Perverted Justice:Internet Predators & The Sexual Exploitation of Children

A large number of untrained individuals are taking the law into their own hands by tracking pedophiles down on the net. In my opinion, I feel that this should be best left to law enforcement which specialize in this area.

Perverted Justice (PervertedJustice.com), an internet watchdog group whose members pose online as children to catch pedophiles and other untrained civilians who practice similar tactics intent may be that of doing good, but I can’t help wonder what problems this could pose for trained law enforcement.

Perverted Justice is an Online Volunteer Organization based in Portland. Also known as PJ, Perverted Justice claims they have 30,000 volunteers who will go on the site to pose as teenagers, as well as about 30 “young-sounding” phone verifiers.

In the Dateline series, “To Catch a Predator,” NBC teamed up with Perverted Justice.

What does Perverted Justice do? Well according to the Perverted-Justice.com FAQ:

Perverted-Justice.com recruits volunteer contributors who pose as underage children in chat rooms. Posing from a variety of ages (standard ages are 10-15), these contributors simply go into chat rooms with fake online screen names and wait for predators to instigate conversation with them. Are you curious as to what our contributors see when they go into chat with these underage names? Finding out for yourself is easy. Simply go to Yahoo.com, create a new profile, put underage information in your profile (works best if you are posing as a girl), then log into any regional chat room (perhaps even the one closest to your own community). Without even saying anything in the chat room, you will often be deluged by PM’s that will occasionally be open solicitations for sex or “grooming” (an adult preparing, through conversation, an underage child for such solicitations). Now simply imagine if, instead of you, it actually was a young child logging online only to receive this “perverted” greeting from fellow chatters. Hence, the problem.

Despite what their FAQ suggests, I do not recommend going to a chat room and trying this for yourself.

Perverted Justice posts the name, address, chat script, photograph and other personal information of the alleged pedophile on the website for viewing. After reading the chat room transcript, you the visitor can rate your opinion of the post on a “slimness” scale of 1 to 5. Perverted Justice even gives the alleged pedophile the opportunity to respond to their own chat logs. Trained officers do not operate in this manner.

Let me remind you that, Perverted Justice is not a law-enforcement organization, but a group of volunteers.

I know that this type of “Pedophile hunting” is not welcomed in Canada. There has been Talk of Perverted Justice coming to Canada, but Canada does not want perverted-justice here according to a 2002 article from wired.com titled “Porn Hunters Unwelcome in Canada?” that can be read at Porn Hunters Unwelcome in Canada.

The website Perverted Justice has several critics one of them being a website corrupted-justice.com, which describes Perverted Justice’s practices as vigilantism.

Peter J. Carr publisher of Chatmag has an opinionated article about Perverted Justice. Peter talks about the photos of under age girls that Perverted Justice use in their profiles.

The article can be read at Chatmag news and is certainly worth a read.

Julie Posey, a real life Cyber Crime Fighter whose dedicated mission is to prevent children from being sexually abused by pedophiles and child molesters says,” These Perverted-Justice.com investigator wannabes think it’s so easy to go … than humiliating someone and getting media attention.”

“Catching real pedophiles is a job for the professionals,” said Katya Gifford, program manager for the Internet child protection group CyberAngels.org.”

Authorities don’t often agree with the tactics of sites like pervertedjustice.com either. The following is quoted from an article by Jim MicKay on govtech.com.

Dave Jones of the San Diego Police Department said his Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force says evidence provided by groups such as Perverted Justice is almost useless. Jones further said, he’s worked cases where Perverted Justice got in the way of criminal investigators. “We’ve had them hit on undercover operations we were going on,” Jones said. “Law enforcement has gone back to them and said ‘Hey, we’re working this site. Back off.’ They basically go, ‘Screw you. We’re doing what we want.'”

What is the FBI’s thought on this? Well according to an article that can be read at wave3.com, the FBI says that perverted justice has gone too far. FBI spokesman David Beyer told wave3.com that “Anytime the public gets involved in something of this nature, they run the risk of civil liability, perhaps criminal liability. They have the potential of identifying the wrong person.”

The people who run Perverted-Justice.com say their goal is to “out” child predators whose anonymity allows them to lurk in the shadows of the Internet. But critics say the group — whose members insist on anonymity themselves — is nothing more than an Internet lynch mob that operates in the same kinds of shadows they claim to illuminate according to an ABC news original report.

Lee Tien an attorney for the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation thinks that the Perverted Justice Website isn’t justice at all as they are concerned the exposure could send real predators into hiding.

In recent news NBC admits to paying for pedophile sting claiming that it was paying a public service. According to a Washington Post article published in April, Xavier Von Erck, the owner of the vigilante group Perverted-Justice.com is being paid a sum of money in excess of $100,000.00.

Because Xavier Von Erck was paid $100,000.00 by NBC Dateline, will the charges against these men be dismissed? Well their certainly is talk about it, as you can see in a news article by wdtn.com titled, Predators Defense.

I sure hope not!

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, one out of every five children ages 10 to 17 receives sexual solicitations online. Pedophiles using the Internet as a means to lure children is a growing problem.

We know that these guys are there. We know that a young girl or boy can log into a chat room and received tons of messages from pedophiles who prowl Internet chat rooms looking for vulnerable children and teens.

However, I just don’t feel that untrained individuals like that of perverted justice and other volunteer organizations should be taking the law into their own hands, though they may mean well.

I feel trained cyber-crime detectives should be handling this. We know that there are sworn officers and undercover FBI agents posing as children in chat rooms like those provided by Yahoo!, MySpace, AOL and other sites. Let them do their job.

Is Perverted Justice doing good work in the area of child exploitation or are they doing more harm than good?

What are your thoughts on this?

Rose DesRochers

This post was compiled using a combination of Web based information from the following information sources.

Information Sources:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/04/08/AR2006040801293.html

NBC admits paying for pedophile sting

http://www.govtech.net/magazine/story.php?id=91688

http://www.thewbalchannel.com/news/2875630/detail.html
http://www.wave3.com/Global/story.asp?S=1652083&nav=0RZFKvFX

http://abcnews.go.com/US/story?id=260587&page=1

http://www.fbi.gov/innocent.htm

Latest Google News on Perverted Justice

Internet Luring

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