Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Robert Hull Sentenced to 15 Years

Last week, Robert Hull was sentenced to 15 years for producing child pornography.  It's a relatively light sentence, but he got a break for pleading guilty and cooperating in an investigation that led to another arrest.  The investigation is continuing, and there may be more.

This man from Prince George, BC, who was arrested for using his 7-year-old daughter to make child pornography, sounds a lot like Hull's trading buddy.
A Prince George man accused of taking photos and video of his seven-year-old daughter and sharing them over the Internet faces child pornography charges. 
The 41-year-old man was arrested in Prince George on Saturday, RCMP said, after police executed a search warrant and uncovered hundreds of child pornography files.

Robin Pagoria and LDD

According to the affidavit, Robin Pagoria met her boyfriend on a site called spankfinder.com .  This looks a lot like her profile.

Given her current legal problems, she probably won't be in a position to tell us about her "other kinky interests" any time soon.  But her other profile provides ... well, probably way too much information.

"LDD" stands for "loving domestic discipline," which seems to be a combination of sadomasochism and bizarre headgames.  One partner, usually the man, "disciplines" the other partner to enforce rules.  There's an even stranger variation for fundies called "Christian domestic discipline" that allows them to claim that this lifestyle is "Biblical."  Presumably Pagoria's boyfriend would have been the partner who was (ostensibly) in charge.  It would be interesting to know whether he had found any other women on the spankfinder website who had access to children.  Is this really the first time something like this has happened?  It's not clear whether Robin Pagoria would have done something like this under her own steam.

We saw someone else in an earlier entry who was talking about being in a "domestic discipline" relationship.  Given that she'd also talked about spanking her daughter on the bare butt, I called a social services agency in North Carolina to express concern.  They told me that what the woman was doing was legal, so they wouldn't be taking any action.  It's sort of paradoxical -- getting caught with an image or video depicting a child getting spanked bare could mean a felony conviction and sex offender status.  But actually doing it to a child in real life is legal because it's considered "discipline."

Friday, May 27, 2011

Robin Pagoria

Robin Leigh Oplinger looks a lot like Robin Leigh Pagoria, a former Polk County Sheriff's deputy, was arrested yesterday for aggravated child abuse and production of child pornography.  She allegedly made videos of herself whipping two girls and sent the video to her boyfriend.  The affidavit is here.

We've previously seen people who seemed to be fixated on spanking kids, including a couple who were talking about sharing videos.  This woman is accused of taking it to the next level.

It's probably not too surprising that she'd show up on a site called "spankolife.com."

She expands on her interest in "domestic discipline."

It's sort of ironic that she's complaining about being "violated."  What about the girls who were whipped and videotaped?

She was also seen on launchpad.net asking questions about getting Skype videoconferencing running on Ubuntu Linux.  Do we want to know what she was transmitting via webcam?  Probably not.

Because spanking is considered an acceptable way to discipline children, boundaries can get blurred.  Florida, where Pagoria lives, still permits corporal punishment in schools.  A number of books on child-rearing advocate spanking, and a few of the more extreme "Christian" ones even recommend doing it on the bare butt.  The problem is that for many people, spanking can also be a sexual thing.  For example, Robin Pagoria recalled drawing a picture of "a girl bent over a bed with paddles and belts lying beside here" when she was "about 13."

Update: a video of Grady Judd, Polk County Sheriff, speaking about the case and Pagoria in court.  More information about her online behavior here.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


According to numerous articles and press releases, Facebook will be using a new software package called PhotoDNA developed by Microsoft and donated to NCMEC.  It uses a technique called "robust hashing" and is based on work by Dartmouth's Hany Farid.

It's easy to demand that something be done about child pornography, but much harder to actually curb it.  Computer vision is useful for simple things (like reading license plate numbers), but it has its limitations.  Most people have experienced the "CAPTCHA" technology to block spam where you have to read a series of letters or do something similar.  Why does that work?  Because humans can recognize things in images that computers can't.

However, it is possible for a computer to tell whether an image is identical to known child pornography.  Law enforcement and ISPs currently use a type of hashing known as SHA-1.  ISPs would calculate the SHA-1 hashes of images uploaded to their servers, compare them to hash values of known child pornography, and then take action if they detected a match.  An automated approach like this is very important for big players like Facebook that may have millions of images uploaded every day.  Having humans review all content isn't feasible.

The problem with the SHA-1 hashing was that it would only work if one image was exactly identical to another.  So let's say someone took a known CP image and slightly cropped or resized it.  The automated image recognition breaks because the files are no longer exactly the same.  This is what PhotoDNA addresses.  Note that even PhotoDNA only works with known CP images.  So if a predator creates his own CP and uploads it, the system won't recognize it.  (This happened with John Huitema, who recently pleaded guilty to victimizing a 2-year-old girl and producing child pornography.)

