The Dangers of Peer-to-Peer Sharing
Article provided by Raleigh Durham, NC Criminal Defense Lawyer – Roberts Law Group, PLLC
Matthew White admits he was surfing the Internet for pornography two years ago — not a crime for a then-20-year-old American male. However, CBS reports that White downloaded child pornography onto his computer; he says he did so accidentally while looking for college aged women on LimeWire. LimeWire is a peer-to-peer (P2P) sharing network that allows users to share files, including music, movies, games and pictures, with one another.
White claims that when he discovered the files he had accidentally downloaded, he quickly erased them, saying that the child pornography did not appeal to him. About one year later, FBI agents were able to recover the deleted images from his hard drive when his family allowed the agents to examine his computer.
Peer-to-Peer Sharing Networks
According to Wired.com, tens of millions of people use P2P sharing networks and LimeWire alone boasts 50 million monthly users. The LimeWire program grants access to the Gnutella file-sharing network, which is the actual P2P network. It is comprised of many users and, because there is no central server for the files, LimeWire does not review or control the material in the Gnutella network. While LimeWire does attempt to filter out certain illegal or objectionable content via user requests, users are responsible for the content they place on or download from the network.
P2P networks have long been used to allow access to images or music, whether or not copyright protected. The Federal Trade Commission warns that file sharing may result in unknowingly allowing others to copy private files or accidental virus download or involuntary pornography download. LimeWire allows users to activate a Family Filter or set filters based on keywords, file type or IP address. It says of the Family Filter, that any such feature is “imperfect at best” and that not all content will contain the necessary details or information to allow filtering.
The default setting on the Gnutella file-sharing network is for documents downloaded from the network to continue to be shared on the network. Users must disable this default in order to have files downloaded off the network remain private.
The U.S. General Accounting Office was requested to determine the ease of access to child pornography over P2P networks and the risk of inadvertent exposure to pornography, including child pornography, of juvenile P2P users. It found that child pornography is both easily found and downloaded from P2P networks. Using 12 keywords known to be associated with child pornography in one search, the GAO identified 1,286 titles and file names; 543, or roughly 42 percent, were associated with child pornography images. In another search using three keywords, a Customs analyst downloaded 341 images, of which 149, about 44 percent, contained child pornography.
The study found a significant risk of inadvertent exposure of juvenile users to pornography, including child pornography. Even innocuous keywords likely to be used by juveniles, such as cartoon character or celebrity names, retrieved images that included child erotica (7 percent) and child pornography (1 percent).
Privacy Protections and Constitutionality Concerns
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has ruled that a warrant is not required for the authorities to view and download files traded on P2P networks. The court said that the defendant was clearly aware that LimeWire is a file-sharing program that allows the public at large to access files in his shared folder unless he took steps to avoid it. Because a warrant is only required if a search violates a reasonable expectation of privacy, the court found that no warrant was required.
Wired.com says that an FBI agent logged into LimeWire and performed a search using the keyword, “Lolitaguy,” which the court said was known to be associated with child pornography. With a proprietary software program that identifies and flags known images of child pornography, the agent used one of LimeWire’s features to download seven of 240 files being shared on the defendant’s IP address, four of which turned out to be child pornography.
Defendant Charles Borowy claimed the agents violated his Fourth Amendment rights, saying he had a reasonable expectation of privacy because the thought he had turned off the share feature. However, he pled guilty to the child pornography charges and was sentenced to 45 months in prison. The deal allowed him to seek appeal whether the search and seizure of his computer files was unlawful.
A conviction for possession of child pornography can carry up to a 20 year prison sentence. Upon the advice of his public defender, White is pleading guilty in the hopes of getting a three and a half year sentence. In addition, he would serve 10 years of probation and would be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
The FBI could not comment on White’s case but reportedly said that users who download child pornography accidentally need to call the authorities immediately. CBS says that Internet searches reveal a large number of complaints from people who say they have accidentally downloaded child pornography through LimeWire.
Anyone believing they have mistakenly or accidentally downloaded illegal material should contact a lawyer immediately for advice on their rights, obligations and how to proceed.
Just a few ‘Helps’ I’ve found on the internet of people who have and are worried.
HELP!!! Accidentally downloaded child porn off of LIMEWIRE!!!?
i was just downloading some pornos off of limewire last night, until i realized that some of it included children! im especially scared because i woke up and couldnt connect wirelessly to my network. did my ISP find out what i did and block me from entering their internet? please help, i am so terrified, i keep throwing up over it and cant eat im so scared, somebody please help! i dont want to go to jail, i swear i didnt realize it.
