What happens when the long arm of the law can’t reach into the darker corners of the internet and catch the perverts and criminals who run illegal and hidden child pornography websites and trading hubs?
The hacker group, Anonymous, has declared war on such pornography being stored on the TOR network, an anonymous service set up to aid activists in highly repressive regimes, but this provides a dilemma; When the authorities are unable to act, should Anonymous step in?
A Commission official said: “Commissioner Kroes takes note of the role played by Anonymous but does not have any comment on the actions of Anonymous. Removal of child pornography sites should be organised through properly co-ordinated law enforcement. Those responsible for posting child pornography must be identified and brought to justice.”
New Europehas been in contact with the team involved in the operation.
Explaining their actions, Anonymous passed on a message to Commissioner Kroes, responsible for the Digital Europe programme: “To be honest, FBI, Interpol, ‘Digital Europe’ don’t have the manpower or the budget to conduct this kind of research operation. They should be thanking us for volunteering our services just to hand the data over to them. We are not the enemy in this situation. We are an ally. And the sooner they start seeing it that way, the sooner we can end child pornography on the internet all together. We don’t do this for praise or thanks, but we don’t want to be condemned for doing what is right either.”
Anonymous also told New Europe: “The authorities claim they should be doing these things… however not a whole lot is happening. Right now, are shifting through our lulz, aka treasure-trove, to ID these individuals, which it’s then the job of the authorities to arrest. We are not taking their job away, but we do wish that it would be nice if they stop arresting Anonymous members and focus on the real problem of these sick individuals.”
They stress that they are not vandals or people looking to cause trouble, but they feel morally obliged to act because of the failure of the authorities. “Some of the Anonymous individuals involved with this specific operation have backgrounds in forensics and intelligence,” one said.
Their next step is to continue their fight against all other sites they find, but they intend to publish – and provide to law enforcement, a database of the real identities of as many people they can. “We’re hoping that we can provide a public, if not a more precise and targeted channel of information for them to investigate using probable cause or the likes of authority with judicial precedence, rather than their average suspicions.”
They added: “It’s not just data we intend to hand over. Many of these pedophiles use the same handles and nicknames in their forum exchanges. Hence, some of our more skilled members have taken it upon themselves to literally track these people from the anonymized services into the WWW. This, we feel, provides us with a link on the identity level.”
New Europehas assisted the Commission in enabling Interpol to receive 100GB of material that Anonymous has acquired.
We may not like the idea of unofficial groups taking such drastic action, but every parent would find it hard to condemn Anonymous and many would praise them.