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 child pornography-related 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