The FBI Operated a Child Porn Site in 2015

The FBI Operated A Child Porn Site In 2015

The FBI appears to have seized and taken over the day-to-day operations of a popular child porn site last year for a small amount of time, allowing users to look up and download pictures and videos of child pornography.

According to USA Today, the FBI has gone on the record now to have been the administrator for child porn site Playpen after taking it over in February of last year. The FBI operated the site from February 20 to March 4, 2015, when it had over 215,000 users accounts.

The site the FBI operated allegedly had more than 23,000 sexually explicit videos and images of children, depicting them in highly-illegal and compromising ways.

During that two-week window that the FBI operated the porn site, they say they were able to break further into the dark underworld and find the people who regularly patronize the site. But by doing so, they had to allow users to access and download the sexually explicit material, which is why the case has been held over as so controversial.

The FBI has claimed that they used these methods to capture the perpetrators, who would have eventually moved on to more harmful ways of hurting children, ways that could have led to them acting out on their impulses in real life instead of simply viewing the actions in a picture or a video.

The users of these sites had been using software that was encrypted with so many layers of protection that it would have been hard or even impossible for the FBI to track the criminals should they had taken it down right away. It could have also tipped them off and eventually the people guilty of these crimes would have secured more layers of insulation between themselves and the FBI.

Although the reason for keeping the site open and active was very clear, the Justice Department has spoken to the extent that the ends does not always justify the means. By allowing these criminals to operate as usual, by allowing them to view or watch sexually explicit material involving children, then that does more harm to the children that were depicted on the various media.

Officials with the FBI have acknowledged the risks they took with the operation, but they seemed to have carefully hedged their bets against it by allowing it serve a greater good. By doing so, they were indeed able to take down an entire community of predators that may or may not have moved on to actions against children.

But the FBI did not address whether or not the key elements of the two-week operation did more harm to the victims portrayed on the photos or videos.

Former FBI senior official Ron Hosko was involved with similar operations that included taking down child porn sites. His involvement with the operations included infecting the sites with the FBI software and allowing technology to take the lead. He spoke about this operation with the press.

“We had a window of opportunity to get into one of the darkest places on Earth, and not a lot of other options except to not do it,” Hosko said. “There was no other way we could identify as many players.”

When the site became operational, it used technology on the “dark web” known as Tor. This particular software would act as a shield to potential customers to the site, bouncing their IP address from computer to computer as a way to throw the FBI off their scent. This complex type of technology is what the FBI had to deal with in order for them to take down the site’s users and bring them to justice.

The defense for one of the people charged in the case has used the operation’s own methods against the FBI, citing that the sting was akin to entrapment. That particular defendant wants his case thrown out for that reason.

[Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]

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