When Police Run Child Porn Websites

One of the biggest child porn websites, Child’s Play, was operated by the Australian police force. (Image:  VG /  CC0 1.0)
One of the biggest child porn websites, Child’s Play, was operated by the Australian police force. (Image: VG / CC0 1.0)

If you believe that child porn websites are usually run by pedophiles, then you are in for a shock. Law enforcement agencies have been known to run such sites in order to capture child abusers and potentials. One of the biggest child porn websites, Child’s Play, was operated by the Australian police force.

Child’s Play

A Norwegian tabloid, Verdens Gang (VG), discovered the shocking fact that Child’s Play was being run by the Australian law enforcement. When confronted, the department revealed the truth of the matter and asked the reporters not to publish anything until the police gave them the green signal.

The police had been operating the website from October 2016. At that time, Child’s Play was one of the most popular child porn websites in the world, with more than a million accounts. Images of child rape and torture were gleefully shared by the members. The Australian police had tracked and arrested one of the moderators of the site, eventually impersonating him and gaining access to the members who were sharing child abuse pics and videos.  

Understanding the good intentions behind the operation, VG agreed not to publish the story until the police finished their task. In September 2017, Child’s Play was quietly shut down by the police. And soon after, VG published its story. By then, the officers had collected all the information they needed about the pedophile members of the website.

The Australian task force that ran the operation had prepared a list of about 90 targets who were involved in serious child abuse crimes on the website. Another country had a list of 900 people they wanted to arrest. In Canada, the police were able to rescue more than a dozen children. They also referred about 100 cases to other nations.

But despite the success of the police, the entire operations raises a serious moral question — should the police be allowed to do a criminal activity just so that they can catch a criminal?  

But despite success of the police, the entire operations raises a serious moral question – should the police be allowed to do a criminal activity just so that they can catch a criminal? (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

But despite the success of the police, the entire operations raises a serious moral question — should the police be allowed to do a criminal activity just so that they can catch a criminal? (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

The moral problem

In the U.S., the FBI had conducted a similar operation by running the child porn website Playpen in 2015. The agency succeeded in arresting a few miscreants who had shared and downloaded child pornography. But when the case went to court, the lawyers of the accused made the FBI look like an immoral, illegal outfit for peddling child porn.

“Not only was the government the largest distributor of child pornography… it was also the largest exploiter of children… This conduct is the essence of outrageousness, and a serious need for deterrence exists,” the Dallas News quotes the lawyer.

A judge who had overseen one of the cases also remarked about how immoral it was for the FBI to distribute child porn and concluded that the agency had re-victimized hundreds of children in the process, using them as a bait to catch pedophiles. “The only justification for the acts of the government… is that the ends justifies the means,” the Seattle Times quotes the judge.

A judge who had overseen one of the cases also remarked about how immoral it was for the FBI to distribute child porn and concluded that the agency had re-victimized hundreds of children in the process, using them as a bait to catch pedophiles. (Image: U.S. Air Force / CC0 1.0)

And that is what the entire ethical dilemma of such operations boil down to — does the end justify the means? Idealists may take an absolutist stand by vehemently opposing such practices. But the reality is that this world is filled with many deranged people who are a threat to our children.

Unfortunately, such perverts live among us, talk with us, and share joys with us just like any other normal person. The only time such people truly exhibit their real perversion is when they log online. As such, the only way for the police to identify and catch such criminals is by supplying them what they need.

According to data from the FBI, more than 441,000 citizens under the age of 18 were reported to be missing in 2017 alone. Most of them, especially the younger ones, will possibly be trafficked into child porn and prostitution. If the police can arrest pedophiles by operating child porn websites, then hundreds and thousands of children will avoid getting victimized and robbed of their innocence. And from this viewpoint, many believe that there is a justification for this approach.

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