Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Reporting Defaults

Most of the Facebook users interested in child pornography take it somewhere else or use private groups.  However, one will occasionally post some horrendous stuff to an open wall where anyone can see it.  Recently, I came across this and reported it to Facebook.  Here's what the reporting interface looks like.    We select the "nudity or pornography" category.

Here's what's a little worrisome.  Bear in mind that we're trying to report child pornography.  So why is the default option set to just block the user and not report it to Facebook?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Sheva and Joe

According to some recent articles, Facebook disables about 20000 accounts a day for various reasons.  Most of this is done automatically because there are millions of users.  Users whose accounts are disabled are usually not given a reason if they appeal.

So let's consider two Facebook profiles.  Sheva Burton is an activist fighting child abuse.  Joe Dogsex is interested in things like "playing with my little girl", "family sex encest", "Dog Knots the Girl," and "BEASTIALITY."  So which of these profiles did Facebook shut down?  If you guessed "Sheva Burton," you'd be right.  Mr. Dogsex was still there at the time this was posted, and apparently has been for a while.

Below is a screenshot of Sheva Burton's profile from Google's cache.

Below is a screenshot of Joe Dogsex's profile at the time this entry was posted:

Sheva Burton's profile, however, is currently disabled.

Sukk Midic

"Sukk Midic" isn't a subtle kind of guy.  He's had a number of accounts with screen names like "Nude Foru."  So perhaps it's unsurprising that he's also open about his interest in "little ones."  The screenshot has been redacted since a couple of the profile photos depicted parts of his body that we'd rather not see.

His friend "Milly Luvlittlewon" has similar interests.

"Ineed Hotvideo" hides his wall and profile information, but manages to communicate his interests with his screen name and the photo of a prepubescent girl in a bikini.  The screenshot below has been redacted to hide her face.

RIP Trolls for Fun and Profit

"R.I.P. trolls" on Facebook are the unusually mean-spirited people who get a kick out of posting upsetting comments and images on memorial pages.  They tend to get mass-reported and shut down pretty quickly, but usually reappear quickly with new accounts.  One of the worst, an Australian named Bradley Paul Hampson, was recently sentenced to jail time for posting sexually explicit photos and comments on Facebook pages memorializing dead children.  Below is an excerpt from the SMH story:
A man who vandalised Facebook tribute sites for two dead children has been jailed.
Self-confessed "troll" Bradley Paul Hampson, 29, of Tarragindi in Brisbane's south, posted pictures of penises and wrote offensive messages on the two sites in February last year.
On one Facebook tribute site for the 12-year-old boy, he wrote "woot I'm dead" across an image of the dead child.
He also morphed a photo of the boy's face inside a woodchipper and made it appear blood was coming from the machine.
On another, he wrote sexually explicit comments implying he was responsible for raping and killing the eight-year-old girl.
"My definition of pleasure ... listening to her ribs crack," he wrote. "I got mad ... so I murdered her."
 In the U.S., there are a group of real-life R.I.P. trolls known as the Westboro Baptist Church.  Instead of posting foul things on memorial pages, they show up at funerals and picket.  Judging by the results that come back when you search Facebook for "Westboro Baptist", they're also widely hated.  However, some people have suggested that Westboro Baptist Church may be a scam organization that provokes people and then uses lawsuits to generate revenue.  Since they call themselves a "church," they may also be able to avoid paying taxes.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Shane Ispedo

The user previously known as "Shane Ispedo" is currently facing over 50 charges related to possession, distribution, and production of child pornography.  Shane Dale Pattison is a 21-year-old former student from Marshall, Saskatchewan who sometimes used the name "Pokedod."  I believe that this is his DeviantArt site: http://pokedod.deviantart.com/ .  It's strikingly ordinary.

When I was in high school, many of us envisioned pedophiles as dirty old men.  A number of Catholic priests had been charged, including two who had been pastors in the local Catholic Church.  Years later, it's difficult to wrap my head around the idea of people younger than I am now being arrested for sex offenses.  "What made them that way?" I wonder sometimes.  A number of causes have been suggested, e.g., experiencing sexual abuse, exposure to pornography, genetics, and personal choice.  But nobody really knows.

