File-Sharing Programs: Child Pornography Is Readily Accessible over Peer-to-Peer Networks

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2003-03-13.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                          United States General Accounting Office

GAO                       Testimony
                          Before the Committee on Government
                          Reform, House of Representatives

For Release on Delivery
Expected at 10 a.m. EST
on Thursday
March 13, 2003
                          Child Pornography Is
                          Readily Accessible over
                          Peer-to-Peer Networks
                          Statement of Linda D. Koontz
                          Director, Information Management Issues

                                                March 13, 2003

                                                FILE-SHARING PROGRAMS

                                                Child Pornography Is Readily Accessible
Highlights of GAO-03-537T, a testimony          over Peer-to-Peer Networks
before the Committee on Government
Reform, House of Representatives

The availability of child                       Child pornography is easily found and downloaded from peer-to-peer
pornography has dramatically                    networks. In one search, using 12 keywords known to be associated with
increased in recent years as it has             child pornography on the Internet, GAO identified 1,286 titles and file names,
migrated from printed material to               determining that 543 (about 42 percent) were associated with child
the World Wide Web, becoming                    pornography images. Of the remaining, 34 percent were classified as adult
accessible through Web sites, chat
rooms, newsgroups, and now the
                                                pornography and 24 percent as nonpornographic. In another search using
increasingly popular peer-to-peer               three keywords, a Customs analyst downloaded 341 images, of which 149
file-sharing programs. These                    (about 44 percent) contained child pornography (see the figure below).
programs enable direct                          These results are consistent with increased reports of child pornography on
communication between users,                    peer-to-peer networks; since it began tracking these in 2001, the National
allowing users to access each                   Center for Missing and Exploited Children has seen a fourfold increase—
other’s files and share digital                 from 156 reports in 2001 to 757 in 2002. Although the numbers are as yet
music, images, and video.                       small by comparison to those for other sources (26,759 reports of child
                                                pornography on Web sites in 2002), the increase is significant.
GAO was requested to determine
the ease of access to child                     Juvenile users of peer-to-peer networks are at significant risk of inadvertent
pornography on peer-to-peer
networks; the risk of inadvertent
                                                exposure to pornography, including child pornography. Searches on
exposure of juvenile users of peer-             innocuous keywords likely to be used by juveniles (such as names of
to-peer networks to pornography,                cartoon characters or celebrities) produced a high proportion of
including child pornography; and                pornographic images: in our searches, the retrieved images included adult
the extent of federal law                       pornography (34 percent), cartoon pornography (14 percent), child erotica
enforcement resources available                 (7 percent), and child pornography (1 percent).
for combating child pornography
on peer-to-peer networks. GAO’s                 While federal law enforcement agencies—including the FBI, Justice’s Child
report on the results of this work              Exploitation and Obscenity Section, and Customs—are devoting resources
(GAO-03-351) is being released                  to combating child exploitation and child pornography in general, these
today along with this testimony.                agencies do not track the resources dedicated to specific technologies used
Because child pornography cannot
                                                to access and download child pornography on the Internet. Therefore, GAO
be accessed legally other than by               was unable to quantify the resources devoted to investigating cases on peer-
law enforcement agencies, GAO                   to-peer networks. According to law enforcement officials, however, as tips
worked with the Customs Cyber-                  concerning child pornography on peer-to-peer networks escalate, law
Smuggling Center in performing                  enforcement resources are increasingly being focused on this area.
searches: Customs downloaded
and analyzed image files, and GAO               Classification of Images Downloaded through Peer-to-Peer File-Sharing Program
performed analyses based on
keywords and file names only.


To view the full testimony, click on the link
For more information, contact Linda Koontz at
(202) 512-6240 or koontzl@gao.gov.
                       Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee:

                       Thank you for inviting us to discuss the results of our work on the
                       availability of child pornography on peer-to-peer networks, which we
                       provided to you in a report being released today.1

                       In recent years, child pornography has become increasingly available as it
                       has migrated from magazines, photographs, and videos to the World Wide
                       Web. As you know, a great strength of the Internet is that it includes a
                       wide range of search and retrieval technologies that make finding
                       information fast and easy. However, this capability also makes it easy to
                       access, disseminate, and trade pornographic images and videos, including
                       child pornography. As a result, child pornography has become accessible
                       through Web sites, chat rooms, newsgroups, and the increasingly popular
                       peer-to-peer technology, a form of networking that allows direct
                       communication between computer users so that they can access and share
                       each other’s files (including images, video, and software).

