- Instagram account allegedly asked for inappropriate photos of children 9 Months Ago
- How to stream ‘Boys vs. Bears on Thursday Night Football Today 4:33 PM
- Woman caught her boyfriend cheating through his Fitbit Today 4:29 PM
- The Pete Buttigieg ‘High Hopes’ dance was designed by an intern Today 4:17 PM
- TikTok admits to hiding content made by fat, LGBTQ, and disabled users Today 3:58 PM
- ‘Merry Happy Whatever’ is an unoriginal sitcom with plenty of holiday cheer Today 3:55 PM
- The ‘Pod Save America’ Bros are losing it over Joe Biden’s newest ad Today 3:28 PM
- Van Halen had a wholesome response in defense of Billie Eilish Today 3:15 PM
- Influencer faces wrath of K-pop fans after her son played with penis-shaped soap Today 1:27 PM
- YouTube’s 2019 Rewind video is much different than last year’s debacle Today 1:19 PM
- Artists get revenge on art-stealing T-shirt bots Today 12:44 PM
- Jack Burkman, who accuses 2020 candidates of having lovers, has a few himself Today 12:38 PM
- Did Muslims on Twitter already figure out the twist ending to Netflix’s ‘Messiah’? Today 11:52 AM
- How ‘Knives Out’ costume designer Jenny Eagan crafted the coziest film of 2019 Today 11:30 AM
- Photo of Uber office bathrooms renews concerns about treatment of drivers Today 11:29 AM
The FBI took over a now-convicted pedophile’s online accounts for a year-and-a-half as part of an investigation into child abuse, Forbes reports.
The details, outlined in an FBI search warrant, reveal how 23-year-old Utah native Daxton Hansen gave the feds access to his Instagram and Kik accounts after admitting to viewing child pornography during a search of his home.
Hansen had run several private groups on both platforms that saw images and videos of young boys engaged in sexual acts being openly traded among members.
An undercover FBI agent actively ran Hansen’s Kik account from “April 12, 2017, to at least November 13, 2018,” Forbes Thomas Brewster notes, and oversaw numerous explicit chat rooms.
“As of today, the FBI’s Kik sting marks the first publicly documented case in which the U.S. government took over the social media of a child pornography suspect,” Brewster writes. “In doing so, the agents let child abuse material spread for months after they had identified it.”
The feds have previously argued that allowing such types of investigations gives them a better chance of catching additional suspects, as opposed to merely shutting down child abuse channels. Critics, however, say that despite the feds’ intentions, such actions still help perpetuate child abuse.
Adam M. Elewa, an associate at a New York-based law firm that has defended child abuse suspects, says “anywhere from hundreds to thousands of children were revictimized as means to the government’s investigative ends” during the Hansen case.
But Brewster states that although the operation ran for months, “no subsequent prosecutions based on the protracted sting have emerged.”
“The warrant also doesn’t disclose whether the agent distributed illegal content or simply tracked others’ activities,” Brewster writes. “And there’s no indication as to when the chat rooms were shut down, if they ever were.”
In a statement to Forbes, Kik said that it was never informed of any ongoing stings against child abuse rings on its platform. No similar operations regarding Hansen’s Instagram account were mentioned in the warrant.
The investigation is reminiscent of the federal government’s work against the infamous site Playpen, a child pornography hub hosted on the dark web. After seizing the site in 2o15, the FBI ran the service for two weeks in order to uncloak its users, but oversaw a 30 percent membership increase in the process.
“By its own admission, the FBI said 9,000 images and 200 videos were made available by Playpen users while it operated the site from February 20 to March 4, 2015,” Brewster adds. “An additional 13,000 links to child pornography were posted during the FBI’s administration of the site.”
The U.S. government argued that such actions were worthwhile given that it was able to initiate over 200 prosecutions and rescue 49 American children.
Neither the FBI or DOJ have publicly commented on the case and criticisms of its investigation methods. Hansen has since pled guilty to possession of child pornography and was sentenced to 48 months in prison.
Mikael Thalen is a tech and security reporter based in Seattle, covering social media, data breaches, hackers, and more.