Last November, the FBI raided a bulletin board-style site that was known to be a home of child pornography. But rather than shutting it down, they decided to keep it running—and see just how many users they could identify.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Bureau agents posed as child porn dealers, actively distributing pornography while the site was under their control—just as other agencies perform sting operations with drugs and prostitution.
That’s right. The US government has been an active participant in the world of child pornography.
I saw this article early in the morning and on my way to lunch someone showed it to me on their phone. I didn’t want to get too political so I just said, “That makes you feel good, huh? Our government is now involved in child pornography.” To my surprise their reply was, “I don’t care if it helps us catch more pedophiles.”
Is this a surprise to you? It even says as much in the article — it’s just the same as other agencies performing sting operations with drugs and prostitution. It’s not as though the FBI is manufacturing and profiting off child pornography. They are capitalizing on what has already been created. If they were actively engaging in human trafficking, I would understand your outrage, but as it is, I agree completely with the person you showed this to. If you wanted to provoke outrage over the article, surely this would be an advantageous portion to quote:
It’s not yet clear if the technique worked that well: in the two week period, the FBI attempted to identify 5,600 users who had shared over 10,000 images of children, but so far it’s only known that one suspect’s computers have been seized. Still, it might be too early to judge. The investigation is still, apparently, in its early stages and, while nobody has yet been prosecuted, charges are believed to be forthcoming.
If it was totally ineffective, then yeah, it’s a little outrageous, and hopefully they don’t do it again without actually knowing how to do it. The comments section is, of course, chock full of people who do not understand law enforcement, or entrapment. Do they realize that speeding is a crime, and yet, police officers are permitted to go at any speed in the pursuit of a criminal? Give me a fucking break here. Sting operations are at least as old as the 1800s, and so long as they are effective and don’t stray into entrapment, they are a good law enforcement strategy.
Are the government’s actions a surprise? Not really and I never said it was. What was surprising was the reply of the person I was talking to that is apparently aligned with yours.
You seem to think all of this okay because the government and other agencies have set a precedent of similar actions. If there’s one thing that doesn’t make something acceptable, it’s a previous instance of similar behavior. Sure the FBI may not be producing the child pornography but this doesn’t negate the fact that they are using and maintaining a pornographic website consisted of unconsenting children. Would you honestly expect the victims in these scenarios to live with a continued digital existence of such a horrible and defenseless period of time in their lives? One that is prolonged by their government?