                       As requested, in my remarks today, I summarize the results of our review,
                       whose objectives were to determine

                   •    the ease of access to child pornography on peer-to-peer networks;
                   •    the risk of inadvertent exposure of juvenile users of peer-to-peer networks
                       to pornography, including child pornography; and
                   •    the extent of federal law enforcement resources available for combating
                       child pornography on peer-to-peer networks.

                       We also include an attachment that briefly discusses how peer-to-peer file
                       sharing works.

                       It is easy to access and download child pornography over peer-to-peer
Results in Brief       networks. We used KaZaA, a popular peer-to-peer file-sharing program,2 to
                       search for image files, using 12 keywords known to be associated with

                        U.S. General Accounting Office, File-Sharing Programs: Peer-to-Peer Networks Provide
                       Ready Access to Child Pornography, GAO-03-351 (Washington, D.C.: Feb. 20, 2003).
                        Other popular peer-to-peer applications include Gnutella, BearShare, LimeWire, and

                       Page 1                                                                     GAO-03-537T
child pornography on the Internet.3 Of 1,286 items identified in our search,
about 42 percent were associated with child pornography images. The
remaining items included 34 percent classified as adult pornography and
24 percent as nonpornographic. In another KaZaA search, the Customs
CyberSmuggling Center used three keywords to search for and download
child pornography image files. This search identified 341 image files, of
which about 44 percent were classified as child pornography and 29
percent as adult pornography. The remaining images were classified as
child erotica4 (13 percent) or other (nonpornographic) images (14
percent). These results are consistent with observations of the National
Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which has stated that peer-to-
peer technology is increasingly popular for disseminating child
pornography. Since 2001, when the center began to track reports of child
pornography on peer-to-peer networks, such reports have increased more
than fourfold—from 156 in 2001 to 757 in 2002.

When searching and downloading images on peer-to-peer networks,
juvenile users can be inadvertently exposed to pornography, including
child pornography. In searches on innocuous keywords likely to be used
by juveniles, we obtained images that included a high proportion of
pornography: in our searches, the retrieved images included adult
pornography (34 percent), cartoon pornography5 (14 percent), and child
pornography (1 percent); another 7 percent of the images were classified
as child erotica.

We could not quantify the extent of federal law enforcement resources
available for combating child pornography on peer-to-peer networks. Law
enforcement agencies that work to combat child exploitation and child
pornography do not track their resource use according to specific Internet
technologies. However, law enforcement officials told us that as they
receive more tips concerning child pornography on peer-to-peer networks,
they are focusing more resources in this area.

 The U.S. Customs CyberSmuggling Center assisted us in this work. Because child
pornography cannot be accessed legally other than by law enforcement agencies, we relied
on Customs to download and analyze image files. We performed analyses based on titles
and file names only.
    Erotic images of children that do not depict sexually explicit conduct.
    Images of cartoon characters depicting sexually explicit conduct.

Page 2                                                                        GAO-03-537T
             Child pornography is prohibited by federal statutes, which provide for civil
Background   and criminal penalties for its production, advertising, possession, receipt,
             distribution, and sale.6 Defined by statute as the visual depiction of a
             minor—a person under 18 years of age—engaged in sexually explicit
             conduct,7 child pornography is unprotected by the First Amendment,8 as it
             is intrinsically related to the sexual abuse of children.

             In the Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1996,9 Congress sought to
             prohibit images that are or appear to be “of a minor engaging in sexually
             explicit conduct” or are “advertised, promoted, presented, described, or
             distributed in such a manner that conveys the impression that the material
             is or contains a visual depiction of a minor engaging in sexually explicit
             conduct.” In 2002, the Supreme Court struck down this legislative attempt
             to ban “virtual” child pornography10 in Ashcroft v. The Free Speech
             Coalition, ruling that the expansion of the act to material that did not
             involve and thus harm actual children in its creation is an unconstitutional
             violation of free speech rights. According to government officials, this
             ruling may increase the difficulty of prosecuting those who produce and
             possess child pornography. Defendants may claim that pornographic
             images are of “virtual” children, thus requiring the government to establish
             that the children shown in these digital images are real.

                 See chapter 110 of Title 18, United States Code.
                 See 18 U.S.C. § 2256(8).
                 See New York v. Ferber, 458 U.S. 747 (1982).
                 Section 121, P.L. 104-208, 110 Stat. 3009-26.
               According to the Justice Department, rapidly advancing technology has raised the
             possibility of creating images of child pornography without the use of a real child (“virtual”
             child pornography). Totally virtual creations would be both time-intensive and, for now,
             prohibitively costly to produce. However, the technology has led to a ready defense (the
             “virtual” porn defense) against prosecution under laws that are limited to sexually explicit
             depictions of actual minors. Because the technology exists today to alter images to
             disguise the identity of the real child or make the image seem computer-generated,
             producers and distributors of child pornography may try to alter depictions of actual
             children in slight ways to make them appear to be “virtual” (as well as unidentifiable),
             thereby attempting to defeat prosecution. Making such alterations is much easier and
             cheaper than building an entirely computer-generated image.

