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An undercover FBI agent assumed the online identity of a pedophile for 18 months, letting child It raises new questions about how federal agents tackle online investigations into child abuse but also how major social networks are being exploited by predators. When investigators searched Hansen's home and interviewed him, he was startlingly honest, admitting to viewing a cornucopia of child pornography under the username KitB Then came a gambit from the feds: They presented Hansen, who was only a suspect at the timewith the mundane sounding FD form.
Hansen ed them over. In doing so, the agents let child abuse material spread for months after they kik captures identified it. Thus far the government has little to show for it; no subsequent prosecutions based on the protracted sting have emerged. The case reintroduces tough questions over the merits of allowing harmful Web behavior in order to catch criminals committing the same wrongs on a larger scale.
Those questions came to the fore with the capture and maintenance of dark Web child pornography site Playpen four years ago. Major advertisers whose were shown alongside the videos swiftly ditched YouTube. The Google-owned streaming site said it was deeply concerned about the issue and last week banned all comments on videos containing children. The sting operations are a double-edged sword: They can successfully help cops catch abusers and those who share exploitation imagery and video, and at the same time permit the revictimization of anyone featured in the material. Elewa, an associate with the law office of Zachary Margulis-Ohnuma, a New York-based law firm that has defended those accused of child pornography charges.
An FBI search warrant shows how an agent assumed the online identity of a pedophile.
It's unclear if Distributing images of children being sexually abused violates their privacy and puts them at kik captures of being harmed again, said John Carr, a consultant who worked for Microsoft and the U. Forbes could not find court documents showing how the police benefitted from that access. The most controversial facilitation of child pornography occurred in Februarywhen the Department of Justice seized and ran Playpen.
For two weeks, police launched malicious code at visitors that would attempt to uncloak their IP address and, subsequently, their identity. By its own admission, the FBI said 9, images and videos were made available by Playpen users while it operated the site from February 20 to March 4, Justifying the operation, the government said more than prosecutions were subsequently launched and 49 American children rescued.
FBI's Playpen investigation led to U. The lawyer for Hansen, who remains in jail in Englewood prison in Colorado, declined to comment. The only evidence of a follow-up investigation was in the same search warrant that detailed the undercover operation. Even some advocates for the rights of child exploitation victims believe that sometimes the ugliness is justified when abusers are apprehended.
The Hansen sting also raises questions for Kik, which has been plagued by problems with child exploitation. Ina Forbes investigation found that fake profiles posing as year-olds were harassed by men within minutes of ing up. The report also detailed child exploitation content was being shared across the app and discovered cases where undercover officers were actively encouraging suspects to communicate on Kik. The company repeatedly failed to delete profiles of convicted sex offenders.
It subsequently promised to invest more in cleaning up its platform.
Research from U. In response to that report, Instagram said it aggressively tries to keep child groomers and pornography off its service. I'm associate editor for Forbes, covering security, surveillance and privacy. I'm also the editor of The Wiretap newsletter, which has exclusive stories on real-world. I'm also the editor of The Wiretap newsletter, which has exclusive stories on real-world surveillance and all the biggest cybersecurity stories of the week.
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