Are there sex­ual preda­tors in­side your com­puter?

The Compass - - OPINION -

Six months ago I warned read­ers about this. The In­ter­net is rapidly be­com­ing a pool of poi­son with sex­ual preda­tors in­side and New­found­land and Labrador is feel­ing the sting of its deathly venom.

True, the In­ter­net is a 90 per cent safe world wide ser­vice of­fered to av­er­age users like me. Un­for­tu­nately though, it’s a search en­gine for sick­en­ing weir­does who have legally signed up. It’s a place to ex­er­cise their sex­ual fan­tasies and they’re slick and tough to catch.

Th­ese days there are pow­er­ful new on­line con­nects - so­cially avail­able and of­ten mis­used. They in­clude Face book, U-Tube, My Space, Craigslist and most re­cently Twit­ter.

I’m not say­ing th­ese very pop­u­lar blogs are bad, why would I say that?

What I am say­ing is that th­ese on­line ser­vices are be­ing used for evil pur­poses, many of which are quite danger­ous for any­one to surf in my view.

Face­book is a so­cial util­ity that con­nects peo­ple with friends and oth­ers who work, study and live around them.

Utube is a ser­vice link­ing up two or more users to shop for bar­gains and things of mu­tual in­ter­est on­line.

Twit­ter is the fastest grow­ing so­cial net­work­ing tool avail­able on the In­ter­net to­day - a pow­er­ful mi­cro-blog­ging, free ser­vice that has changed the way many peo­ple com­mu­ni­cate.

Craigslist is a cen­tral­ized net­work­ing of on­line com­mu­ni­ties. It in­cludes free ad­ver­tis­ing, job searches, hous­ing avail­abil­i­ties and in­tern­ships.

My Space is a so­cial net­work­ing web­site tar­geted at a gen­eral au­di­ence in­clud­ing adults and teens.

The com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor here is peo­ple in con­tact with other peo­ple in­clud­ing friends and strangers.

Child porn sting in

Cor­ner Brook

On March 28 po­lice in New­found­land con­firmed one of the 57 (note 57) sus­pects rounded up ear­lier this week, as part of Project Salvo is a 13-year-old boy from Cor­ner Brook. Project Salvo is the na­tional in­ves­ti­ga­tion into In­ter­net-based child pornog­ra­phy.

The RNC press release said the boy is be­lieved to have been the op­er­a­tor of a com­puter in a pri­vate home. This dis­cov­ery was the re­sult of a search war­rant ex­e­cuted by the force’s child ex­ploita­tion unit. The boy’s iden­tity is pro­tected un­der the Youth Crim­i­nal Jus­tice Act. At the time of writ­ing this, no crim­i­nal charges have been laid. Those op­tions in­clude any­thing from a sim­ple warn­ing to prose­cu­tion of crim­i­nal charges.

For­mer RCMP of­fi­cer

The RCMP in Gan­der ar­rested a 72-year-old man charg­ing him with pos­ses­sion of child pornog­ra­phy. The ar­rest fol­lowed a search of a res­i­dence a few weeks ago. The de­fen­dant was re­leased and is sched­uled to ap­pear in pro­vin­cial court June 16. Iron­i­cally the ac­cused is a for­mer RCMP of­fi­cer.

Project Salvo

Project Salvo deemed the largest in­ves­ti­ga­tion of its kind in Cana­dian his­tory, fo­cused on In­ter­net ac­tiv­ity in which par­tic­i­pants ex­changed child porn. New­found­land and Labrador has been un­der scru­tiny for a long time.

It in­volved 23 high-tech in­ves­ti­ga­tions by the RCMP and 35 re­gional po­lice op­er­a­tions like the RNC across Canada. To date 71 search war­rants were is­sued and more than 100 crim­i­nal charges have been laid.

South of the bor­der

South of the bor­der in the United States, on March 26 I watched an NBC Date­line pro­gram de­signed to catch child mo­lesters be­fore they com­mit­ted their das­tardly act on chil­dren as young as 11 years. Th­ese men were all in their mid to late 40s, 50s and even 60s. Hid­den cam­eras and sur­prise in­ter­ven­tion led to their ar­rest. Adults pos­ing on­line as young boys and girls made con­tact with th­ese weir­does.

One ex­am­ple: a guy told a boy he was an 18-year-old girl looking for a friend. He went to the boy’s house and un­der­cover po­lice cam­eras (and NBC-TV) caught him at­tempt­ing to make con­tact in the fam­ily liv­ing room.

Po­lice moved in quickly cuffed the perp. and read him his rights. The dis­turb­ing thing to me, and I sug­gest for every­one watch­ing the pro­gram, was the de­fen­dant had pre­vi­ously been ar­rested for other crimes and was out on pa­role. The court sen­tenced him to five years in prison.

An­other ex­am­ple

In the March 25 Wash­ing­ton Post there was a story: On­line tor­men­tor eludes pu­n­ish­ment. Here is the gist of the story told by re­porter Marc Fisher. It is a clear ex­am­ple of what I’ve been try­ing to say for the past year.

“First came the phone calls; men, strangers, telling Bar­bara God­dard they’d seen her per­sonal ad on Craigslist and were ea­ger to come over for her promised ca­sual en­counter.

“Later that week, men started show­ing up at God­dard’s door in Re­ston, Va., ready for an evening of ran­dom sex.

“I’m here in an­swer to your ad on Craigslist,” they’d say.“You’ve been set up,” Ms God­dard would tell them. By that time she’d fig­ured out what was hap­pen­ing - some preda­tor was post­ing of­fers in her name on an on­line mes­sage board, giv­ing her home ad­dress.

Called po­lice

God­dard called Fair­fax County Po­lice, who tried step­ping up pa­trols, even post­ing an of­fi­cer in­side her apart­ment. Still, the men kept com­ing. Both God­dard, 65, and the po­lice say they had a good idea who was be­hind this cruel cy­ber scheme, but de­spite months of ef­fort, noth- ing has been done.

The men who came can­not be ar­rested. Tech­ni­cally lawyers say they’ve been in­vited. To date the per­son be­hind the phony in­vi­ta­tions re­mains un­charged be­cause the laws pro­tect­ing peo­ple from such at­tacks aren’t tough enough; cul­prits make them­selves into phan­toms, chang­ing e-mail ad­dresses and their iden­ti­ties by the minute; and be­cause the Web site own­ers used for such ha­rass­ment re­sist hand­ing over cus­tomer records.

Still vul­ner­a­ble

“We all agree there’s a huge void in the law,” said Fair­fax County Su­per­vi­sor Cathy Hud­gins, who helped God­dard win at­ten­tion from the po­lice depart­ment’s fraud squad in Vir­ginia.

No mat­ter what vic­tim­ized God­dard said or did, she could not get the sit­u­a­tion re­solved leav­ing her still vul­ner­a­ble to th­ese on­line In­ter­net ha­rassers - ac­cord­ing to the Wash­ing­ton Post story.

Au­thor­i­ties warn now is the time for par­ents to be ex­tremely cau­tious and aware of what their chil­dren are do­ing on­line. Dili­gence is the key word and that must be ex­er­cised ev­ery day.

Re­mem­ber, knowl­edge, com­mon sense and cau­tion mean safe surf­ing!

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