             Page 3                                                                         GAO-03-537T
The Internet Has Emerged    Historically, pornography, including child pornography, tended to be
as the Principal Tool for   found mainly in photographs, magazines, and videos.11 With the advent of
Exchanging Child            the Internet, however, both the volume and the nature of available child
                            pornography have changed significantly. The rapid expansion of the
Pornography                 Internet and its technologies, the increased availability of broadband
                            Internet services, advances in digital imaging technologies, and the
                            availability of powerful digital graphic programs have led to a proliferation
                            of child pornography on the Internet.

                            According to experts, pornographers have traditionally exploited—and
                            sometimes pioneered—emerging communication technologies—from the
                            dial-in bulletin board systems of the 1970s to the World Wide Web—to
                            access, trade, and distribute pornography, including child pornography.12
                            Today, child pornography is available through virtually every Internet
                            technology (see table 1).

                             John Carr, Theme Paper on Child Pornography for the 2nd World Congress on
                            Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, NCH Children’s Charities, Children &
                            Technology Unit (Yokohama, 2001).
                              Frederick E. Allen, “When Sex Drives Technological Innovation and Why It Has to,”
                            American Heritage Magazine, vol. 51, no. 5 (September 2000), p. 19.
                            Allen notes that pornographers have driven the development of some of the Internet
                            technologies, including the development of systems used to verify on-line financial
                            transactions and that of digital watermarking technology to prevent the unauthorized use
                            of on-line images.

                            Page 4                                                                      GAO-03-537T
Table 1: Internet Technologies Providing Access to Child Pornography

 Technology           Characteristics
 World Wide Web       Web sites provide on-line access to text and multimedia materials
                      identified and accessed through the uniform resource locator
 Usenet               A distributed electronic bulletin system, Usenet offers over 80,000
                      newsgroups, with many newsgroups dedicated to sharing of digital
 Peer-to-peer file-   Internet applications operating over peer-to-peer networks enable
 sharing programs     direct communication between users. Used largely for sharing of
                      digital music, images, and video, peer-to-peer applications include
                      BearShare, Gnutella, LimeWire, and KaZaA. KaZaA is the most
                      popular, with over 3 million KaZaA users sharing files at any time.
 E-mail               E-mail allows the transmission of messages over a network or the
                      Internet. Users can send E-mail to a single recipient or broadcast it
                      to multiple users. E-mail supports the delivery of attached files,
                      including image files.
 Instant messaging    Instant messaging is not a dial-up system like the telephone; it
                      requires that both parties be on line at the same time. AOL’s
                      Instant Messenger and Microsoft’s MSN Messenger and Internet
                      Relay Chat are the major instant messaging services. Users may
                      exchange files, including image files.
 Chat and Internet    Chat technologies allow computer conferencing using the
 Relay Chat           keyboard over the Internet between two or more people.
Source: GAO.

Among the principal channels for the distribution of child pornography are
commercial Web sites, Usenet newsgroups, and peer-to-peer networks.13

Web sites. According to recent estimates, there are about 400,000
commercial pornography Web sites worldwide,14 with some of the sites
selling pornographic images of children. The child pornography trade on
the Internet is not only profitable, it has a worldwide reach: recently a
child pornography ring was uncovered that included a Texas-based firm
providing credit card billing and password access services for one Russian
and two Indonesian child pornography Web sites. According to the U.S.

  According to Department of Justice officials, other forums and technologies are used to
disseminate pornography on the Internet. These include Web portal communities such as
Yahoo! Groups and MSN Groups, as well as file servers operating on Internet Relay Chat
  Dick Thornburgh and Herbert S. Lin, editors, Youth, Pornography, and The Internet
(Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 2002).

Page 5                                                                       GAO-03-537T
                             Postal Inspection Service, the ring grossed as much as $1.4 million in just 1
                             month selling child pornography to paying customers.

                             Usenet. Usenet newsgroups also provide access to pornography, with
                             several of the image-oriented newsgroups being focused on child erotica
                             and child pornography. These newsgroups are frequently used by
                             commercial pornographers who post “free” images to advertise adult and
                             child pornography available for a fee from their Web sites.

