Anti-pedophile activism encompasses opposition to pedophiles, pro-pedophile activism, and other phenomena that are commonly seen as related to pedophilia, such as child pornography and child sexual abuse.
Some local groups have taken to marching in opposition to the locations of various child sex offenders whom they and newspapers such as The News of the World recognise as pedophiles. Members of the Edinburgh based Society Against Pedophiles are reported to have traveled the city streets in a blacked out van, whilst using night-vision goggles to monitor offenders. The group shut down in April of 2007 following clashes with suspected sex offenders. In the Netherlands, the pedophile activist group Vereniging MARTIJN has been protested against by the far right Nationale Alliante.
Perverted-Justice is an anti-pedophile organization that aims to expose and convict adults who solicit and groom minors in order to commit child sexual abuse on the internet. They often collaborate with law enforcement and television crews. Some freely hosted blogs also claim to expose real or potential child sex offenders. In her article "Virtual Lollipops and Lost Puppies: How Far Can States Go to Protect Minors through the Use of Internet Luring Laws", M. Megan McCune writes:
Perverted-Justice.com [is] a volunteer organization launched in 2003 that tracks sexual predators on the Internet. The volunteers pose as children in chat rooms and converse with alleged sexual predators who initiate conversations with them. Once a predator solicits and shows a clear intent to meet the volunteer, Perverted-Justice.com verifies the information by having a volunteer with a child-like voice contact the predator on the phone. Afterwards, Perverted-Justice.com contacts the local police with the information and evidence, and posts chat logs on the Perverted-Justice.com database. Perverted-Justice.com facilitated forty convictions between June of 2003 and January 1, 2006. Additionally, Dateline NBC has worked with this group on three occasions to inform the public of the threat Internet predators pose by having the predators come to a house where the predators believe they are meeting a minor for a sexual encounter. Instead, the predators are greeted by the show's host and television cameras. (pg.503)
Chris Hansen, the host of the Dateline NBC program To Catch a Predator, has published a book to accompany the series, To Catch a Predator: Protecting Your Kids from Online Enemies Already in Your Home, which its publisher describes as:
If you watch Dateline, you probably know the "To Catch a Predator" setup. To Catch a Predator the book recounts the preparation and aftermath of the harrowing encounters presented on the show, but it also situates the parent/reader in the story, by explaining how online predators burrow into your children's lives. A must-read for any parent who cares.
CorporateSexOffenders.com, and its associated wiki "Wikisposure", was launched in late June 2007 by some administrators behind Perverted-Justice.com with the mission statement "to target corporations and the pedophiles they allow to use their services".
The website contributed to the arrest of James P. Finn III of Michigan in late July of the same year. After their first featured "Wikisposure Project" "article of the month" inspired a mailing of fliers throughout Finn's community, reports say that a family member of Finn's then made allegations of illegal online activities. According to one article, Finn's computer contained 30 digital movies and 586 pictures of children in sexually exploitive and abusive situations, which led to three charges of possession; and three charges of using the internet to download child pornography. He faces up to 20 years in jail. In 1998, James Finn III ("Jimf3") was the webmaster of one of the oldest pedophile communities online, BoyChat.
Finn had previously claimed to the media on several occasions that BoyChat was not a breeding ground for child pornography or other illegal activities. "I have been active on BoyChat for over two years and I've been the webmaster for about 18 months and I've never known such activities to go on," he says. "First, BoyChat strictly enforces rules against such picture trading and against meeting boys. Not only do I and other administrators watch out for this, a very large cadre of regular posters are careful to warn newcomers about the realities of the board".
Anti-pedophile activists claim that such websites are a front for illicit activity and dismiss claims to the contrary. They claim that the arrest of James Finn III illustrates the falseness of defenses of pro-pedophile websites such as BoyChat, despite the fact that the alleged offence was unrelated to BoyChat or any other pro-pedophile organisation.
In late 2007, Wikisposure was moved to its own domain. While the stated goal of the site is to expose criminal activity, many of those profiled are listed solely due to contact with suspected pedophiles, or membership in groups which advocate for changes in sex-offender law or the age of consent.
Another initiative, Predator Hunter, headed by Wendell Kreuth, aims to track down and expose the pornography-related activities of alleged 'sexual predators'. Although, in 2002, Kreuth disclosed details of his activities in an interview with Minnesota Public Radio (Note: the websites featured in the article are, in fact, legal), the activities of Predator Hunter in the years prior have garnered more attention, particularly in relation to Bradley Willman, whose anti-pedophile activism is described below:
Between 1997 and 2001, Brad Willman was known as Omni-Potent, an Internet vigilante who would track pedophiles by spending 16-plus hours a day hacking into people's computers from his parent's house in Langley, a suburban community just outside Vancouver. Ultimately, he was responsible for the arrests of about 40 pedophiles across Canada and the U.S. Willman's successful, albeit unpaid and short-lived venture as "Citizen Tipster," as he was known by police, is now over. But his activities have sparked intense debate over the legality of his tactics.
He would verify where suspects were from, and send the information on to Predator-Hunter, an online pedophile watchdog group that would, in turn, send it to other sources to be verified before passing it on to police. "Parents in a number of countries, I think, owe OmniPotent a debt of gratitude for what he did," says Wendell Krueth, president of Predator-Hunter. The end justifying the means is a concept Predator-Hunter supports. "We don't tell people to go hack, but we consider whatever information we get worthy in taking down pedophiles," Krueth says.
