Though it is universally agreed that child pornography is harmful, criminal
and deserving of punishment, in recent years it has become increasingly
difficult to know exactly who should be punished, and how far that punishment
should go. The rise of the Internet means that images can be shared quickly,
all over the world, and a single click is often all that separates an
Internet user from a criminal. It’s easy, then, for a moment’s
bad decision to turn into a prosecution that can haunt a person for the
rest of his or her life.
Prosecution of child pornography becomes even more difficult when it comes
to the owners of web hosting sites. Recently, the FBI ran a hacking operation
against an anonymous web hosting service, revealing the identity of the
service’s owner. The man was arrested in Ireland and charged with
sex crimes; he may be extradited to Maryland later this month.
The man ran Tor, a web service that allowed users to anonymously share
data. Like all web services, Tor was used for both good and bad: Though
it was occasionally used to share illegal pornography, it was also used
for legitimate purposes, such as whistleblowing and international journalism.
After the FBI hacking, however, many of Tor’s users were identified,
leading to the arrest of the service’s Irish-American owner. The
FBI has called the man “the world’s biggest ‘enabler’
of violent child porn.”
The man never condoned the spread of child pornography on Tor, however,
leading some to question whether he deserves the negative reputation the
FBI has given him. This is something that will likely be decided by the
courts, which will have to decide whether the web host is responsible
for the content added to his service.
This story illustrates how difficult and complicated sex crimes can be
in the Internet age, as some people find themselves accused of crimes
for which they do not believe they are responsible. Those who have been
accused of such crimes should consider speaking to a defense attorney,
who can help explain the legalities of the situation and present options
for the future.
The Baltimore Sun, “Eric Eoin Marques remains in Ireland for another week, and Tor users remain in limbo” Tim Swift, Aug. 08, 2013