Legit Firms Aid And Abet Teen-Run Porn Sites - InformationWeek
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12/19/2005
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Legit Firms Aid And Abet Teen-Run Porn Sites

At age 13, Justin Berry began a five-year Net business selling images of his body for gifts and cash, at times fostered by some of the Internet's most respected and popular companies. Now, the Bakersfield, Calif., 19-year-old is working with the FBI to go after thousands of adults who encouraged him and other youngsters to perform sordid sexual acts in front of their Webcams and from behind their closed bedroom doors.

At age 13, Justin Berry began a five-year Net business selling images of his body for gifts and cash, at times fostered by some of the Internet's most respected and popular companies. Now, the Bakersfield, Calif., 19-year-old is working with the FBI to go after thousands of adults who encouraged him and other youngsters to perform sordid sexual acts in front of their Webcams and from behind their closed bedroom doors.Justin's story is told by reporter Kurt Eichenwald on the front page of The New York Times Monday.

What's almost as disturbing as the fact that adults exploit these youngsters is that many lawful Internet businesses aid and abet these activities, though in some instances it's not their intention to do so. For instance, adults pay these kids to strip by using PayPal. Sometimes the teens get gifts instead, choosing computer gear off an Amazon.com gift list, such as $35 Asante four-port hub, which allows for the use of multiple cameras, giving the exploiters varied views of their victims (and kids like Justin are victims, even though they financially benefited from their activities).

Other businesses, as Eichenwald suggests, might be less innocent. "There were also credit card processing services that handled payments without requiring tax identification numbers. There were companies that helped stream live video onto the Internet--including one in Indiana that offered the service at no charge if the company president could watch free. And there were sites--portals, in the Web vernacular--that took paid advertising from teenage Webcam addresses and allowed fans to vote for their favorites."

Another disturbing detail: Many of the abusers are upstanding members of the community. The Times reviewed the credit card information of 300 of the 1,500 who paid Justin, and a majority consisted of doctors and lawyers, businessmen, and teachers, many of whom work with children every day.

I'm not surprised about this distressing situation, but I'm saddened that it's happening.

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