Characterization of Contact Offenders and Child Exploitation Material Trafficking on Five Peer-to-Peer Networks

Abstract

We provide detailed measurement of the illegal trade in child exploitation material (CEM, also known as child pornography) from mid-2011 through 2014 on five popular peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing networks. We characterize several observations: counts of peers tracking in CEM; the proportion of arrested trackers that were identified during the investigation as committing contact sexual offenses against children; trends in the tracking of sexual images of sadistic acts and infants or toddlers; the relationship between such content and contact offenders; and survival rates of CEM. In the 5 P2P networks we examined, we estimate there were recently about 840,000 unique installations per month of P2P programs sharing CEM worldwide. We estimate that about 3 in 10,000 Internet users worldwide were sharing CEM in a given month; rates vary per country. We found an overall month-to-month decline in tracking of CEM during our study. By surveying law enforcement we determined that 9.5% of persons arrested for P2P-based CEM trafficking on the studied networks were identified during the investigation as having sexually offended against children online. Rates per network varied, ranging from 8% of arrests for CEM tracking on Gnutella to 21% on BitTorrent. Within BitTorrent, where law enforcement applied their own measure of content severity, the rate of contact offenses among peers sharing the most-severe CEM (29%) was higher than those sharing the least-severe CEM (15%). Although the persistence of CEM on the networks varied, it generally survived for long periods of time; e.g., BitTorrent CEM had a survival rate near 100%.

Publication
Elsevier Child Abuse & Neglect
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