                             Peer-to-peer networks. Although peer-to-peer file-sharing programs are
                             largely known for the extensive sharing of copyrighted digital music,15 they
                             are emerging as a conduit for the sharing of pornographic images and
                             videos, including child pornography. In a recent study by congressional
                             staff,16 a single search for the term “porn” using a file-sharing program
                             yielded over 25,000 files. In another study, focused on the availability of
                             pornographic video files on peer-to-peer sharing networks, a sample of 507
                             pornographic video files retrieved with a file-sharing program included
                             about 3.7 percent child pornography videos. 17

Several Agencies Have        Table 2 shows the key national organizations and agencies that are
Law Enforcement              currently involved in efforts to combat child pornography on peer-to-peer
Responsibilities Regarding   networks.
Child Pornography on
Peer-to-Peer Networks

                               According to the Yankee Group, a technology research and consulting firm, Internet
                             users aged 14 and older downloaded 5.16 billion audio files in the United States via
                             unlicensed file-sharing services in 2001.
                               Minority Staff, Children’s Access to Pornography through Internet File-Sharing
                             Programs, Special Investigations Division, Committee on Government Reform, U.S. House
                             of Representatives (July 27, 2001).
                               Michael D. Mehta, Don Best, and Nancy Poon, “Peer-to-Peer Sharing on the Internet: An
                             Analysis of How Gnutella Networks Are Used to Distribute Pornographic Material,”
                             Canadian Journal of Law and Technology, vol. 1, no. 1 (January 2002).

                             Page 6                                                                     GAO-03-537T
Table 2: Organizations and Agencies Involved with Peer-to-Peer Child Pornography Efforts

Agency                        Unit                              Focus
National Center for Missing   Exploited Child Unit              Works with the Customs Service, Postal Service, and the FBI to
and Exploited Children                                          analyze and investigate child pornography leads.
Federal entities
Department of Justice         Federal Bureau of                 Proactively investigates crimes against children. Operates a national
                              Investigation                     “Innocent Images Initiative” to combat Internet-related sexual
                                                                exploitation of children.
                              Criminal Division, Child          Is a specialized group of attorneys who, among other things,
                              Exploitation and Obscenity        prosecute those who possess, manufacture, or distribute child
                              Section                           pornography. Its High Tech Investigative Unit actively conducts on-line
                                                                investigations to identify distributors of obscenity and child
Department of Homeland        U.S. Customs Service              Conducts international child pornography investigations as part of its
                                                    a, b
Security                      CyberSmuggling Center             mission to investigate international criminal activity conducted on or
                                                                facilitated by the Internet.
Department of the Treasury    U.S. Secret Service               Provides forensic and technical assistance in matters involving
                                                                missing and sexually exploited children.
                                          Source: GAO.
                                           Agency has staff assigned to NCMEC.
                                          At the time of our review, the Customs Service was under the Department of the Treasury. Under the
                                          Homeland Security Act of 2002, it became part of the new Department of Homeland Security on
                                          March 1, 2003.

                                          The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), a
                                          federally funded nonprofit organization, serves as a national resource
                                          center for information related to crimes against children. Its mission is to
                                          find missing children and prevent child victimization. The center’s
                                          Exploited Child Unit operates the CyberTipline, which receives child
                                          pornography tips provided by the public; its CyberTipline II also receives
                                          tips from Internet service providers. The Exploited Child Unit investigates
                                          and processes tips to determine if the images in question constitute a
                                          violation of child pornography laws. The CyberTipline provides
                                          investigative leads to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), U.S.
                                          Customs, the Postal Inspection Service, and state and local law
                                          enforcement agencies. The FBI and the U.S. Customs also investigate
                                          leads from Internet service providers via the Exploited Child Unit’s
                                          CyberTipline II. The FBI, Customs Service, Postal Inspection Service, and
                                          Secret Service have staff assigned directly to NCMEC as analysts.18

                                               According to the Secret Service, its staff assigned to NCMEC also includes an agent.

                                          Page 7                                                                            GAO-03-537T
    Two organizations in the Department of Justice have responsibilities
    regarding child pornography: the FBI and the Justice Criminal Division’s
    Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS).19

•   The FBI investigates various crimes against children, including federal
    child pornography crimes involving interstate or foreign commerce. It
    deals with violations of child pornography laws related to the production
    of child pornography; selling or buying children for use in child
    pornography; and the transportation, shipment, or distribution of child
    pornography by any means, including by computer.
•   CEOS prosecutes child sex offenses and trafficking in women and children
    for sexual exploitation. Its mission includes prosecution of individuals
    who possess, manufacture, produce, or distribute child pornography; use
    the Internet to lure children to engage in prohibited sexual conduct; or
    traffic in women and children interstate or internationally to engage in
    sexually explicit conduct.

