Cyber Rights & Cyber-Liberties, U.K,”, a non-profit civil liberties union, (the law) barred sexually explicit material that “appear(s) to be a minor” or that is advertised in a way that “conveys the impression” that a minor was involved in its creation. The law was Congress’ answer to then-emerging computer technology that allowed the computer alteration of innocent images of real children, or the creation from scratch of simulated children posed in sexual acts. The law was an expansion of existing bans on child pornography. Congress had justified the wider ban on grounds that while no real children were harmed in creating the material, real children could be harmed by feeding the prurient appetites of paedophiles or child molesters. The Free Speech Coalition, the pornographers’ trade group, said it opposes child pornography but that the law could snare legitimate, if unsavoury, films and photos produced by its members. The group did not challenge a section of the law that banned the use of identifiable children in computer-altered sexual images. The Clinton and Bush administrations defended the law in court.

Salem Would have been Proud

The phobia to protect children from the pedophile has produced a massive witch hunt into people’s lives, suspicion at every level and defamation of character.  A man who had produced his own business, lost his property, his license and his credibility after an investigation revealed his business partner had downloaded child pornography onto one of the two company computers.  While the man’s name was eventually cleared with the local law enforcement agency, his property was not returned and he was not reinstated within the business community.  He had lost thirty years of gainful employment over an activity he had known nothing about.

At twenty-three years of age, Jacob Woodward liked to spend his time on the computer downloading video games, movies and music.  The law came knocking at his door after he downloaded a music share file that contained pornographic photos of underage teenaged girls.  He explained that he had deleted the file, but the police department still confiscated his computer, his X-box, his Play Station and his cell phone for evidence.  During the investigation, social service employees called his parents and close relatives to advice them not to allow his underage siblings and cousins around him.  They were further warned that if they allowed Jacob contact with them, the children could be forcibly removed from their homes by the Division of Youth and Family Services.  Jacob was never officially charged, but his electronic equipment was not returned, and the damages in family relationships are still being mended.

These are common occurrences.  At any moment, about 20 million of the estimated 1 billion Internet-connected PCs worldwide are infected with viruses that could give hackers full control, according to security software maker F-Secure Corp. Computers often get infected when people open e-mail attachments from unknown sources or visit a malicious Web page. Personal computers are often used to traffic illegal child photography without the owner’s knowledge or consent.  They can be covered in share files or distributed as viruses.  Pedophiles can exploit virus-infected PCs to remotely store and view their stash without fear they’ll get caught. Pranksters or someone trying to frame you can tap viruses to make it appear that you surf illegal Web sites.

An Associated Press investigation found cases in which innocent people have been branded as pedophiles after their co-workers or loved ones stumbled upon child porn placed on a PC through a virus. It can cost victims hundreds of thousands of dollars to prove their innocence.

Their situations are complicated by the fact that actual pedophiles often blame viruses — a defense rightfully viewed with skepticism by law enforcement.

“It’s an example of the old ‘dog ate my homework’ excuse,” says Phil Malone, director of the Cyberlaw Clinic at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society. “The problem is, sometimes the dog does eat your homework.”

The AP’s investigation included interviewing people who had been found with child porn on their computers. The AP reviewed court records and spoke to prosecutors, police and computer examiners.

One case involved Michael Fiola, a former investigator with the Massachusetts agency that oversees workers’ compensation.

In 2007, Fiola’s bosses became suspicious after the Internet bill for his state-issued laptop showed that he used 4 1/2 times more data than his colleagues. A technician found child porn in the PC folder that stores images viewed online.

Fiola was fired and charged with possession of child pornography, which carries up to five years in prison. He endured death threats, his car tires were slashed and he was shunned by friends.

Fiola and his wife fought the case, spending $250,000 on legal fees. They liquidated their savings, took a second mortgage and sold their car.

An inspection for his defense revealed the laptop was severely infected. It was programmed to visit as many as 40 child porn sites per minute — an inhuman feat. While Fiola and his wife were out to dinner one night, someone logged on to the computer and porn flowed in for an hour and a half.

Prosecutors performed another test and confirmed the defense findings. The charge was dropped — 11 months after it was filed.

