Measuring a year of child pornography trafficking by U.S. computers on a peer-to-peer network

Child Abuse Negl. 2014 Feb;38(2):347-56. doi: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2013.10.018. Epub 2013 Nov 17.


We used data gathered via investigative "RoundUp" software to measure a year of online child pornography (CP) trafficking activity by U.S. computers on the Gnutella peer-to-peer network. The data include millions of observations of Internet Protocol addresses sharing known CP files, identified as such in previous law enforcement investigations. We found that 244,920 U.S. computers shared 120,418 unique known CP files on Gnutella during the study year. More than 80% of these computers shared fewer than 10 such files during the study year or shared files for fewer than 10 days. However, less than 1% of computers (n=915) made high annual contributions to the number of known CP files available on the network (100 or more files). If law enforcement arrested the operators of these high-contribution computers and took their files offline, the number of distinct known CP files available in the P2P network could be reduced by as much as 30%. Our findings indicate widespread low level CP trafficking by U.S. computers in one peer-to-peer network, while a small percentage of computers made high contributions to the problem. However, our measures were not comprehensive and should be considered lower bounds estimates. Nonetheless, our findings show that data can be systematically gathered and analyzed to develop an empirical grasp of the scope and characteristics of CP trafficking on peer-to-peer networks. Such measurements can be used to combat the problem. Further, investigative software tools can be used strategically to help law enforcement prioritize investigations.

Keywords: Child pornography; Child sexual exploitation; Internet; Peer-to-peer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / statistics & numerical data*
  • Erotica* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Humans
  • Internet / statistics & numerical data*
  • Law Enforcement
  • Peer Group
  • Software
  • United States / epidemiology