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Kid Porn Crusade

2002-09-16 17:10:59+00 by Dan Lyke 8 comments

Daze Reader had a link to Caught in the Kid Porn Crusade, a Wired about "Operation Candyman", focusing mainly on the tribulations of one Adam Vaughn.

[ related topics: Sexual Culture ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment made: 2002-09-16 22:01:05+00 by: meuon

It's a scary story, and only Vaughn himself really knows what was going on in his head. Maybe he 'worked on this' because he liked it. Why did his superiors not know of, or support his efforts and clear him of it? It's a heck of an article, and I know just enough of that world to know that is just one small portion of a story.

#Comment made: 2002-09-17 15:39:27+00 by: Dan Lyke

One thing that struck me about that tale is just how close to "by accident" a person could get to being indicted. Say you wrote a macro to download all the images from a newsgroup like alt.binaries.pictures.erotica.amateur.female . These things get droppedinto a spool directory somewhere, and you come back a few days later to sort through them. When I've written such a macro, it's just extracted the images. Given that the kill time on such a group is probably 3 or 4 days, there's no way I can trace any of those images back to the headers, and no way that the admin of my newsserver will want to.

So if, in the resulting images, there are images of children, I've had illegal images on my hard drive during that time. What if someone was watching server logs to see who read what messages, and got a warrant to search my drives based on that?

It's only a small step from that to see that someone clicking about the web might either have a 'bot or just do similar things on web pages. Right-click, "Save Link Target As...", not get around to examining all the images for a few days, and poof, by dint of the server logs and subsequent examination of your hard drive by folks who kicked down your door at 4:30 A.M., your ass is toast.

It sounds like Vaughn went beyond that, did a little categorization. And everything is going to be filtered through the journalist. But you could see scenarios like that really screwing the guy over. And you could imagine that if his superiors had anything to hide, hanging this dude out to dry is the easy way to go. Not that I'd fall for the line that small town southern cops might do illegal things and make other people take the fall to cover up illegal things.

Not saying any of this happened in these cases, but in places where the existence of a digital file in the wrong place can get a person fired and evicted in the same day, we're dancing down dangerous boundaries.

#Comment made: 2002-09-18 16:11:07+00 by: Shawn

meuon; I didn't feel the article gave the impression that Vaughn was "working" on anything. He was just poking around, surfin' the web on his down time. I thought his lawyer made a wonderful point about the [potential] value in walking the edges of life, where others dare not tread, although I didn't see this as any kind of explaination of officialness.

I thought it was an excellent article. Although I've given up trusting The Press for anything resembling full, two-sided accuracy this one seemed reasonably less biased than many others. And I give them huge, chocolate-covered, crunchy kudos for coming at the topic from a reasoned, rational angle rather than from a hyped, alarmist and/or witch-hunt one.

#Comment made: 2002-09-20 00:24:09+00 by: meuon

Shawn. Police officers are supposed to report such recreational activities, just for this purpose. The fact that he did not is almost an admission of guilt. And.. yes, they deserve a kudos for a good article with a decent angle.

#Comment made: 2002-09-20 14:43:25+00 by: Shawn

Really? Wow... I didn't know that. I'm not sure I agree with the policy. I'm a firm believer that what you do on your own time is your business.

#Comment made: 2002-09-23 04:26:00+00 by: Alec Marlow

does zhis vean zay gonna take me porn avay??? vell zucks vor all joo how can be tride as za aduldt hehhehe i vin vinally v00t ^^

#Comment made: 2002-09-26 01:35:00+00 by: Steve Silberman [edit history]

Well, Adam Vaughn's guilty plea in court -- which earned him nearly three years in federal prison, as it turned out -- was sort of the ultimate "admission of guilt," no?

The point was not whether Vaughn was innocent or guilty of looking at porn. He was guilty. But I was hoping that a critical analysis of every aspect of the investigation - - Vaughn's behavior, the FBI's behavior, and the general hype-filled media atmosphere around these cases -- would prove to be more illuminating than another headline about "Internet Porn Ring Smashed."

#Comment made: 2002-09-26 01:39:03+00 by: Steve Silberman

By the way, those of you who thought the article was worth reading: please consider linking to it on other blogs. The article did not get Slashdotted or Metafiltered, and I'm somewhat at a loss why. Too depressing? I would think that almost anyone who surfs the Net -- not only those who look at porn of any type -- might be interested in some of the issues I raised.