The Fiolas say they have health problems from the stress of the case. They say they’ve talked to dozens of lawyers but can’t get one to sue the state, because of a cap on the amount they can recover.

“It ruined my life, my wife’s life and my family’s life,” he says.

The Massachusetts attorney general’s office, which charged Fiola, declined interview requests.

Don’t Blame it on Your Malware

Larry Magid at Cnet News states that it is indeed possible for malicious software to plant child pornography–or any other type of file, for that matter–on an innocent person’s computer, but being possible doesn’t mean it’s likely. And forensics experts can detect intention.

“It’s quite possible for a malware creator to include child pornography as part of the payload on an infected computer,” according to Symantec spokeswoman Marian Merritt, but “such payloads are not typical.”

Most malware authors, Merritt said, “are motivated by money, and there’s no clear indication as to  how planting child porn on an unsuspecting person’s computer would help generate money for criminals.”

According to the article, such forensics requires the confiscation and examination of the computer hard drive; an expensive operation that can take months to complete.  While downplaying the threat of a viral attack infecting your personal computer with child porn it advices:
* Making sure that your operating system and regularly used software are up-to-date.
* Using good software addressing malware, phishing attacks, and/or spam, and keeping it up to date. Subscriptions to paid programs should be renewed.
* Being cautious about spam and about providing information to sites you navigate to from links within even the most legitimate-appearing e-mails.

The Profits of the Pedophile Industry

A viral infection in a computer can be restored, often through several hundred dollars worth of software upgrading and a skilled technician; an infected reputation cannot.  A conscientious citizenry can protect its children from sexual exploitation, a citizenry with no legal protections of its own cannot.  The responsibility needs to begin at the level of service.  Computer viruses were initially created for the purposes of monopolizing the attention of the readers, bringing them back to the site, or for disrupting other Internet activity.   According to an article by Josh Smith, in “Wallet Pop” increasingly,  individuals and organizations are currently writing viruses aimed at making them rich. The most recent example is a virus that threatens to publish your browsing history online unless you pay a ransom of $15.

According to the article, the virus which is reportedly the work of a Japanese gang, infects computers that connect to a Winni, a popular file-sharing site in Japan that claims up to 200 million users, and enables the download of an illegal game file. Once users download the infected file, the program takes a screenshot of the the sites they have visited online, often including sites that users wouldn’t want their spouses, family, friends and employers learning about; and puts it online under their name.

Personal computer sabotage has created a lucrative industry for viral software designed to pass illegal content, for anti-viral software that preaches a consumer beware agenda for selling expensive protection, while neatly dodging the responsibility for surveillance, and for a law enforcement agency that hasn’t had this much leeway in public prosecution and confiscation of property since the enactment of criminal possession marijuana laws.

At the heart of the issue is the willingness to cry guilty before examining the evidence.  The hysterical anxiety to protect the general population of children has removed the rights of parents to exercise individual value judgments.  The children so delicately sheltered by parents now will legally become adults in just a few short years and just as vulnerable to Internet pedophile profiles.  They will be just as forfeit of legal protection as any adult whose personal computer has been compromised by an intruder.  The question is no longer just one of what constitutes child pornography.  The battle is no longer simply one of protecting the child from the predator.  It’s one of protecting the unaware of invasions into privacy, from legal theft of their means of livelihood, from false accusations, from estrangements in family relations. We all want safety for the children, but in order to give them this, we must maintain the rights, the privacy and the safety of the adults as well.

