Don’t Click That Link!!!

Like clickable links like that? Well you better not click them, or else you might get a visit from the FBI at 7am tomorrow, be pulled from your house, thrown to the ground, arrested and have your house ransacked. That’s what a (sorta) local guy here in Media, PA, Roderick Vosburgh, experienced. The details of the whole thing can be found here at Cnet.

The implications of the FBI’s hyperlink-enticement technique are sweeping. Using the same logic and legal arguments, federal agents could send unsolicited e-mail messages to millions of Americans advertising illegal narcotics or child pornography–and raid people who click on the links embedded in the spam messages. The bureau could register the “” domain name and prosecute intentional visitors.

Here’s another interesting bit:
While it might seem that merely clicking on a link wouldn’t be enough to justify a search warrant, courts have ruled otherwise. On March 6, U.S. District Judge Roger Hunt in Nevada agreed with a magistrate judge that the hyperlink-sting operation constituted sufficient probable cause to justify giving the FBI its search warrant.

The defendant in that case, Travis Carter, suggested that any of the neighbors could be using his wireless network. (The public defender’s office even sent out an investigator who confirmed that dozens of homes were within Wi-Fi range.)

But the magistrate judge ruled that even the possibilities of spoofing or other users of an open Wi-Fi connection “would not have negated a substantial basis for concluding that there was probable cause to believe that evidence of child pornography would be found on the premises to be searched.” Translated, that means the search warrant was valid.

So those of you (you know who you are) who have no home firewalls or even a password for your wireless router could have your perv neighbors downloading porn on your dime and on top of that, you could get the FBI special wake-up one morning because of it.

Now aside from the whole issue of what’s porn, is there porn, why can’t I gets me some porn, etc, the fact that the FBI could put some hyperlink out there that if you click it, they will come for you, is both outrageous and terrifying. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out where this could lead. Hey, let’s put an Al Quaeda link somewhere, or how about an anti-Bush link. Coulter did claim speaking ill of the Prez was treason. What if some of the knuckleheads in the Justice Department start agreeing with that? And of course if the Supreme Court gets any more catholics on board, we’re going to get screwed clicking links like this:

or maybe even links like these:

Now aside from my perhaps less scrupulous surfing, I happen to google a lot for work in order to get reference images. I often joke about how amazing it is that even when googling plants or insects under their Latin names I get porn. So now perhaps I could be absently googling and click an FBI gotcha link. Hell, I might absently click a sneaky FBI gotcha spam. Who knows? I’m not real with it in the morning and trying to click delete, oops! So yeah, here’s your government at work. Chasing terrorists? Illegal aliens? Investigating the Mob? Gun trafficking? Nah, fuck that. Let’s entrap people online. What, are they feeling Dateline is showing them up or something?

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23 Responses to “Don’t Click That Link!!!”

  1. Pretty FUCKING scary. Did you see that FBI? I said “fuck.” And there were millions of minors on the Internet when I did it.

    Anyway, I sure hope that the teenage Asian girl next door is not clicking on my atheist links.

  2. It is scary. And it’s the main reason I want Bush gone and no cheap McCain imitation replacing him. Then again, when it comes to issues of supposed pornography, would Hillary be any better?

    I would guess maybe slightly, but that’s not good enough. We need to get our Constitution back. We probably had started losing some of our rights from the day Bush and Cheney go into office but, certainly, by the time we all found out about the illegal use of our phone records there was no reason for Congress to hold back from impeachment hearings.

    It’s an incredible bizarre world we find ourselves in now. Bush is at an all-time low of 19% approval rating and yet the Democratic Congress is as impotent as ever. Blogs, radio and TV have demanded action, the people obviously would support it – yet nothing happens. Very strange and frightening.

    Check out the news tonight. Obama’s private, personal passport records have been illegally accessed by “contractors” 3 times since the first of the year. What the fuck is going on?

  3. Ever since the internet became so prevalent, and so wide open in terms of content, and so accessible, it was only a matter of time before Big Brother found a way to harness it to His advantage.

    To a certain extent, we, (meaning those of us who believe in the free dissemination of information, without restriction i.e the 1st Amendment) are partly to blame. We resist any effort to place restrictions on the internet, so it’s hard for us complain when law enforcement uses it in this way. We may have to resign ourselves to the possibility that some restrictions are necessary.

