U.K. Pedophile Stings Strain Resources

LONDON – According to reports, British authorities are becoming overwhelmed by the growing caseload of child porn surfers as the result of an ongoing web sting and international intelligence-sharing.

CleanFeed is the largest of several filtering programs approved by British Telecom. The program shunts Internet requests to known pedophile sites to an error page and caches the IP or machine address of the user attempting to view illegal content. It also displays a warning that a user’s information has now been captured and prosecution might ensue. Because of this and Operation Ore, a pedophile data partnership with the United States, British police are suffering from a nine-month backlog of investigations with 800 cases pending.

Authorities say they are buckling under the programs’ success.

Surveys conducted in the U.K. show solid support for the sting operation, with only trace amounts of uneasiness about threats to privacy. Operation Ore has resulted in an 85 percent arrest rate of people whose hard drives and homes were searched. The investigations have led to 35 suicides among suspects.

In addition to the apprehension of child porn consumers, authorities are targeting the owners of websites. The Virtual Global Taskforce, a multinational Internet-monitoring organization, estimates that 55 percent of pedophile sites are for-profit with links to organized crime.

"With those people trying to make money from this, we have already started targeting their websites and we are following where the money goes,” said VGTF director Jim Gamble. “We are working systematically to identify and rescue children involved, have these people prosecuted in the countries that they are operating from and seize their houses and their funds."

Gamble admits that CleanFeed is only as good as its list of offending sites, and that it does not track email use or FTP servers. The program, which cost approximately $115K, is also being adopted by AOL and Europe’s Vodafone. It includes several “honey traps,” which are fake websites designed to snare casual child porn surfers.