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Leechnet fails to restrict child porn pics

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Updated Yesterday we wrote about the porn Napster site Leechnet and, strangely, it proved one of the most popular stories for that day.

However, we were soon contacted by a reader appalled at some child pornography he had found on Leechnet's servers (posted after we wrote our original story, and possibly posted there - because we wrote that original story.) Following his directions, we found the offending pic and decided to investigate further.

To Leechnet's credit, it had located the pic and deleted it. However, it was subsequently reposted by others who had downloaded it the first time. We tried to contact Leechnet parent company Nordic Research in Sweden, but it is not answering the phone. This afternoon it finally responded to our emails.

This is a difficult subject: Leechnet is running an open Napster-style service for adult pictures.

In its favour, Leechnet carries no search criteria that could even be used as a euphemism for underage children and so presumably hoped that the overwhelming tide of legal pornography in line with its safeguards would be enough to make posting child pictures an impracticability.

The company's email explained as much:

"Hello!

Leechnet has built in functionality that allows us to block pictures that are considered inappropriate for some reason (Child porn, copyrighted material etc). After a picture has been blocked it can no longer be traded and will not show up in search results. The picture will still exist in the user library but Leechnet will simply skip over it when compiling search results.

This feature is meant to address copyright complaints and illegal/inappropriate content.

Leechnet also has a feature for reporting inappropriate content, by clicking on either Help|Report Content Violation or selecting 'Report Content' from the in-client home page. After we receive a report we will investigate it and issue a block.

I hope these answers help!

Sincerely,
Anders
Leechnet.com"

Unfortunately this approach hasn't worked and the offending picture is still downloadable from the site. It would appear that other posters had added ".jpg" on the original file name, thus bypassing Leechnet's system. We have pointed this out to Leechnet but have yet to receive a reply. The downloadable file currently has three .jpg add-ons.

Clearly Leechnet needs to work on its safeguards - it would only take a dedicated group of people interested in such material to overload the site and destroy its credibility. And then there are the not inconsiderable legal implications. Unless it improves its filtering system (no, an email address to report dodgy pictures is not enough), the system will be shut down pretty damn quick.

Update

Leechnet has got back to us a second time, explaining that our story has boosted their customer base beyond what they were ready for. A better system will apparently be installed soon. This is the email: ®

"Images are blocked based on the CRC of the image, not by the filename.

We are doing our best to keep offending content off Leechnet, but since your recent story our network has grown very fast (the network has gone from an average of 70 users online to 500+ since yesterday) and we are struggling to keep up. We expect to have an organized process for blocking images in place by the end of the week.

We are also able to disable offending users.

Sincerely,

Anders
Leechnet.com"

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