File Sharing Programs: The Use of Peer-to-Peer Networks to Access Pornography

GAO-05-634 Published: May 25, 2005. Publicly Released: Jun 27, 2005.
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Peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing programs represent a major change in the way Internet users find and exchange information. The increasingly popular P2P programs allow direct communication between computer users who can access and share digital music, images, and video files. These programs are known for having the functionality to share copyrighted digital music and movies, and they are also a conduit for sharing pornographic images and videos. Regarding these uses of P2P programs, GAO was asked to, among other things, determine how many P2P programs are available to the public and which are the most popular P2P programs; determine the ease of access to pornographic files on popular P2P programs and the risk of inadvertent exposure; describe how P2P program filters operate and determine their effectiveness; and determine how the effectiveness of filters offered by P2P programs compares to filters provided by leading Internet search engines. In commenting on a draft of this report, DHS officials agreed that that our report accurately represented the work performed by the Cyber Crimes Center.

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