    Two other organizations have responsibilities regarding child
    pornography: the Customs Service (now part of the Department of
    Homeland Security) and the Secret Service in the Department of the

•   The Customs Service targets illegal importation and trafficking in child
    pornography and is the country’s front line of defense in combating child
    pornography distributed through various channels, including the Internet.
    Customs is involved in cases with international links, focusing on
    pornography that enters the United States from foreign countries. The
    Customs CyberSmuggling Center has the lead in the investigation of
    international and domestic criminal activities conducted on or facilitated
    by the Internet, including the sharing and distribution of child
    pornography on peer-to-peer networks. Customs maintains a reporting
    link with NCMEC, and it acts on tips received via the CyberTipline from
    callers reporting instances of child pornography on Web sites, Usenet
    newsgroups, chat rooms, or the computers of users of peer-to-peer
    networks. The center also investigates leads from Internet service
    providers via the Exploited Child Unit’s CyberTipline II.

      Two additional Justice agencies are involved in combating child pornography: the U.S.
    Attorneys Offices and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. The 94
    U.S. Attorneys Offices can prosecute federal child exploitation-related cases; the Office of
    Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention funds the Internet Crimes Against Children
    Task Force Program, which encourages multijurisdictional and multiagency responses to
    crimes against children involving the Internet.

    Page 8                                                                         GAO-03-537T
                       •   The U.S. Secret Service does not investigate child pornography cases on
                           peer-to-peer networks; however, it does provide forensic and technical
                           support to NCMEC, as well as to state and local agencies involved in cases
                           of missing and exploited children.

                           Child pornography is easily shared and accessed through peer-to-peer file-
Peer-to-Peer               sharing programs. Our analysis of 1,286 titles and file names identified
Applications Provide       through KaZaA searches on 12 keywords20 showed that 543 (about 42
                           percent) of the images had titles and file names associated with child
Easy Access to Child       pornography images.21 Of the remaining files, 34 percent were classified as
Pornography                adult pornography, and 24 percent as nonpornographic (see fig. 1). No
                           files were downloaded for this analysis.

                           Figure 1: Classification of 1,286 Titles and File Names of Images Identified in KaZaA

                             The 12 keywords were provided by the Cybersmuggling Center as examples known to be
                           associated with child pornography on the Internet.
                             We categorized a file as child pornography if one keyword indicating a minor and one
                           word with a sexual connotation occurred in either the title or file name. Files with sexual
                           connotation in title or name but without age indicators were classified as adult

                           Page 9                                                                        GAO-03-537T
The ease of access to child pornography files was further documented by
retrieval and analysis of image files, performed on our behalf by the
Customs CyberSmuggling Center. Using 3 of the 12 keywords that we used
to document the availability of child pornography files, a CyberSmuggling
Center analyst used KaZaA to search, identify, and download 305 files,
including files containing multiple images and duplicates. The analyst was
able to download 341 images from the 305 files identified through the
KaZaA search.

The CyberSmuggling Center analysis of the 341 downloaded images
showed that 149 (about 44 percent) of the downloaded images contained
child pornography (see fig. 2). The center classified the remaining images
as child erotica (13 percent), adult pornography (29 percent), or
nonpornographic (14 percent).

Figure 2: Classification of 341 Images Downloaded through KaZaA

Note: GAO analysis of data provided by the Customs CyberSmuggling Center.

These results are consistent with the observations of NCMEC, which has
stated that peer-to-peer technology is increasingly popular for the
dissemination of child pornography. However, it is not the most prominent
source for child pornography. As shown in table 3, since 1998, most of the
child pornography referred by the public to the CyberTipline was found on
Internet Web sites. Since 1998, the center has received over 76,000 reports
of child pornography, of which 77 percent concerned Web sites, and only
1 percent concerned peer-to-peer networks. Web site referrals have grown
from about 1,400 in 1998 to over 26,000 in 2002—or about a nineteenfold

Page 10                                                                     GAO-03-537T
                      increase. NCMEC did not track peer-to-peer referrals until 2001. In 2002,
                      peer-to-peer referrals increased more than fourfold, from 156 to 757,
                      reflecting the increased popularity of file-sharing programs.

