In this day and age, the great advances we have made in technology especially computer and Internet technology, we are faced with a multiplicity of opportunities for potential criminal behavior. This consequently also poses a challenge for legislators and lawyers to keep up with the times in prosecuting and defending criminal offenses related to the use of computers. One offense that is particularly noteworthy and carries the harshest penalties in this context is child pornography. Images or videos containing child pornography are not protected under First Amendment rights and are considered as illegal contraband under both state and federal law. Child pornography is considered to be a form of child sexual exploitation. Child pornography may be defined as a visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a minor (less than 18 years old). Child pornography images may also be referred to as child sexual abuse images.
The so-called Dark Web is another area of technology that facilitates online offenders or internet criminals. The content contained in the Dark web although theoretically accessible is not indexed via any of the usual search engines but is only detectable or accessible through what is known as the Tor browser or the Onion Router. The Tor browser distributes files over multiple nodes to facilitate their de-encryption. The Tor browser in conjunction with the utilization of the cloud-computing techniques of creating hosting facilities, presents new challenges to those charged with combating a range of nefarious online activities; in particular, the online propagation of child pornographic material and the additional difficulties of detection and criminal regulation posed by the Dark Web.
The ability of law enforcement to track and identify users of child porn sites is made difficult by those sites’ inclusion in the Dark Web. The Dark web also hosts sites which purportedly offer illegal products such as drugs and unlicensed guns and through the usage of the Tor browser, it allows users to cover their digital tracks and evade identification altogether. According to researchers, a study concluded that 80% of visits to Dark Web pages using Tor were related to incidents of child pornography or the sexual abuse of children giving credence to the view that the Dark web plays a significant role in hampering the rights of children and providing a safe avenue for pedophiles to act with impunity. However, the misuse of this technology by pedophiles thinking that they are surfing anonymously can come back to bite them. If they somehow slip up and get identified, then this allows authorities to track and arrest such offenders.
A high profile example of arresting someone in relation to crimes committed on the Dark web is that of Ross Ulbricht, a California man in 2013. Ulbricht was operating a website called the Silk Road which was a virtual marketplace for everything from guns and drugs all the way up to human trafficking. Ulbricht was accused and convicted of hosting the multimillion-dollar black market under the pseudonym Dread Pirate Roberts and using bitcoin crypto-currency and the dark Web to bolster anonymity and was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. In 2016, the FBI was successful in hacking the Tor browser and identifying thousands of IP addresses visiting websites containing child pornography. However, it is possible for an innocent person to get accused of such crimes if someone hacks their IP address and uses their identity as a conduit for carrying out their illegal activities online.
If you have been accused of such a crime it is vital to contact a sex crimes attorney as soon as possible to defend your freedom and reputation.
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