Police in Australia Criticize Facebook

According to a TNW story at http://thenextweb.com/facebook/2011/03/24/australia-police-claims-facebook-hinders-child-abuse-probe/ , Australian police have expressed frustration at the mutual assistance treaty and Facebook's response.
Australian Federal Police’s high-tech collection and capability manager, Grant Edwards, expressed that the mutual legal assistance treaty with the US is outdated and not designed to allow for a rapid response to online crime. And that Facebook, the world’s biggest social network, hasn’t been helpful with the push.
A revised treaty, supported by the AFP, is necessary to speed up the actioning of the police’s right to obtain information about online crime using a warrant on Facebook, which is head-quartered in the United States. Currently, the AFP is still required to undergo a long, tedious legal process in order to use US law enforcement to force Facebook to respond.
The Australian government has made efforts to amend the assistance treaty in order to speed up the process of lawful data acquisitions. However, the changes would need to be ratified by the US to take effect. According to Edwards, Facebook hasn’t been as helpful as it could because the company is “brand-protecting.” Furthermore, he labeled the social networking site’s action to remove pedophile profiles that were needed as evidence by the AFP as "ignorance on Facebook’s behalf."
Facebook has an automated system to detect and disable problem accounts.  However, this system generally can't detect when a user should also be reported to law enforcement.  Once an account is shut down, Facebook will retain the information for up to 90 days, and then it's gone.  Automatically detecting child pornography is a hard problem.  The most promising approach has been comparing images to hashes of known child pornography files, but that only works if there's a match.

The situation may also be fraught in terms of politics and public relations.  The ground truth seems to be that there's a lot of child pornography floating around and nobody's really figured out a surefire way to detect it.  Even if it is detected and reported to law enforcement, some countries are more responsive than others.  But a social network can't go on record saying that child pornography is a hard and frustrating problem; it's more palatable to say that their sophisticated technology is keeping things under control.  As an obscure blogger, I can comment about seeing a lot of users from certain countries who seem to be interested in child pornography.  If a Facebook spokesman said that, people would probably accuse them of being bigots and they'd be forced to apologize.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Reflections and Expectations

In the few months since this blog started, a lot has changed.  In November when it started, there were a number of users on Facebook blatantly advertising their interest in child pornography.  Some would even post links and invitations to trade on open walls.  Facebook has since gotten more aggressive about shutting those accounts down, though it may never be possible to completely block predatory users.  A number of concerned citizens have gotten very upset about the situation, and some have even set up a website and sent postcards to Facebook.

There may be some conflict between expectations and reality.  When I started this blog, most of my understanding of child pornography had come from news stories about people getting arrested.  There weren't too many of them in my community, and I was inclined to assume that very few people were interested in child pornography and the ones who did got quickly arrested.  So it was hard to understand why some of the people I saw weren't in jail.

Since then, I've learned that the sheer volume of child pornography on the Internet is staggering, and none of the major social networks are completely free of predators.  There are a number of dedicated law enforcement professionals working hard to combat the problem, but the situation has been compared to drinking out of a fire hose.

Why can't Facebook and other social networks completely block pedophiles and child pornography from their sites?  It turns out to be a much harder technical problem than many activists realize.  It is often impossible for a system to recognize that an image is child pornography and when there are millions of accounts, it's not feasible for a human to manually review all images and videos that users post to a site.  Child pornography traders generally try not to call attention to themselves and are less likely to get reported by other users than spammers or a malicious trolls.  Even when someone who posts child pornography is detected and reported to law enforcement, their country may or may not take action.

A number of concerned citizens are currently demanding that Facebook eliminate child pornography from its site.  It's easy to understand why people are upset and angry about child exploitation, but harder to accept that there's only so much Facebook or any other social network can do about it.  The best case scenario may be that some people get arrested and most of the child pornography traders migrate elsewhere.  But no matter how proactive the social networks are, child pornography is going to continue to be a hard problem.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Independence High School Strikes Again

Last week, a 14-year-old student attending Independence High School in Mississippi ended up in the hospital after having his jaw fractured and some teeth knocked out.  Below are his (redacted) status posts on Facebook.

What happened?  According to a Fox News story, he lost consciousness after receiving corporal punishment from Jerome Martin, his high school's assistant principal.  He also sustained bruises from the paddling.

An anonymous poster commenting on the story said that this was not the first paddling-related injury that had occurred at Independence High School.

So what kinds of things can a student at Independence High School get paddled for?  Let's check the student handbook.  Hmmm... it says that the first office referral for "minor violations" like gum chewing, eating or drinking in class, dress code violations, distracting other students, and violations of hallway rules can result in corporal punishment.

Perhaps it should not be surprising that Tate County School District is already being sued by another student who was paddled at Independence High School.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Missouri Arrest

According to the Columbia Tribune, John Kitch was arrested last week for posting child pornography to Facebook.  Congratulations to Facebook, NCMEC, and the Boone County Cyber Crimes Task Force.
John W. Kitch of 5809 S. Bethel Church Road was arrested yesterday and was being held in the Boone County Jail with bond set at $100,000.
The Boone County Sheriff Department’s Cyber Crimes Task Force began investigating the incident in December after Facebook employees discovered the child pornography and reported it to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. 