                      Table 3: NCMEC CyberTipline Referrals to Law Enforcement Agencies, Fiscal Years

                                                                                                     Number of tips
                       Technology                                                1998            1999     2000        2001     2002
                       Web sites                                                 1,393           3,830  10,629      18,052   26,759
                       E-mail                                                      117             165     120       1,128    6,245
                       Peer-to-peer                                                 —               —        —         156      757
                       Usenet newsgroups & bulletin                                531             987     731         990      993
                       Unknown                                                      90             258       260      430       612
                       Chat rooms                                                  155             256       176      125       234
                       Instant Messaging                                            27              47        50       80        53
                       File Transfer Protocol                                       25              26        58       64        23
                       Total                                                     2,338           5,569    12,024   21,025    35,676
                      Source: Exploited Child Unit, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

                      Juvenile users of peer-to-peer networks face a significant risk of
Juvenile Users of     inadvertent exposure to pornography when searching and downloading
Peer-to-Peer          images. In a search using innocuous keywords likely to be used by
                      juveniles searching peer-to-peer networks (such as names of popular
Applications May Be   singers, actors, and cartoon characters), almost half the images
Inadvertently         downloaded were classified as adult or cartoon pornography. Juvenile
                      users may also be inadvertently exposed to child pornography through
Exposed to            such searches, but the risk of such exposure is smaller than that of
Pornography           exposure to pornography in general.

                      To document the risk of inadvertent exposure of juvenile users to
                      pornography, the Customs CyberSmuggling Center performed KaZaA
                      searches using innocuous keywords likely to be used by juveniles. The
                      center image searches used three keywords representing the names of a
                      popular female singer, child actors, and a cartoon character. A center
                      analyst performed the search, retrieval, and analysis of the images. These
                      searches produced 157 files, some of which were duplicates. From these
                      157 files, the analyst was able to download 177 images.

                      Figure 3 shows our analysis of the CyberSmuggling Center’s classification
                      of the 177 downloaded images. We determined that 61 images contained
                      adult pornography (34 percent), 24 images consisted of cartoon

                      Page 11                                                                                           GAO-03-537T
                       pornography (14 percent), 13 images contained child erotica (7 percent),
                       and 2 images (1 percent) contained child pornography. The remaining 77
                       images (44 percent) were classified as nonpornographic.

                       Figure 3: Classification of 177 Images of a Popular Singer, Child Actors, and a
                       Cartoon Character Downloaded through KaZaA

                       Because law enforcement agencies do not track the resources dedicated to
Federal Law            specific technologies used to access and download child pornography on
Enforcement            the Internet, we were unable to quantify the resources devoted to
                       investigations concerning peer-to-peer networks. These agencies
Agencies Are           (including the FBI, CEOS, and Customs) do devote significant resources to
Beginning to Focus     combating child exploitation and child pornography in general. Law
                       enforcement officials told us, however, that as tips concerning child
Resources on Child     pornography on the peer-to-peer networks increase, they are beginning to
Pornography on Peer-   focus more law enforcement resources on this issue. Table 4 shows the
to-Peer Networks       levels of funding related to child pornography issues that the primary
                       organizations reported for fiscal year 2002, as well as a description of their
                       efforts regarding peer-to-peer networks in particular.

                       Page 12                                                                GAO-03-537T
Table 4: Resources Related to Combating Child Pornography on Peer-to-Peer Networks in Fiscal Year 2002

Organization                 Resourcesa                                                 Efforts regarding peer-to-peer networks
National Center for          $12 million to act as national resource center and         NCMEC referred 913 tips concerning peer-to-peer
Missing and Exploited        clearinghouse for missing and exploited children           networks to law enforcement agencies.
Children                     $10 million for law enforcement training
                             $3.3 million for the Exploited Child Unit and the
                             $916,000 allocated to combat child pornography
Federal Bureau of            $38.2 million and 228 agents and support personnel         According to FBI officials, they have efforts under
Investigation                for Innocent Images Unit                                   way to work with some of the peer-to-peer
                                                                                        companies to solicit their cooperation in dealing
                                                                                        with the issue of child pornography.
Justice Criminal Division,   $4.38 million and 28 personnel allocated to                The High Tech Investigative Unit deals with
Child Exploitation and       combating child exploitation and obscenity offenses        investigating any Internet medium that distributes
Obscenity Section                                                                       child pornography, including peer-to-peer
U.S. Customs Service         $15.6 million (over 144,000 hours) allocated to            The center is beginning to actively monitor peer-
CyberSmuggling Center        combating child exploitation and obscenity offenses        to-peer networks for child pornography, devoting
                                                                                        one half-time investigator to this effort. As of
                                                                                        December 16, 2002, the center had sent 21 peer-
                                                                                        to-peer investigative leads to field offices for
                                             Source: GAO and agencies mentioned.
                                             Dollar amounts are approximate
                                              Customs was unable to separate the staff hours devoted or funds obligated to combating child
                                             pornography from those dedicated to combating child exploitation in general.

