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The Vile Hierarchy of a Child Porn Enterprise The Vile Hierarchy of a Child Porn Enterprise

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The Vile Hierarchy of a Child Porn Enterprise

Wednesday, the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security announced the prosecution of 72 people and the arrest of 63 people in a massive international child pornography ring. The operation targeted a private, members-only Internet bulletin board called Dreamboard that, according to Attorney General Eric Holder, "was created and operated to promote pedophilia, and to encourage the sexual abuse of very young children." Federal officials say Dreamboard had an estimated 600 members around the world and that the sweep of Dreamboard constituted the largest prosecution to date of people involved in child pornography.  Put together, the announcements from Holder, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and separate media reports reveal unsettling allegations about the ring's hierarchy and incentive structure. Here's how federal officials say it operated:

Rules of conduct  The Dreamboard website includes rules written in English, Russian, Japanese and Spanish that specify the type and category of child porn that is uploaded to the board. "The board rules... required members to organize postings based on the type of content.  One particular category was entitled 'Super Hardcore,' notes the DOJ release. Holder told CBS News that "Some of the children featured in these images and videos were just infants. And, in many cases, the children being victimized were in obvious, and intentional, pain - even 'in distress and crying,' just as the rules for one area of the bulletin board mandated."

 

VIP hierarchy  Court documents detailed in the DHS release note that "Dreamboard members were divided into groups based on status and ranking. The highest level of membership was 'Super VIP.' Individuals who obtained that title had created new images of child pornography by molesting children and shared those images with the board administrators," reads the report. "The next level after Super VIP was the VIP rank. Individuals in the lowest level of membership were called Members. Those in the lower ranks could only access a limited quantity of child pornography on the bulletin board. The higher the rank, the more material was available to the member."

Incentive structure HHS court documents show how users would graduate to more privileged statuses in a distributing scheme to produce more content. "Individuals advanced to higher levels of membership by providing child abuse images that the individual had produced, providing a large number of images, or providing images that had never been seen before."

Avoiding detection  Holder's release notes that the anonymous bulletin board employed a number of techniques to stay under the radar of government officials. "Members communicated using aliases or 'screen names,' rather than their actual names," read court documents. "Links to child pornography posted on Dreamboard were required to be encrypted with a password that was shared only with other members. Members accessed the board via proxy servers, which routed Internet traffic through other computers so as to disguise a user’s actual location and prevent law enforcement from tracing Internet activity.  Dreamboard members also encouraged the use of encryption programs on their computers, which password-protect computer files to prevent law enforcement from accessing them in the event of a court-authorized search."

 
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