By karlsie

Some great perversity of nature decided to give me a tune completely out of keeping with the general symphony; possibly from the moment of conception. I learned to read and speak almost simultaneously. The blurred and muffled world I heard through my first five years of random nerve loss deafness suddenly came alive with the clarity of how those words sounded on paper. I had been liberated for communications. I decided there was nothing more wonderful than writing. It was easier to write than carefully modulate my speech for correct pronunciation, and it was easier to read than patiently follow the movements of people’s lips to learn what they were saying. It was during that dawning time period, while I slowly made the connection that there weren’t that many other people who heard the way I did, halfway between sound and music, half in deafness, that I began to understand that the tune I was following wasn’t quite the same as that of my classmates. I was just a little different. General education taught me not only was I just a little isolated from my classmates, my home was just a little isolated from the outside world. I was born in Alaska, making me part of one of the smallest, quietest minorities on earth. I decided I could live with this. What I couldn’t live with was discovering a few years later, in the opening up of the pipeline, which coincided with my first year of junior college, that there were entire communities of people; more than I could possibly imagine; living impossibly one on top of another in vast cities. It wasn’t even the magnitude of this vision that inspired me so much as the visitors who came from these populous regions and seemed to possess a knowledge so great and secretive I could never learn it in any book. I became at once, very conscious of how rural I was and how little I knew beyond the scope of my environment. I decided it was time to travel. The rest is history; or at least, the content of my stories. I traveled... often to college campuses, dropping in and out of school until one fine day by chance I’d fashioned a bachelor of arts degree in psychology. I’ve worked a couple of newspapers, had a few poems and stories tossed around in various small presses, never receiving a great deal of money, which I’m assured is the norm for a writer. I spent ten years in Mexico, watching the peso crash. There is some obscure reason why I did this, tightening up my belt and facing hunger, but I believe at the time I said it was for love. Here I am, back home, in my beloved Alaska. I’ve learned somewhat of a worldly viewpoint; at least I like to flatter myself that way. I’ve also learned my rural roots aren’t so bad after all. I work in a small, country store. Every day I greet the same group of local customers, but make no mistake. My store isn’t a scene out of Andy Griffith. The people who enter the establishment, which also includes showers, laundry and movie rentals, are miners, oil workers, truck drivers, construction engineers, dog sled racers and carpenters. Sometimes, on the liquor side, the conversations became adult only in vocabulary. It’s a good thing, on the opposite side of the store is a candy aisle filled with the most astonishing collection, it will keep a kid occupied with just wishing for hours. If you tell your kids they can have just one, you have an instant baby sitter; better than television; as they agonize over their choice while you catch up on the gossip with your neighbor. We also receive a lot of tourists, a lot of foreign visitors. They are usually amazed at this first sign of Alaskan rural life style beyond the insulating hub of the Anchorage bowl. Many of them like to hang around and chat. They gawk at our thieves wanted posters. They laugh at our jokes and camaraderie with our customers. I’ve learned another lesson while working there. You don’t have to go out and find the world. If you wait long enough, it comes to you.

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13 thoughts on “The Viral Pedophile Attack”
  1. It seems that many people see an enemy everywhere they turn. It’s half mass paranoia and half their desire for someone to punish. Though pedophilia is disgusting, I find it hard to believe that the problem is as prevalent as some would have us believe. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of it weren’t manufactured to make it appear that the problem is worse than it is. Evidently, fear is profitable.

  2. Pedophilia is a real problem however it is unclear whether simply viewing young-looking people in sexual situations leads to attacks on children.

    Also a problem is illustrated media which I wrote about in an earlier article regarding Manga
    Drawings are not people and yet the man in question in this case was given a 20 year sentance.

    I will say I am in favor of taking a look into how sexually explicit material involving underage individuals is used. Particularly in the workplace, where the boss/owner has the right to expect that paid for time will not be spent in activities deemed illegal.

    I would however like to see some protections for the defendants. We have moved so far away from the idea of “Innocent until proven guilty”. Anymore we swoop in and assume guilt right away. In addition authorities do not nor can they really, help reasablish a tarnished reputation if someone is found innocent.

    We know that malware and viruses can get past basically everything at this point, with the right person directing them. We should therefore take pause and investigate before crying wolf. Or pervert as the case may be.

  3. Space Eagle and Grainne, you have both stated issues that concern me. Hysterical paranoia seems to be a pervading force in today’s America, with a frenzy to punish anyone seen as a possible culprit. There’s nothing easier to profit on than people’s fears. Everyone with a private computer becomes vulnerable when laws are made based on the contents of the computer while every computer is open to viral attacks.

    Grainne, as you pointed out, it’s actually very difficult to determine who qualifies as a pedophile. A fondness for cartoon drawings or a taste for liberal arts movies hardly qualifies as a pedophile. Neither, would i think, would a person just passing into his twenties and still with a fondness for girls several years younger.