The information about how PhotoDNA works is pretty limited, since it's mostly in the form of Microsoft press releases.  So there are still a number of unanswered questions.  It sounds like the image is converted into black and white, resized to a standard size, broken up into small blocks, and the digital signature is calculated for each block.  So this is supposed to detect images that have been altered, and Microsoft said that their testing had yielded some promising results.

It does sound like PhotoDNA will be more robust than SHA-1 hashing, but there's not much information available on its limitations or future directions.  It's also not possible for regular people to download the software and play with it.  Some image manipulation involves discarding a lot of information.  Would PhotoDNA be able to detect a preview-sized image of known child pornography that someone was advertising on another site?  The "digital fingerprint" seems to rely a lot on edge detection and intensity.  What happens if someone alters a photo in a way that changes the edge information, e.g., by adding another object or lettering?

Some of the Facebook problem children have also shared CP videos.  It does not sound like PhotoDNA is currently being applied to that, and I'd be curious what the potential was in this area.   Some video codecs contain I-frames, which could probably be analyzed this way.

Ironically, Windows Live has apparently had some major problems with child pornography.  Has Microsoft tried applying PhotoDNA to its own network?  If not, why not?  If so, why doesn't it work better?

Recent Arrests

Recently, there have been more arrests in the U.S..  Arthur Barnett, Tong Yang, and Stephen Schmid were charged after Facebook reported them to NCMEC for posting child pornography.  This is encouraging; it seems like there's been some real improvement.  Congratulations to Facebook, NCMEC, and the law enforcement agencies involved.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Ben Wwantsit

The poster formerly known as "Ben Wwantsit" and "Barry Wwantsit" pleaded guilty in Glasgow this week. It turned out that he was a Dutch national named John Huitema.  Below is a screenshot of one of his Facebook profiles.  We redacted the profile photo.  He bragged about sexually abusing girls, and some of his like-minded friends encouraged him to do even more.

This is a photo that he said was himself.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Video Hard PTHC

By this point, Hope Rock's friends and interests look pretty familiar.  Jose Gutierres Pteachece appears to be yet another incarnation of Marcos Teia.  We've also seen Nieza Anousha in a previous entry.

But in the corner of the screenshot, we see some a live chat for a Facebook group called "VIDEO HARD PTHC."  What could that be?  Well, thanks to the anonymous tipster who sent the redacted screenshots for this post, we have a pretty good idea.  (Given that "PTHC" stands for "Pre-teen Hardcore" and is a common child pornography keyword, we can probably assume that the blurred and whited out pictures were originally indecent images of children.)

We've seen Rafa Fernandes Novo, also known as Marcos Teia, before.  He's advertising a "dweebbbz" site.  Below is a screenshot of the descriptions of some of the videos posted to this site.  This is apparently what gets these people off.

Ghelardini Arrested

According to some Romanian news stories, Paolo Ghelardini was arrested a couple of days ago for child pornography, detained for 24 hours, and possibly taken to Bucharest for further proceedings. His house and another building were searched by law enforcement.

BBC One - Social Networks and Pedophiles

Monday, May 9, 2011

Sexual Predators Share Disturbing Images on Facebook

Fox News New York had a story about Facebook users sharing child pornography.
FBI officials describe illegal photo sharing on social networks as "rampant." Nickolas Savage, assistant security chief of the FBI's cyber division, says pedophiles exchanging pictures on social networks can feed a vicious cycle.
"They can meet other people like themselves, and go off and validate their behavior," Savage says. "When they trade with others there's always a sense they need more material."
Child predators even steal innocent pictures of children that could come from their parent's Facebook profiles and unlocked photo albums.
Stolen or illegal images can be reported to Facebook right on the site. The company removes them. But Bechard thinks the company should do more.
They shut somebody out, but they don't lock the door," he says. "They just come back right in as another profile, putting up the same images and trading the same information with other pedophiles."
This is consistent with what we've seen.  For example, "Jimmy Lemoni" (ab)uses the grou.ps social network to create a new group dedicated to child pornography.  For obvious reasons, the URL has been redacted.

His friend "Ddeby Cchrm" came back with a new account very quickly after Facebook shut down the previous one.  Given the interests, it probably shouldn't be too surprising that "Ddeby" also seems to be involved in the group that Jimmy was advertising.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Porn and School Uniforms

School uniforms are apparently a turn-on for some people.  Professional models and performers may use them as props.

From my perspective, the photo above wasn't really a problem.  Although I had no interest in viewing the video, it appeared to involve only consenting adults.  However, the logo on the sweater is associated with a particular order that's established a number of Catholic schools, and I wondered whether the order could sue the porn producer for trademark dilution.  Maybe, it turned out.  A helpful law school professor pointed me to a 1979 decision involving the Dallas Cowboys and said that the school would need to be able to show "a protectable trademark interest in their uniforms."

