Independent Tiplines and Vigilantes
Through the mid-1990s citizens of Western Europe and the United States observed that the problems of child pornography and predators on the Internet were escalating rapidly and police officials were lagging far behind in their ability to detect and prosecute these criminals, mostly due to lack of resources and training. Alarmed and frustrated by predator’s unlimited use of the Internet to transmit images of the sexual abuse of children and make contact with future victims, concerned citizens formed groups to monitor the Internet, inform police of suspected crimes, create tiplines for reporting criminal activity, and in some cases, operate clandestinely to stop predator’s use of the Internet.
In an open letter to the Justice Community in 1997, individuals who founded PedoWatch, an independent tipline, claimed that national law enforcement agencies had been non- responsive to reports of sexual exploitation on the Internet.
“…Some national agencies are paying a lot of lip service to Internet child pornography investigation, but fail somewhat in application. For example, US Customs moved their child pornography web site without leaving a simple forwarding address. Similarly, the email address on their site, the one they said to use to report evidence of crimes against children, was defunct for more than a month (our mail was returned a day or two later). We and several others informed them but saw no effort to correct it. To our knowledge, some time sensitive evidence of a company marketing child porn videos was lost as a result of this down email address and Customs’ failure to follow up on a telephone report in a timely manner. …We have also had letters from people who have contacted their local FBI field offices with incriminating evidence, only to be brushed off.”259
All of the independent tiplines focus only on crimes against children. Sexual abuse of women, pornographic images, and sites promoting violence and hatred toward women are ignored. This decision seems to stem from two rationales. 1) If there are only laws (or laws being enforced) against crimes against children, then collecting information on other abuse and violence would be inefficient or an ineffective use of time and energy. 2) Philosophically the groups made strong distinctions between what is done to children and women. They assumed that all women who were no longer minors were consenting adults, therefore no crime was being committed. Some groups took a stronger stand and action than others.
PedoWatch is a non-profit organization in the United States composed of unpaid volunteers who are committed to reducing the sexual victimization of children by predators on the Internet, especially preteens. They believe there is a strong link between the distribution of child pornography, the social tolerance of this material, and the sexual abuse of children. They take an active and tough approach to sexual exploitation of children on the Internet. Upon locating or being notified of sites on the Internet where