                                             An important new resource to facilitate the identification of the victims of
                                             child pornographers is the National Child Victim Identification Program,
                                             run by the CyberSmuggling Center. This resource is a consolidated
                                             information system containing seized images that is designed to allow law
                                             enforcement officials to quickly identify and combat the current abuse of
                                             children associated with the production of child pornography. The
                                             system’s database is being populated with all known and unique child
                                             pornographic images obtained from national and international law
                                             enforcement sources and from CyberTipline reports filed with NCMEC. It
                                             will initially hold over 100,000 images collected by federal law
                                             enforcement agencies from various sources, including old child
                                             pornography magazines.22 According to Customs officials, this information
                                             will help, among other things, to determine whether actual children were
                                             used to produce child pornography images by matching them with images

                                               According to federal law enforcement agencies, most of the child pornography published
                                             before 1970 has been digitized and made widely available on the Internet.

                                             Page 13                                                                             GAO-03-537T
                  of children from magazines published before modern imaging technology
                  was invented. Such evidence can be used to counter the assertion that
                  only virtual children appear in certain images.

                  The system, which became operational in January 2003,23 is housed at the
                  Customs CyberSmuggling Center and can be accessed remotely in “read
                  only” format by the FBI, CEOS, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and

                  In summary, Mr. Chairman, our work shows that child pornography as
                  well as adult pornography is widely available and accessible on peer-to-
                  peer networks. Even more disturbing, we found that peer-to-peer searches
                  using seemingly innocent terms that clearly would be of interest to
                  children produced a high proportion of pornographic material, including
                  some child pornography. The increase in reports of child pornography on
                  peer-to-peer networks suggests that this problem is increasing. As a result,
                  it will be important for law enforcement agencies to follow through on
                  their plans to devote more resources to this technology and continue their
                  efforts to develop effective strategies for addressing this problem.

                  Mr. Chairman, this concludes my statement. I would be pleased to answer
                  any questions that you or other Members of the Committee may have at
                  this time.

                  If you should have any questions about this testimony, please contact me
Contact and       at (202) 512-6240 or by E-mail at koontzl@gao.gov. Key contributors to this
Acknowledgments   testimony were Barbara S. Collier, Mirko Dolak, James M. Lager, Neelaxi
                  V. Lakhmani, James R. Sweetman, Jr., and Jessie Thomas.

                    One million dollars has already been spent on the system, with an additional $5 million
                  needed for additional hardware, the expansion of the image database, and access for all
                  involved agencies. The 10-year lifecycle cost of the system is estimated to be $23 million.

                  Page 14                                                                        GAO-03-537T
Attachment: How File Sharing Works on
Peer-to-Peer Networks

              Peer-to-peer file-sharing programs represent a major change in the way
              Internet users find and exchange information. Under the traditional
              Internet client/server model, access to information and services is
              accomplished by interaction between clients—users who request
              services—and servers—providers of services, usually Web sites or portals.
              Unlike this traditional model, the peer-to-peer model enables consenting
              users—or peers—to directly interact and share information with each
              other, without the intervention of a server. A common characteristic of
              peer-to-peer programs is that they build virtual networks with their own
              mechanisms for routing message traffic.24

              The ability of peer-to-peer networks to provide services and connect users
              directly has resulted in a large number25 of powerful applications built
              around this model.26 These range from the SETI@home network (where
              users share the computing power of their computers to search for
              extraterrestrial life) to the popular KaZaA file-sharing program (used to
              share music and other files).

              As shown in figure 4,27 there are two main models of peer-to-peer
              networks: (1) the centralized model, in which a central server or broker
              directs traffic between individual registered users, and (2) the

                Matei Ripenau, Ian Foster, and Adriana Iamnitchi, “Mapping the Gnutella Network:
              Properties of Large Scale Peer-to-Peer Systems and Implication for System Design,” IEEE
              Internet Computing, vol. 6, no. 1 (January–February 2002).
                Zeropaid.com, a file-sharing portal, lists 88 different peer-to-peer file-sharing programs
              available for download. (http://www.zeropaid.com/php/filesharing.php)
                Geoffrey Fox and Shrideep Pallickara, “Peer-to-Peer Interactions in Web Brokering
              Systems,” Ubiquity, vol. 3, no. 15 (May 28–June 3, 2002) (published by Association of
              Computer Machinery). (http://www.acm.org/ubiquity/views/g_fox_2.html)
               Illustration adapted by Lt. Col. Mark Bontrager from original by Bob Knighten, “Peer-to-
              Peer Computing,” briefing to Peer-to-Peer Working Groups (August 24, 2000), in Mark D.
              Bontrager, Peering into the Future: Peer-to-Peer Technology as a Model for Distributed
              Joint Battlespace Intelligence Dissemination and Operational Tasking, Thesis, School of
              Advanced Airpower Studies, Air University, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama (June 2001).