    There has to be a realistic line on what is truly harmful and the identification of victims. An underage teen luring a person into an illicit photo gallery is entrapment, and doesn’t give the child much preparation as to what can be expected of this sort of behavior as an adult. A collector of manga or art films cannot be assumed to be lurking pedophile. The person whose computer became flooded with pornographic images is not automatically a pedophile and is not automatically responsible for the images. Child abuse should be taken seriously, but it has very little meaning as long as our laws are abusing the adults.

  4. Shit, Karla… I’ve been sitting on a post on what I call “Moral Panics” on ho sexual hysteria is really MOST harmful to minors.. The amount of energy we spend on the issue of sexual predators and “pedophiles,” is overblown.

    and whatever happened to that “wave” of teenage “s-exting” that was supposed to destroy civilization as we know it?

    This issue reminds me of the injustices that came about from the case where the owners of a childcare business were accused of child molestation, sexual abuse, and even of being part of a satanic cult — all of which were total fabrications.

    the irony is that these same people, who often pass on “let’s kill the pedophile” links on FB and via email forwards, would scream bloody murder if people were to submit that teaching REAL sex education in schools is a good thing.

    Repression is never a good substitute for morality.

  5. Eddie, i thought about that as well. I have two kids who recently passed out of their teenage years and into their twenties. Sex is practically the only thing a teenager has on his/her mind. My biggest problem wasn’t concern for their virginity. I figured they’d choose their own date. It was for the kids they had grown up with and were several years older. As each one passed into the age of legal consent, a new possible pedophile/sex offender profile was created, and the concern became that the long term friendships didn’t graduate into adult sex with a minor. The school and law enforcement apparently took this possibility of underage-age of consent issue very seriously. If i did not make sure that my under-aged children were always supervised when in the company of their older friends, the whole family was in jeopardy of intervention from youth and family social services. I was enormously relieved when they reached the age of consent and could choose the company of their older friends if that was what they desired.

    It’s a fallacy to think that exposure to sexually explicit material is going to pervert a youngster’s natural sex drive. Both of my children chose the age for carnal knowledge. Surprisingly, both chose the age of seventeen, a little older than the average for sexual experimentation. Neither are promiscuous. They both have a tendency to choose long term relationships.

    I think child exploitation laws are wise. A child, raised naturally, has a great deal of interest in his or hers sexual parts, but virtually no understanding of the sexual drive. Their introduction to their growing sexuality should be among their peers and should be private. They need the time to learn who they are and what they desire without overt adult influence.

    Once those hormones kick in, however, the lines become blurred. Some children mature more rapidly than others. I’ve seen girls who, in their mid-teens, had all the intimate knowledge and conscious sensuality of a woman in her twenties. I’ve seen others who, at fifteen, were definitely still very much children. Their bodies had not yet developed. Their interests were still activities and fantasies. They weren’t yet ready for their sexuality.

    When punishment exceeds the damages caused, the punishment is not just. There has been no harm done to any child when sexually explicit scenes are created by an artist. There is no proof that a pedophile will become a sex offender. Technically, an age of consent youth who views photos of underage teens cannot be called a pedophile because the interests are within a common age category. If the interests are to stop child exploitation at the core, then the concentration should be placed on those who first produced the pornographic material. They are the ones who invaded the child’s privacy, and the issue should be entirely between the child’s guardians and the photographer. The distribution of the material, often times unwanted and unasked for, has caused far more damages to the unwitting recipients than what warrants the witch hunt to find the lurking pedophile.

  6. Hello folks – most people know me as “Christopher” on this site, but I thought that it’s time for a change and now go under the psuedonym of Azazel.

    As much as I respect the intent behind the motivations of many people here backing such things as “child exploitation laws,” what I find objectionable is the core assumption of their reasoning – that the institution of “law” is actually intended to protect anyone from exploitation. This is simply not true.

    Take the case of the pedophile virus that’s going around right now – does anyone really believe that it’s just a coincidence that such a program exists that causes a computer to access as many child porn sites as possible when the “law” enforcement officials have the power to arrest anyone found with child porn on his computer? I don’t know about you, but I see COINTELPRO written all over this: should the powers that be require an excuse to publically search one’s hard drive (either for investigative purposes or simple public humiliation and discreditment), such things and the child porn virus are rather convenient – aren’t they?