Practically speaking, there's no way that a school can guarantee that a distinctive piece of uniform clothing that students are required to buy will never show up in online porn.  A few years ago, a 17-year-old student at a Catholic high school in the Bronx appeared in a porn video.  Given the volume of low-quality amateur porn out there, it's unlikely that this would have gotten much attention -- except that the student apparently wore her school uniform for part of it.

It's not unusual for pedophiles on social networks to display children in their profile pictures to signal their interests.  We've seen a few of them with photos of kids in school uniforms.  Nieza Anousha has connections to some more obviously predatory users and is also displaying an image of a prepubescent girl sitting in a way that provides a clear view up her skirt.  (We've blacked out the faces of both girls.)

The solid color polo shirts and navy skirts look like school uniforms.  Luckily for the girls, they can't be readily identified.  This is a good thing since some pedophiles take a disturbing interest in the real names and locations of children in the photos that they trade.  That's why it really blew my mind when I discovered that some Catholic schools now require students' shirts and sweaters to be embroidered with the child's first initial and last name.  What were the administrators thinking?

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Real McCoy

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Christopher McCoy was arrested Thursday.

A 48-year-old Granite City man was being held without bail Thursday after Madison County prosecutors charged him with 10 counts of aggravated child pornography.
Stephanee Smith, a spokeswoman for the Madison County state's attorney's office, said Christopher H. McCoy of the 2900 block of Willow Avenue had thousands of pornographic images of children on compact discs, memory sticks and a laptop computer. She said the children depicted ranged from toddlers to teen-agers. Smith said there was no indication McCoy knew the children.
We were familiar with Christopher McCoy's Facebook account, which has since been shut down.  Below is the profile photo he used, which is somewhat more flattering than his mugshot.

A couple of people in our group ran "alt" accounts where they posed as high school girls.  McCoy got pretty creepy.  In one message, he said, "I enjoy pthc loli incest favs are 9 and under."  In another, he said, "I live across the river in granite city a steel mill town I wrk across the river in st louis .mmmm 14 is very sexy wher in wi u live [...]  wats the oldest man u been wit and how old were u."  Hopefully, the police are investigating this guy thoroughly.

He also expressed an interest in "nudism" and posted this [NSFW] cellphone photo of himself online.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Chris Wittwer Rides Again

Given that Chris Wittwer has repeatedly asked people to mass-report users, groups, and pages, one might imagine that he takes Facebook's Rights and Responsibilities very seriously.  So imagine our surprise when we saw him blatantly advertising a new profile he'd just created called "Chris Wittwer-Two."

Makes one almost wonder how many accounts he has in all.  Of course, he also seems to lose friends regularly, so perhaps that will limit the number of profiles he needs.  In the exchange below, he accuses a woman of being a pedophile lover and threatens to publicize information about her children.  What a class act.

Chris Wittwer

Chris Wittwer has gotten some press for posting names, photos, and addresses of registered sex offenders in the UK on his website.  He's named his group "Children Have Rights in Society."  The first letters of this spell out "C.H.R.I.S."  As in his name.  Of course, one problem with this is that pedophiles sometimes like to talk about "children's rights" too.  As in claiming that children should have the "right" to have sex with adults.  It's surprising that someone who claims to be very knowledgeable about online predators would not have known that.

He's had some legal issues related to anger management problems at football games and other locations.  It's unclear whether he will face charges related to posting prohibited information about a notorious juvenile offender's alleged new identity on his website.  Perhaps it's not too surprising that there's a large "Make a Donation" button that appears at the top of every page on his site, including that one.  There are also frequent requests for funds on the C.H.R.I.S. Facebook page.  Although the site has a plethora of links, there's no information about how much money the organization raises or where it goes.  C.H.R.I.S. even displays an animated graphic of a burning candle to honor children who have died of abuse.  How could one be so cynical and unmoved as to ask questions about the lack of financial transparency?  That would be almost as crass as asking about the origin of the fire that burned down the pub he used to run.

Mr. Wittwer also claims that he's been "attacked three times near his home" by sex offenders he's put on his site.  Child molesters are often wimps that avoid confrontation with adults, so it's rather amazing that there would have been three attacks.

Chris Wittwer actually has been involved in a fair amount of online conflict.  But is it really just a matter of him being targeted by online predators?  Based on screenshots someone sent me, it doesn't look like it.  He's essentially encouraging members of his group to mass-report another Facebook group called "Sexual abuse must stop."  Is this group preying on children or even violating Facebook's policies?  Not that I could see.  But it did contain some people that Chris didn't like.  Presumably, that was enough.