Targeting file sharing of child sexual abuse material

Police2Peer – Police are present and sharing files on file sharing networks to inform and deter those that distribute images and videos of children being sexually abused.

Peer-to-peer file sharing has been one of the easiest ways to access child sexual abuse material for a very long time. The applications used are free and readily available on the internet, requiring nothing more than a standard internet connection. The users on these file sharing networks, sharing all kinds of files, have felt protected by being just one of a huge number of computers interconnected this way.

The same has been the case for those that have a sexual interest in children and actively seek out, share and download images and videos depicting the sexual abuse of children.

Law enforcement has challenges in managing the large number of criminal cases and amount of evidence shared on these networks. There has never been a real police presence among those that deal in child sexual abuse material on peer-to-peer networks.

That is about to change.

A domain has been set up, with links to help and assistance resources in a number of European countries, and offers a starting point for those that realise that they have a problematic sexual interest in children. Law enforcement - as part of the Police2Peer project - has collected the information on the domain, but this is not a part of the operation. The various services listed have no affiliation with the police.

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European police, working in tandem with relevant police partners through EMPACT, are now focusing their joint efforts on the abuse material and those that distribute and possess it on file sharing networks. The aim is to establish that the perceived safety in numbers experience many have on peer-to-peer networks is false. Users that share abuse material are neither safe, invisible nor untraceable.

The Police2Peer initiative is doing just what the name implies – police is making files that appear to be child abuse material, and coming from another person with a similar sexual interest in children, available to those that seek it. Once someone starts downloading what appears to be an abuse file or make their illegal files available on the network, we will be there to share our files with them. These files are not child sexual abuse material, although they appear to be - they are files without any content or files featuring police officers from some of our partner countries, informing the downloader of the risks they are taking.

You can see examples of what we call “warning files” below and, if you have downloaded and viewed such a file and followed the address in the file to this page, you can have the authenticity of the content verified.

Police exchange information internationally through established channels like Europol and Interpol, and evidence collected by police in one country is valid as evidence in another.

Anyone distributing child sexual abuse material on peer-to-peer file sharing networks now are taking a substantial risk, regardless of their physical location.