    I’ll admit that children need to be protected, but that’s the job of the family – the state cares nothing for your kids and merely uses “the good of the children” as an excuse to surpress people like you though force (using “law” as an excuse to use said force against you). To all parents out there I suggest that you be open and honest with your kids about what’s going on and take appropriate measure to defend them as well as train them to defend themselves from potential predators: this job is far too important to leave to incorporeal entities that only exist to increase the wealth and power of society’s elite.

  7. Azazel – i put the name Christopher reluctantly behind me – it was a noble name, to be sure, and you represented it well. I think this is one time i am perfectly in agreement with what you said. I always become nervous when rhetoric pushes an agenda purported to be in the public’s best interest. It rarely is. The pedophile scam, pushed through fears of sexual offenders, is the most blatant excuse for invading people’s privacy and jeopardizing the well-being of families i’ve ever seen. With the help of D.F.Y.S., it completely removes the rights of parents to raise their children according to their best judgment. Parents who want their children to become sexually well-adjusted adults should raise their children openly, should talk with them frankly and honestly without instilling feelings of guilt and shame over their naturally growing sexuality.

  8. One of the biggest fears I always had when I was working in the schools was that I would get one of the students mad and have them ‘get back’ at me by making false accusations. It was very real concern, especially working with ‘at risk’ youth, so I tried to ensure that I was in an open area with the students where there was traffic. The internet poses a larger risk because of the ‘lone’ factor and the generality that if its there, you must have done it because no one else could have. It’s a powerful weapon for spite, and as your article has highlighted it could be the crest of a new wave of political and economic espinage tactics to get a hold of information for profit or rid rivals rather than physical assault or raiding. Welcome to the gentler twenty first century.

  9. Great comments everyone, and superb article, Karlsie.

    I don’t really have much to add to everything that’s been said besides my own personal observations.

    I think pedophilia is a big problem, as big as they claim. I’ve known at least three people in church (positions of authority) that turned out to be pedophiles.

    I am an advocate of free speech and don’t think government should censor anything, provided no one underage was exploited.

    But can they make a case saying that pornography is closely related to child abuse? Of course they can. What they won’t talk about though is how mainstream society plants the seed of underage pornography in the heads of stupid people, with Glamor Shot photos, American Idol, Miss Teen America and so on.

    I think morally speaking, one could easily debate the entire “protect our children” side of this issue. This is from a country that endorses killing baby calves, baby chickens, etc. and from a world that sees underage sex and rape in the animal kingdom. Human beings are glorified, self-important animals in the end.

    What occurs to me is that (A) you need money in order to have basic rights. Hence, the creators of South Park have much more legal protection than a dumb guy like Max Hardcore who was arrested for consensual porn in which the woman was said to be underage.

    and (B) This country (yes the United States of America, the same USA that Christina Aguilera doesn’t know the anthem to) is basically promoting Stalin-communism, by forcefully invading people’s privacy and confiscating property under the guise of alleged crimes like child porn, marijuana, terrorist threats, etc.

    So I can only deduce that this stuff is going to get worse as America sinks into oblivion.

  10. I don’t question that the pedophile exists. I do question the US Internet definitions of the pedophile. The terms are sweeping and designed to catch everyone in the net for close surveillance and examination. These broad definitions disrupt a lot of lives before finding a genuine pedophile.

    I also feel that child exploitation laws are hypocritical when they, as you pointed out, protect the media that exploits sensuality in youth via provocative clothing, make-up and precocious behaviors in child stars. What’s lacking is honesty. When children, either as a subject for sexual arousal, an entrapment device or a mechanism for generating money are being used, they are being exploited.

  11. Parents of the victims of sexual predators never wanted or could have foreseen what was about to happen to their child. They also did not think that their child could get so horribly hurt. Therefore, you need to snap out of the illusion about the safest place in the world and start thinking ahead.

  12. yeah what more silent devious way could you destroy
    work social personal and financial world
    crippling indeed
    then society takes care of it
    govt manipulation of
    mob mentality in essence wiping their hands clean of the act
    and moving up the ladder?……

    and you can never prove it hence delusional paranoia
    or hearsay ……

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