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Sometimes, we've thought that Facebook needs a law enforcement liaison like Dexter Morgan.

"Sarah Love" displays a sign that says "Keep the CP coming."  We assume that "CP" would stand for "child pornography."

Marcos Teia is back yet again.  Does this guy have any real-life friends?  Somehow, we doubt it.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Sorry, DHS

There was a sleazy-looking site up recently that called itself "Precious Treasure Holiday Company" and appeared to be promoting sex tourism.  I filed a report with NCMEC/Cybertipline and also sent email to the Cleveland Police department.  There was no response, and the site remained online.  So I tried reporting it to the hosting company, which did shut it down.  There's a copy of the PDF they sent my friend with the password protection removed here.

Turns out that the "sex tourism" site was actually a string operation run by DHS.  Perhaps it should have been a tipoff that the site was created with a version of Microsoft FrontPage that appeared to be about 8 years old.  It does seem like it might have been a good idea to communicate with the hosting company ahead of time, though.

Sara Teia

"Sara Teia" popped up last night.  Since "Chad Roberts" featured a couple of entries ago is friends with "Sara," his account should also get bombed by about noon Pacific time today.

Update: neither of them even lasted until 8 AM.


Chad Roberts isn't the best speller, but he manages to get his point across.  His interests include "Lolita", "Dady's Little Girl" (sic), and "pthc."

He seems to be interested in connecting with like-minded people and exchanging material.  Don't think we'd care to see any detailed information about his anatomy.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Back Again

Marcos Teia may create new Facebook accounts more frequently than he changes his underwear.  It's hard to tell.  But he inevitably pops up every day or so with yet another name or user photo.  Within a few hours, Facebook has usually shut down not only that account but all of his friends too.  I'm betting that the one below plus all of his friends will get nuked by noon tomorrow.  Mr. Teia has also decided to grace grou.ps with his presence again, along with some reportable photos of young girls.  Hopefully, Facebook security won't get too jealous over this since they'll almost certainly see him again.

BTW, it might be worth checking out his groups before booting him.   He's apparently found his way into at least one that may be sharing something other than Bible verses and holy cards.

Update: They didn't even last until 9 AM Pacific Time.  The group that he was in is gone too.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Looks Like Berkeley

Most of my visitors are welcome, but the ones who appear to be searching for child pornography are sort of a pet peeve.  For a while, I put up a link on the entry that they seemed to hit most frequently encouraging people looking for that kind of material to try the infamous GNAA lastmeasure site.  Some of them apparently fell for it.  It was politely suggested that this might be a bit unseemly, so the link has been removed.

Today, I got a visitor searching the words "looks like pthc."  To be fair, the ISP listing "University of California - Office of the President" may be somewhat misleading.  An nslookup on the IP address resolves to a residence hall at Berkeley and the browser is listed as "Netscape 5.0 Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; U; CPU iPhone OS 4_1 like Mac OS X; en-us) AppleWebKit/532.9 (KHTML, like Gecko) Mobile/8B117."  So I'm guessing that a someone with an iPhone found an open wireless router.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Robert Hull Pleads Guilty

Earlier this week, Robert Hull pleaded guilty to sexual exploitation of children and is due to be sentenced on May 16th.  Canadian law enforcement discovered child pornography that appeared to be recently produced while investigating a man in Saskatchewan and helped to trace it back to Hull.  The Canadian defendant sounded a lot like the widely-hated "Shane Ispedo" we saw in early November.

Both Hull and the Canadian defendant seemed to be into "hurtcore," a particularly ugly type of pornography.  They exchanged emails fantasizing about raping and torturing very young children.

Plea bargain PDF:

Links to related stories:

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Max and Gerd

There's something especially revolting about the folks who seem to be into both sadomasochism and pedophilia.  We've seen this guy before as "Max Lomax."

Gerd seems to have similar interests.

Mexican Article on Pedophiles and Social Networks

Lydia Cacho, a Mexican journalist renowned for her coverage of human trafficking issues, discusses pedophiles and social networks.  The original column is up at http://www.eluniversal.com.mx/columnas/88554.html and the Google translation is here.  She makes some excellent points; the social networks themselves have not done anything wrong, but they are often used by predators.  Shutting down the offending accounts is a start, and Facebook has certainly made an effort.  However, as she points out, the users are often back within 24 hours sharing the same materials, and the problem requires a coordinated effort between law enforcement in many countries.

It might be helpful if social networks made it easier for users to explicitly report child exploitation.  For example, if an image or video was specifically flagged as child pornography, it might be useful to take a hash or some kind of digital fingerprint.  The CP traders we've seen are often very repetitive and I'd guess that many of them are probably posting the same images and videos again and again.  That data plus whatever hashes the government shares would help automatically detect at least some known CP.