Good tip on dealing with unsolicited pornography from www.kimkomando.com
I opened an unsolicited email containing child pornography! What do I do?
Q. I received an email containing child pornography. Repulsed, I called the police who sent an officer over to the house. The officer said to delete the e-mail, mentioning that it would be illegal to forward it, even to them. The next day an officer called asking if he could get my computer to get the IP address of the sender, and I agreed. To make a long story short, it soon appeared as if I were under suspicion. I had to get an attorney. Finally after a few weeks the attorney called to say I was no longer a person of interest. I picked up my computer after the police wiped it clean. I fortunately did not experience false imprisonment or loss of reputation. Still, this was quite upsetting. What should your listeners do if they open an e-mail and discover to their horror that they are in possession of child pornography?
-? from Rapid City, SD.
A. That story sounds like every computer-user's worst nightmare. You've already been through the ringer, and I don't want to take any chances of adding to that. So I'm not publishing even your first name. Child pornography is the worst thing you can come across online. I feel sick even at the thought.
It's sad but true that people can misuse any technology. Texting while driving is very dangerous but people do it anyway. Bullies use social networks to harass victims. And pedophiles use the Internet for their vile pastime.
It is bad enough that child pornography exists at all. However, it gets worse when it invades your life. Even inadvertently coming in contact with child pornography can damage your reputation. I'm very glad that wasn't the outcome here.
Before I go further, I want to offer some reassurance to my listeners. Child pornography isn't a common thing to receive by email unsolicited. This is one of the few instances I know.
Adult pornography is legal. That's why you might see lots of it appearing in your inbox. Child pornographers, however, have to keep a very low profile. They know what they are doing is very wrong. They also know that if they slip up the FBI will be right there to arrest them.
It definitely helps to know what to do if you get this in your email. There are also a few other ways you can run into child pornography in the digital world. Fortunately, these are very preventable.
Before we continue, let me make my standard disclaimer. I am not a lawyer. My advice is not admissible in a court of law. If you find yourself in a serious potential legal situation, as this reader did, go hire an attorney.
As I said above, receiving emailed child pornography is a one-in-a-million chance. Technically, you could just delete it and move on. It is unlikely law enforcement would trace that single email to you. No one would ever know you had it.
However, there are a few reasons to report it instead. The first is to provide yourself with bullet-proof cover. This listener's experience notwithstanding, it's best to be cooperative with law enforcement.
What if the email gets stuck in a mail server? Perhaps it doesn't get overwritten on your computer? A police forensic analysis might find it. Then you'd have some explaining to do. If it is documented that you reported the email, you're covered.
The second, nobler reason is civic duty. Child pornographers need to be rounded up and put behind bars. Any information you can provide to help that happen is a good thing.
It is doubtful reporting a single email will lead to immediate arrests. However, it could be another step on the road. Every little bit helps.
Now, based on the experience shared here, you might be wary of reporting the email. I don't blame you. However, there is another way to go about it rather than contacting the local police.
Just to be clear, this is not a criticism of local law enforcement. If you know of actual abuse or exploitation that is happening, call them right away. However, when it comes to online material, there is a more appropriate alternative.
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children has the CyberTipline. You can either call 1-800-843-5678 or go to a website form at https://secure.missingkids.com/
. In this situation, I would go with the online form.
You can enter the time you received the email. For Type of Incident, the Child Pornography option is probably the most appropriate. Where the form becomes useful, however, is the Internet Information section.
Select email for your Internet Location. Then go to the Email/Newsgroup Header text box. You are going to copy and paste information from the email into this area.
This tip tells you how to get an email's header information. The header contains IP addresses and email routing information. It can help track down the person who sent the email. Copy and paste the entire header into the form area.
That's all you really need to do. You can fill in more information that you think is appropriate. If you have been in contact with law enforcement, be sure to note that in the form.
This form is also useful if you stumble across child pornography while Web surfing. Again, the odds of that happening are remote. Still, if you do, you should report it. An actual Web address will give law enforcement a lot to work with.
Once submitted, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children will pass the information on to appropriate law enforcement. It will probably go to the FBI, which is affiliated with the Center. The FBI may work with local law enforcement on the matter as well.
Be sure to take a screenshot or print out a copy of the finished form. You want a record of what you submitted. Once you've submitted it, you can delete the email.
Now, as I said, receiving child pornography by email isn't a common occurrence. What is common is child pornographers using unsecured wireless networks. They can download and distribute all the child pornography they want. It looks to law enforcement as if you're the one doing it. Not good!
Fortunately, this is simple to solve. You just have to secure your Wi-Fi network. It should only take a few minutes and it could keep the FBI from paying you a visit. This tip will walk you through the process. Don't wait another minute!