FBI’s Deep Web Child Porn Ring Questions Role of Gov’t in Society

FBI’s Deep Web Child Porn Ring Questions Role of Gov’t in Society

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) became the largest online distributor of child pornography during a recent case, according to a motion filed by a group of defense attorneys.

Also read: Criminal Fails at Blackmail, Bitcoin Stereotypes Disproven

FBI Increased Amount of Child Porn Online

FBI Child Porn PacifierThe motion claims that a “conservative estimate” of FBI activity in its infiltration and takedown of the notorious “Playpen” darknet site saw the agency distribute 1,000,000 images, videos and links to other child pornography sources.

The FBI effectively ran Playpen for over two weeks and does not deny distributing material. As it gathered information on users, however, it also needed to fulfill the role of a site owner without arousing suspicion. Given the nature of the site, this included uploading large volumes of new child pornography.

Before the FBI took control of the site, Playpen’s average weekly user logins numbered about 11,000. During the investigation, logins increased by more than 350 percent to 50,000 per week. The defense attorneys’ motion seeks to discover exactly how the FBI boosted its traffic so much.

It is also not clear whether the FBI received any payments as part of its management of the site, or where those funds – possibly in bitcoin – may have ended up.

The FBI’s disturbingly-named “Operation Pacifier” resulted in 186 prosecutions. Lawyers representing three of those suspects filed the motion — as part of their campaign to have their clients’ cases dismissed.

Harm Reduction or Proliferation?

The depth of the FBI’s involvement in Playpen calls into question the purpose of fighting crime in the first place — since they seemingly contributed to the proliferation of harmful material rather than its eradication.

As the motion itself points out, a DOJ press release stated that “Producing and distributing child pornography re-victimizes our children every time it is passed from one person to another.”

Even the arrest of 186 alleged child pornographers does little to reduce the amount of material out there — in fact, quite the opposite.

The lawyers’ motion points to the similar case of Operation Fast and Furious, an ATF “gun-walking” sting operation from 2006-2011 that resulted in thousands of weapons flowing from the U.S. and into the hands of Mexican drug cartels. This result was also the exact opposite to the operation’s aim, and even saw a U.S. Border Patrol Agent killed with one of the guns.

Who Are the Real Criminals?

FBI Child Porn handcuffsThe Wars on Drugs and Terror have both seen law enforcement become deeply involved in the activities they claim to combat — more than many would be comfortable with.

During the 2013 Silk Road investigation, it was DEA agent Carl Mark Force who suggested the idea of a “murder-for-hire” to Dread Pirate Roberts, and then faked the act with the consent of its alleged target. Force was also sentenced to 6.5 years in prison for stealing millions of dollars in bitcoin from Silk Road and trying to intimidate legitimate bitcoin exchanges.

The FBI has also been accused of entrapment in its investigations of “lone-wolf” terrorist plots, in which the perpetrators were allegedly goaded into action by undercover agents before being arrested.

With governments, justice officials and related authorities so quick to pursue those outside the systems it regulates for supposed unlawful behavior it might be time to look at the activities of law enforcement itself — considering the possibility that the authorities may actually be making crime worse.

Does it actually reduce harm on society as a whole? Or has it become a machine that serves itself first, willing to inflict damage on society in the pursuit of its goals?

What do you think? Is it worth engaging in obviously criminal activity in order to catch a few crooks? Let us know in the comments below.


Images courtesy of Shutterstock.

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Jon Southurst has been interested in bitcoin since reading Neal Stephenson's 'Cryptonomicon' in 2012. A long-time tech writer, he has been a regular contributor at CoinDesk and has written for Kaiko.com, DeepDotWeb and ancient print publications. He lives on an artificial island in Tokyo.