The Pedophile as an Online Predator
The Internet presents an ideal vehicle for the pedophile to pursue his interests and obsession with children. Although it is clearly a source for the pedophile to initiate contact with children, the Internet is, first and foremost, a significant source of material and support for pedophilia, which serves to perpetuate and enhance the pedophiles pursuit of his interests and obsessions with children. The Internet is replete with secret networks of pedophiles who exchange pictures and stories of sexual interest and behavior between adults and children. Although most of these networks are well-hidden, identifiable sources such as the newsgroups alt.binaries.pictures.erotica.preteen (abpep-t) have presented openly available sources of child pornography to interested viewers. In fact, by late 2000, the abpep-t newsgroup “boasted some forty-thousand postings of young girls ranging from toddlers through adolescents”.
In addition to the use of the Internet for the production, manufacture and distribution of child pornography, the U.S. Department of Justice recognizes other methods that pedophiles use to contact and victimize children over the Internet including enticing children through online contact such as chat rooms and message boards for the purpose of engaging them in sexual acts, exposing children specifically to child pornography and encouraging them to exchange pictures of themselves and enticing and exploiting children for the purpose of sexual tourism, which is travel with the intent to engage in sexual behavior, either for commercial gain or personal gratification .
There are a number of ways that pedophiles are currently being discovered and prosecuted for using the Internet to act out their interest and obsession with children. For example, a substantial number of pedophiles and their activities have been discovered by computer repair personnel who have unexpectedly found themselves working on a computer hard drive that is filled with child pornography. It is important to note at this point that simply storing child pornography on a recordable device like a computer hard drive does not constitute an illegal act however evidence that the material is distributed or mutually exchanged with others does .