Woman Charged For Having Sex With 14 Year Old Boy The Dangers of Peer-To-Peer Sharing

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The Dangers of Peer-To-Peer Sharing

Matthew White admits he surfed the Internet for pornography two years ago – not a crime for a 20-year-old American man at the time. However, CBS reported that White downloaded child pornography onto his computer; he says he did so by accident while searching for college-age women on LimeWire. LimeWire is a peer-to-peer (P2P) sharing network that allows users to share files, including music, movies, games, and pictures, with each other.

White claims that when he discovered the files he had accidentally downloaded, he quickly deleted them, saying that he was not attracted to child pornography. About a year later, FBI agents were able to recover the deleted images from his hard drive when his family allowed agents to search his computer.

Peer-to-peer networks

According to Wired.com, tens of millions of people use P2P sharing networks, and LimeWire alone has 50 million monthly users. The LimeWire program provides access to the Gnutella file sharing network, which is a true P2P network. It consists of multiple users, and since there is no centralized server for files, LimeWire does not audit or control material on the Gnutella network. Although LimeWire attempts to filter certain illegal or inappropriate content through user requests, users are responsible for the content they post or upload to the network.

P2P networks have long been used to enable images or music, whether copyrighted or not. The Federal Trade Commission warns that file sharing can lead to others unknowingly allowing the copying of private files or the accidental download of viruses or unintentional pornography. LimeWire allows users to activate a family filter or set filters based on keywords, file type or IP address. Family Filter says that any such features are “imperfect at best” and that not all content contains the necessary detail or information to enable filtering.

The default setting for the Gnutella file sharing network is that documents downloaded from the web are still shared online. Users must disable this default to keep files downloaded from the web private.

The US General Accounting Office was asked to determine the ease of access to child pornography through P2P networks and the risk that minor P2P users are unwittingly exposed to pornography, including child pornography. It found that child pornography is both easy to find and download on P2P networks. Using 12 keywords known to be associated with child pornography in one search, the GAO identified 1,286 titles and file names; 543, or about 42 percent, were connected to child pornographic images. In the second search, with three search terms, Tulli’s analyst downloaded 341 images, of which 149, about 44 percent, contained child pornography.

The study found a significant risk of unintentional exposure of young users to pornography, including child pornography. Even harmless keywords likely to be used by young people, such as the names of cartoon characters or celebrities, were searched for images containing child pornography (7 percent) and child pornography (1 percent).

Privacy protection and constitutionality issues

The US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that authorities are not required to authorize the viewing and downloading of files sold on P2P networks. The court said the defendant clearly knew that LimeWire was a file-sharing program that would allow the general public to access the files in his shared folders unless he took steps to prevent it. Because a warrant is only required if the search violates a reasonable expectation of privacy, the court held that a warrant was not required.

Wired.com reports that an FBI agent logged into LimeWire and performed a search using the keyword “Lolitaguy,” which the court heard was known to be associated with child pornography. The agent uses proprietary software that identifies and flags known child pornography images and used one of LimeWire’s features to download seven of the 240 files shared by the defendant’s IP address, four of which turned out to be child pornography.

Defendant Charles Borowy argued that the agents violated his Fourth Amendment rights, saying he had a reasonable expectation of privacy because he thought he had disabled the sharing feature. However, he pleaded guilty to child pornography charges and was sentenced to 45 months in prison. The agreement allowed him to appeal whether the search and seizure of his computer files was illegal.

A conviction for possession of child pornography can result in up to 20 years in prison. On the advice of his public defender, White pleads guilty in hopes of receiving a three-and-a-half-year sentence. In addition, he would receive 10 years of probation and would have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

The FBI could not comment on White’s case, but said users who accidentally download child pornography should call authorities immediately. CBS says Internet searches reveal a large number of complaints from people who say they accidentally downloaded child pornography through LimeWire.

Anyone who believes that they have mistakenly or accidentally downloaded illegal material should contact an attorney immediately for advice on their rights, responsibilities and remedies.

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