              Page 15                                                                         GAO-03-537T
                                decentralized model, based on the Gnutella28 network, in which individuals
                                find each other and interact directly.

Figure 4: Peer-to-Peer Models

                                As shown in figure 4, in the centralized model, a central server/broker
                                maintains directories of shared files stored on the computers of registered
                                users. When Bob submits a request for a particular file, the server/broker
                                creates a list of files matching the search request by checking it against its
                                database of files belonging to users currently connected to the network.
                                The broker then displays that list to Bob, who can then select the desired
                                file from the list and open a direct link with Alice’s computer, which
                                currently has the file. The download of the actual file takes place directly
                                from Alice to Bob.

                                  According to LimeWire LLC, the developer of a popular file-sharing program, Gnutella
                                was originally designed by Nullsoft, a subsidiary of America Online. The development of
                                the Gnutella protocol was halted by AOL management shortly after the protocol was made
                                available to the public. Using downloads, programmers reverse-engineered the software
                                and created their own Gnutella software packages.

                                Page 16                                                                   GAO-03-537T
This broker model was used by Napster, the original peer-to-peer network,
facilitating mass sharing of material by combining the file names held by
thousands of users into a searchable directory that enabled users to
connect with each other and download MP3 encoded music files. Because
much of this material was copyrighted, Napster as the broker of these
exchanges was vulnerable to legal challenges,29 which eventually led to its
demise in September 2002.

In contrast to Napster, most current-generation peer-to-peer networks are
decentralized. Because they do not depend on the server/broker that was
the central feature of the Napster service, these networks are less
vulnerable to litigation from copyright owners, as pointed out by Gartner.30

In the decentralized model, no brokers keep track of users and their files.
To share files using the decentralized model, Ted starts with a networked
computer equipped with a Gnutella file-sharing program such KaZaA or
BearShare. Ted connects to Carol, Carol to Bob, Bob to Alice, and so on.
Once Ted’s computer has announced that it is “alive” to the various
members of the peer network, it can search the contents of the shared
directories of the peer network members. The search request is sent to all
members of the network, starting with Carol; members will in turn send
the request to the computers to which they are connected, and so forth. If
one of the computers in the peer network (say, for example, Alice’s) has a
file that matches the request, it transmits the file information (name, size,
type, etc.) back through all the computers in the pathway towards Ted,
where a list of files matching the search request appears on Ted’s
computer through the file-sharing program. Ted can then open a
connection with Alice and download the file directly from Alice’s

The file-sharing networks that result from the use of peer-to-peer
technology are both extensive and complex. Figure 5 shows a map or
topology of a Gnutella network whose connections were mapped by a

     A&M Records v. Napster, 114 F.Supp.2d 896 (N.D. Cal. 2000).
     Lydia Leong, “RIAA vs.Verizon, Implications for ISPs,” Gartner (Oct. 24, 2002).
  LimeWire, Modern Peer-to-Peer File Sharing over the Internet.

Page 17                                                                          GAO-03-537T
network visualization tool.32 The map, created in December 2000, shows
1,026 nodes (computers connected to more than one computer) and 3,752
edges (computers on the edge of the network connected to a single
computer). This map is a snapshot showing a network in existence at a
given moment; these networks change constantly as users join and depart

 Mihajlo A. Jovanovic, Fred S. Annexstein, and Kenneth A. Berman, Scalability Issues in
Large Peer-to-Peer Networks: A Case Study of Gnutella, University of Cincinnati Technical
Report (2001). (http://www.ececs.uc.edu/~mjovanov/Research/paper.html)

Page 18                                                                    GAO-03-537T
Figure 5: Topology of a Gnutella Network

                                           One of the key features of many peer-to-peer technologies is their use of a
                                           virtual name space (VNS). A VNS dynamically associates user-created
                                           names with the Internet address of whatever Internet-connected computer
                                           users happen to be using when they log on.33 The VNS facilitates point-to-

                                             S. Hayward and R. Batchelder, “Peer-to-Peer: Something Old, Something New,” Gartner
                                           (Apr. 10, 2001).

                                           Page 19                                                                  GAO-03-537T
           point interaction between individuals, because it removes the need for
           users and their computers to know the addresses and locations of other
           users; the VNS can, to a certain extent, preserve users’ anonymity and
           provide information on whether a user is or is not connected to the
           Internet at a given moment. Peer-to-peer users thus may appear to be
           anonymous; they are not, however. Law enforcement agents may identify
           users’ Internet addresses during the file-sharing process and obtain, under
           a court order, their identities from their Internet service providers.

           Page 20                                                        GAO-03-537T