FBI Briefly Ran One Of The Largest Child Pornography Sites To Catch Users

AP

The FBI ran a large child pornography website for almost two weeks last year in order to catch users who were downloading photographs and videos of children, USA Today reported Thursday.

The Justice Department revealed in court documents that the FBI ran the site, known as “Playpen,” from Feb. 20 to March 4, 2015. It was at least the third time that the FBI has kept a child porn site live after taking control of it in order to catch users, the newspaper reported.

When the FBI took over the site, there were 215,000 registered users and links to more than 23,000 sexually explicit images and videos on the site. Users could also download more than 9,000 files directly from the FBI, according to the report.

The Justice Department had previously avoided such tactics to combat child pornography, arguing that a child is harmed each time the images are viewed. But officials told USA Today that there was no other way to identify site users.

“We had a window of opportunity to get into one of the darkest places on Earth, and not a lot of other options except to not do it,” Ron Hosko, a former senior FBI official, told the newspaper. “There was no other way we could identify as many players.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sara Jerde is a newswriter based in New York. Her bylines have appeared in The Star-Ledger, The Chronicle of Higher Education and The Columbus Dispatch. She graduated from Ohio University. Send emails to sara@talkingpointsmemo.com and follow her @SaraJerde.

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