Peer-to-peer networks get another black eye with child porn bust

Federal investigators targeting the use of peer-to-peer networks for nefarious deeds have charged 52 people with using those networks to exchange graphic images and videos of children.

The charges are the result of a coordinated law enforcement investigation that used sophisticated computer programs to track down computers on which child pornography was being stored and made available to others via peer-to-peer networks, according to the US Department of Justice. While the DOJ didn't specify which programs were being used it said using software such as Limewire, computer users can join networks that allow the sharing of files across the Internet, often for no charge.

Investigators were able to use these same networks to identify and target individuals using the networks to share child pornography, the DOJ stated. The FBI and others in the law enforcement community have in the past used pattern-matching programs, to scan Usenet groups and other sites for child porn and terrorist threats among other activities.

The cases announced today were investigated by the FBI's Sexual Assault Felony Enforcement (SAFE) Team, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and a host of other state and local law officers.

Peer-to-peer networks have had a number of run-ins with the long arm of the law.  In June, the former administrator at EliteTorrents was convicted of conspiracy and felony copyright infringement in a Virginia court, the first time in the US that a peer-to-peer user has been convicted by a jury of copyright infringement, according to the DOJ.  EliteTorrents.org, a Web site specialized in releasing copyright works without authorization, the DOJ said. EliteTorrents, which ceased operating in May 2005, used BitTorrent peer-to-peer technology to distribute pirated copies of movies, software, music and video games, the DOJ said.

In May a judge set a nearly $111 million copyright-infringement decision against TorrentSpy.com, the BitTorrent peer-to-peer search site.  The US District Court judge awarded the judgment to the Motion Picture Association of America.  And last Fall, in one of the first cases where file sharing programs used to steal identities, a Seattle man plead guilty to one count each of mail fraud, accessing a protected computer without authorization to further fraud, and aggravated identity theft.

Last year a congressional committee lambasted the peer-to-peer industry as it looked into how sensitive information, including personal financial data, is leaked through popular file-sharing programs such as LimeWire, KaZaA and Morpheus that individual, corporate and government users use to share music, movie and other entertainment files.

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