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More on AOL "child porn" spam (fwd)
- To: email@example.com
- Subject: More on AOL "child porn" spam (fwd)
- From: Rolf Weber <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Tue, 22 Oct 1996 09:09:10 +0100 (MEZ)
- Comment: This message comes from the debate mailing list.
- Sender: email@example.com
da dies hier auch diskutiert wurde:
>From firstname.lastname@example.org Tue Oct 22 07:22 MEZ 1996
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"
Date: Wed, 18 Mar 1953 04:13:11 -0500
From: email@example.com (Declan McCullagh)
Subject: More on AOL "child porn" spam
Date: Mon, 21 Oct 1996 06:58:08
Subject: Child pornography e-mail spam from "r9ch@aol.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (David O'Donnell at America Online)
Please note that if you received unsolicited mail from "email@example.com" or =
"firstname.lastname@example.org" yesterday (Sunday 20 October 1996), both accounts =
were closed early this morning. Copies of the messages have been =
forwarded to our legal department. Please do not send in more reports of =
__ David B. O'Donnell (email@example.com, PMDAtropos@aol.com)
\/ AOL Internet Development Outreach and Technology Manager
Tel.: 703/453-4000 x4255; FAX: 703/453-4102 "Spammum
WWW: http://www.idot.aol.com/atropos/ Delendum Est"
[Thanks to Dave Cassel for this. --Declan]
Earlier today an AOL user e-mailed hundreds of people, announcing "I
have pictures, VHS tapes, posters, audio recordings, and games
based on child pornography."
The notorious mail included a price-list and an address in Jackson
Heights, New York. Several hundred students at the University of
Oslo reportedly received copies, as did students at Yale. The
message was e-mailed to Oregon, Georgia, Illinois, and New York, as
well as England, Australia, Holland, Finland, Germany, and Canada
(according to Usenet posts). The Royal Canadian Mounted Police
received several calls, as did Interpol. One ISP reported 10 of
their 1,000 users received copies--close to 1%.
Even some net personalities received copies. Ron Newman, formerly
of the MIT Media Lab, received the e-mail at five different
accounts. Joe Shea, editor of the American Reporter, received a
copy; Philip Elmer-DeWitt, author of Time magazine's "Cyberporn"
cover story, received two. The authors of "The Stalker's Home
Page," and "Why AOL Sucks" also received the e-mail.
Responding to complaints, AOL stated "we have closed the accounts
involved, and our legal department is taking action." Postmaster
David O'Donnell posted to Usenet, "Please do not send in more
reports of this abuse". Over 50 people complained to the New York
police department, who investigated the location--a P.O. Box--with
the FBI. (On a mailing list Brock Meeks noted that AOL has a
"working relationship" with the FBI.)
A reporter for the New York-based Newsday says the newspaper will
probably carry a story about the event in Tuesday's edition.
(http://www.newsday.com) According to one Usenet post, the
address belongs to one of AOL's "disk dancers". The mailing address
of the (presumably-framed) New Yorker is for sales of a program
that lets AOL users spend time on the system without being charged.
This is not the first time AOL's hacker community has cross swords
with child pornography. The documentation for AOHell contains a
section called "Why I made AOHell." "I'm sick of all the God damn
pedophiles," the program's author states. "AOL constantly closed
the 'Hackers' Member room, but refuses to do anything about all the
pedophilia rooms...If AOL is going to do nothing about this type of
sick behavior then I will do everything I can to screw AOL up."
Instead, users signing onto AOL tonight received an advertisement
for hardware that can "grab color images right from your camcorder,
VCR, or TV." This December marks the five-year anniversary of the
first child pornography scandal on AOL. In 1991 Newsweek reported
that one subscriber posing as a child "received pictures of what
appear to be youngsters involved in sexual acts." AOL's members
didn't find out about the incident until the story turned up on
CNN. (Mainly because the outraged user went straight to the
In 1993, ten-year-old George Burdynski disappeared from Brentwood,
Virginia. He was never seen again--but his disappearance launched
the largest child pornography investigation in FBI history. In
September of 1995, the FBI raided the homes of 120 AOL users, and
in July the FBI raided 100 homes just in Cincinnati. Days before,
one agent told the Cincinnati Enquirer "there are new people being
identified daily." The FBI had information on more than 3,000
users--which at the time constituted one out of every 1,200 AOL
subscribers; "FBI and America Online records revealed that during
one 25-minute span when an illegal photograph was made available on
the computer service, about 400 people nationwide downloaded the
picture to their computers." Jean Villanueva stated that AOL
contacted the FBI "upon receiving the material, and verifying that
it was in all likelihood illegal". (At least one children's rights
activist questioned the legality of the delays "verification" added
to AOL's response.)
Earlier that year U.S. Customs Officials cracked a child
pornography ring operating on America Online. In February of 1995
two teachers in Florida were charged, and a third suspect arrested
in Salt Lake City. A Customs official said photographs were being
downloaded directly from AOL's shareware section, which apparently
wasn't monitored round-the-clock. The first guilty verdict from
that investigation was handed down in February of 1996--for
photographs a user transmitted in July of 1994. In August an AOL
user in San Francisco was indicted for his involvement in a
13-year-old Kentucky girl's 2-week disappearance; in November of
1995, a New Jersey man was sentenced for actions with a young boy
in July of 1994.
The San Francisco Chronicle suggested problems were exacerbated by
AOL's fully-anonymous screen names. In fact, up until September of
1995, AOL wasn't even verifying the full authenticity of the credit
card information users input. That created an entrenched subculture
of disk dancers that persists to this day. The Washington Post
reported that between March and June, over 370,000 fake accounts
were created with bogus credit card information.
Ironically, the ten-year-old boy who disappeared lived just miles
from AOL's headquarters in Vienna, Virginia. One children's rights
advocate is considering setting up a fund in the boy's name.