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File-Sharing Programs: Peer-to-Peer Networks Provide Ready Access to Child Pornography

GAO-03-351 Published: Feb 20, 2003. Publicly Released: Mar 13, 2003.
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The availability of child pornography has dramatically increased in recent years as it has migrated from printed material to the World Wide Web, becoming accessible through Web sites, chat rooms, newsgroups, and now the increasingly popular peer-to-peer file-sharing programs. These programs enable direct communication between users, allowing users to access each other's files and share digital music, images, and video. GAO was requested to determine the ease of access to child pornography on peer-to-peer networks; the risk of inadvertent exposure of juvenile users of peer-to-peer networks to pornography, including child pornography; and the extent of federal law enforcement resources available for combating child pornography on peer-to-peer networks. Because child pornography cannot be accessed legally other than by law enforcement agencies, GAO worked with the Customs Cyber-Smuggling Center in performing searches: Customs downloaded and analyzed image files, and GAO performed analyses based on keywords and file names only. In commenting on a draft of this report, the Department of Justice agreed with the report's findings and provided additional information.

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Child abuseChildrenComputer crimesComputer networksCrime preventionFederal lawInternetLaw enforcementSexual abuseChild pornography