Is it possible that their could be a search warrant out for me right now? will i get into trouble later on down the road? my comp. cannot run system restore cause i just realized that it has been turned off.
one more thing, if my laptop gets “destroyed”, can i use the warranty to get a new one and start over, or do they take the old one and scan the hard drive?
sorry about all the questions in this one, but i really need some help on this. dont make fun of me or give horrible answers, it was a dumb move by me and i feel bad enough about it, thank you
I accidentally downloaded child porn off Limewire. Help!
Am I going to be arrested? I was downloading porn and just clicked the entire list, and hit download, and then later on when I came back and was going through them, I open one up and there’s nothing there, and I read what it’s called, and it has all these code words and “preteedn pedo” etc, and there was no file, so is that like something the cops made to catch people? Am I going to prison? I’m worried now. I hate LImewire. This stuff is stupid.
Omg i am so scared, I accidently downloaded a child porn picture ON ACCIDENT! I was downloading a lot of legal adult stuff, but when i opened one of the files it said “you have been pranked by the FBI, have a nice day”, so i figured that it must have been child porn. Then when i went back to see the text that comes up after you hold the mouse over the file for a few secs, I was shocked to see that it said all this sick CP stuff. The headline text was completely different! I am now extremely scared that the FBI is going to come knocking on my door or something. Has anybody ever accidently encountered the same problem as me???
Yes you can get arrested for accidentally opening child porn on limewire. My brother has been living with this nightmare and we are looking to find others that have been wrogly accused. my brother is not a criminal and has always lived as an extraordinary person, volunteering for various groups and charities. He is a well educated man with a successful career. While looking at adult porn on limewire he opened a file containing child porn and his life has been changed forever. He spent a night in prison, is a convicted felon and ow is a registered sex offender with nightly curfews and visits from the police. It is all very wrong when he is not a criminal and it is a flaw in the system of file sharing. Please is you know of any other cases please contact me and advise others to be careful….file sharing is dangerous!ok so he was downlaoding regular porn and a child porn image opened and he deleted it instantly and did not think much of it because he deleted it quickly. His computer then broke so he brought it in to be serviced and the image was discovered and reported to the police. Then 6 months later he started getting calls from a police detective…he travels for work so he was not always home. He was asked to come in and talk to them and then it all got rally scarry. We got a lawyer and when he went in they arrested him and held him for the night. The whole thing was out of control….his case was in the same court as real violent offenders…cold blooded murderers. It was a hellish experience for him and as we found out later his face was even on the news…all for an accidental download of one stupid image!!!! My advice to you is to destroy the computer if it breaks rather than have it serviced. I do not wish the experiences of my brother and family on anyone. Also many judges and lawyers are of an older generation (as are potential jurors) and are unfamiliar with the idea of file sharing and do not understand it. there was a computer forensics specialist involved but the image hung around in the hard drive despite the fact that it was deleted. this was all in the state of Illinois.
So now my brother is a convisted felon, on probation and a registered sex offender. He has a curfew and receives visits from the police at all hours of the night and weekly meeting with other sex offenders which he is finding to be traumatic more than anything.
He had not previus criminal history and had an impressive background and now his life may never be the same again. I hope I am able to help you in any way and answer your questions.
Oh man I’m really anxious, I hope someone responds.
Ok I’m 16, I live in australia, I was googling teen porn for the usual kind of thing you see of like 18+ (usually 20’s im guessing) year old girls or so >.< and anyway I came across a site with this term, probably first result on the list, and to my horror as I went through the pictures you could tell at least 1/4 of were kids. I immediately closed the site, and here I am now , googled “accidentally came across childporn” and started reading.
Ah god I’m really scared, I hope this doesn’t come down on me in any badway, I’ve been really paranoid, because even on tv here, they’ve been cracking down on CP and the IP’s of those in the CP rings, or possibly IP’s of those who view them.
I’m really scared, anyone give me some advice?
In june I was using Ares to do some “adult downloading” and as alot of you are aware, you have to download it before you can see it. I like to highlight and download in mass. Well this time I got alot of illegal child C%&P. I promptly deleted it, but forgot to empty my recycle bin. Guess what was found, and guess who was notified? Yep! I am curretly out on 25,000 bail awaiting my preliminary hearing…. My point, BEWARE OF WHAT YOU DOWNLOAD!!! As alot of people, I have a few minortrafic violations, but a clean record. Yet I get to deal with all of this… 3 months of H*LL…