Founders of Predators Beware make it clear that they do not want to see expression of pro-pedophile viewpoints on the Internet.
Absolute Zero United challenges the pro-pedophile activists' view of their condition as a (would be) "protected sexual preference" and instead views pedophilia as a "deviant mental illness" that does not deserve protection. While they state their mission is to monitor and report illegal activities, their mission statement does not endorse vigilantism.
Silentlambs is a web-based anti-pedophile group that seeks to protect children through education, to provide legal assistance, and to provide assistance to victims who have been molested as children and silenced from speaking out or seeking proper assistance as directed by religious authorities. To date, most of its emphasis has been on abuse within the Jehovah's Witness community.
TheRegulators.us staffs adults who decoy as underage girls and boys online in order to catch predators. They work mostly through cellphone chat sites and strictly with federal law enforcement.
Some have found such activism problematic at best, and their criticism often centers on the methods used by such activists, particularly the "outing" of individuals who solicit minors for sex online -- since in some cases it is claimed they get the identities wrong and target unrelated individuals.. Criticism in regard to Perverted Justice (as well as To Catch a Predator, its television specials coordinated with Dateline NBC) has come from diverse quarters: the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the Internet Crimes Against Children task force, police officers, journalists, professors, and legal scholars (represented respectively):
"We don't believe it helps deter those predators," said Kelly Burke, supervisor of the exploited child unit at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which operates a tip line (www.cybertipline.com) but does not condone investigations by citizens. "Mainly it moves the predators to different areas and pushes them to act smarter in concealing their identity."
"We've seen numerous cases that would constitute entrapment, and then Chris Hansen shoves a camera in these guys' faces and they end up convicted on the basis of the camera confession," says Brad Russ, director of training for Internet Crimes Against Children, a federally funded task force that declined to partner with Dateline. "The whole thing is a perversion of the way the criminal-justice system is supposed to operate."
Police officials in San Antonio and Austin in Texas said they had no plans to work with Perverted Justice. Fort Worth police would "reluctantly" work with such a group, said Lt. K. Rodricks, who heads that department's special investigations section. "We don't want to get in the business of adding to Internet vigilantism."
Entrapment is a legal term best applicable to law enforcement. Perverted Justice says it's careful not to initiate contact with marks, nor steer them into explicit sexual banter. But as these chats and others make clear, they are prepared to flirt, literally, with that line. Under most state statutes passed to combat online predators, the demonstrated intent to solicit sexual acts from a minor is sufficient to land you in jail regardless of whether the minor is a willing participant. So, as a legal matter, the enticements offered by the decoys are of little importance to the police, or to issue advocates like Perverted Justice. But journalistically it looks a lot like crossing the line from reporting the news to creating the news.
Former ABC News correspondent Robert Zelnick, chairman of the journalism department at the University of Boston, has "little sympathy for sexual predators." However, he adds, "if you're employing fraudulent techniques to lure people into embarrassing situations, that's crossed the line."Hasan Cavusoglu, an assistant professor at the Sauder School of Business, University of British Columbia, voices his concern about activities such as those by Bradley Willman (see above):
"The way the information was collected is not appropriate. [...] It may challenge the foundation of many institutions we all rely on if everybody starts to do what they deem to be right. We should all abide by the laws." According to Cavusoglu, it simply is not appropriate for regular citizens to assume the responsibility of going after criminals. And he believes that the ramifications of courts accepting the kind of evidence Willman provided are quite serious. "This will create precedents," he predicts, "for other prosecutors to attempt to use evidence obtained by illegal means in other trials."Susan Brenner, NCR Distinguished Professor of Law & Technology, University of Dayton School of Law, writes:
Perverted Justice vigilantes work with law enforcement to apprehend pedophiles, rather than taking justice entirely into their own hands. Their efforts are analogous to the civilian participation model outlined above insofar as they work with law enforcement, but they deviate from that model in at least one, critical respect. Perverted Justice members initiate the investigations and completely control the process of bringing suspects to law enforcement; aside from anything else, this imports a substantial risk into the process, a risk both of targeting individuals unjustifiably and of committing procedural errors that may result in prosecutions being quashed and/or evidence suppressed. If we are to allow civilian participation in the cybercrime investigation process, that participation must always be subject to and constrained by law enforcement authority. Otherwise, we are merely sanctioning a variant of the vigilante activity that has historically been prohibited. (pg. 66)Luke Dittrich's article "Tonight on Dateline: This Man Will Die." provides more detailed criticism of the methods employed in the production of the episode of NBC's "To Catch a Predator" that witnessed the suicide of Rockwall County Assistant District Attorney Louis W. Conradt, Jr., in Terrell, Texas. As a result of that particular sting operation, Conradt's estate, managed by his sister Patricia Conradt, is suing "Dateline" for US$105 million. A copy of the "Original Complaint" in the civil case Conradt vs NBC Universal Inc., filed in the United States District Court, Southern District of New York, on July 23, 2007, is available in facsimile.
In April 2004, Corrupted-Justice.com was set up to document what it describes as "dangerous" behaviors and "illegal actions" by Perverted-Justice.
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