    I’m not saying that what law enforcement is doing is not despicable, but then I don’t believe that snuff films, or real child porn (as opposed to that computer generated stuff) on the internet are not despicable either.

    Of course, this could explain why a certain computer graphic artist we all know and love finds this to be a interesting topic to post about. ;)

  4. It’s absolutely ridiculous to put out some hyperlink on a website or in an email that if you click it, you’ll have the FBI visiting the next morning. I guess ACTUAL police work is too hard these days. You know, observing a pattern of behavior and building up a case file to justify a warrant. And you know it’s not much of a step to apply it to muslim hyperlinks. Fuck, I’ve gone to those sites before to see just how crazy those people are. What, I deserve to get the wakeup call?

    This has got nothing to do with a need to police the internet or a desire for racy subject matter, this is out of control police and a judiciary with no interest in reigning them in. Hell, they’re encouraging them, unless if they’re investigating Republicans.

  5. SI:

    The FBI action is, essentially, a warrantless search. Ir has nothing to do with whether or not the Internet is free. Members of the government are, of course, entitled to read any site they want to, regardless of their nefarious reasons for doing so. They’re free to look up material on search engines. They’re free to glean any information — phone numbers, addresses, sexual tastes, atheistic proclivities, anti-Bush sentiments, and even favorite colors, that’s publicly published.

    But just as they’re not free to read your mail without a warrant, or to enter your home without a warrant, they’re not free to search computers to find out what links have been clicked on. Although this invasion of privacy occurs on the Internet, it isn’t really an Internet issue.

  6. Bush and his cronies have made OBL’s wet dreams come true. We’ve got to fight for freedom in Iraq because we’re losing bits and pieces of it every day here.

  7. The FBI action is, essentially, a warrantless search.

    I don’t agree. If you click on a site, you send information across the internet to the recipient’s computer that identifies you digitally, so how is that a warrantless search of your computer? It’s no different than sending an email to a cop.

    (I’m assuming that is what’s happening, that info from your computer is being sent to their computer. I think when you click on a page, the IP of your server gets recorded. Look at the stats counter we use.

    Wait, the story has it. With the logs revealing those allegedly incriminating IP addresses in hand, the FBI sent administrative subpoenas to the relevant Internet service provider to learn the identity of the person whose name was on the account–and then obtained search warrants for dawn raids.)

    If the cops show up at 7 AM, they damn well better have a warrant to search my computer, or they get zip. What that click does is give them probable cause to convince a judge to issue the warrant.

    Again, I’m not defending it. I think it’s pretty slimy. All I’m saying is if we want to restrict the cop’s use of the internet, then we should be prepared to have our own use restricted in turn. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

  8. The flaw pointed out already with that SI is if anyone was using your internet connection, either someone else in the house or, if you’re not careful, someone nearby glomming on to your wireless connection.

    Also, what about people who do this at the library, an internet cafe or a general wifi zone? Hell, it makes me want to go click one of those links while sitting in Starbucks just to fuck them over. heh heh
    Still, this exploits another problem. Let’s say an unhappy ex girlfriend wants revenge. Hell of a way to do it, and a lot easier than actually having to go through the motions of claiming rape. Log in, click, and bam, you’re punked and registered as a sex offender.

  9. Yeah, SI, you’re right; I forgot that the site was a dummy set up by the FBI, itself. This isn’t about warrantless searches.

    So, OK, we’re talking about entrapment. Because the “offender” is not necessarily initiating any action beyond innocently clicking a link. And, there’s no way to prove who did the clicking. So doesn’t that pretty much disqualify any evidence obtained as a result?

    Case dismissed.

  10. ACK!

    Just a matter of time until the Charmin toilet paper company starts marketing a Constitution roll!

  11. According to the article, they lured the guy outside of his apartment with some false story about his car. As soon as he stepped outside, they cuffed and arrested him. Is the USA officially a police state now? I guess the moral of the story is, if you see cops outside your door, call your lawyer and don’t answer the door until your lawyer shows up.

  12. No, I don’t think it’s entrapment either, any more than having a dummy cop dressed up as a prostitute trolling the street is entrapment when a john offers to pay her money for sex, which it’s not. That has always been considered valid police work. Stupid waste of resources, but valid under existing law.

    No, I think any objection we would have should be with the statute they refer to in the article, the one the guy was charged under. He was charged “with violating federal law, which criminalizes “attempts” to download child pornography with up to 10 years in prison.” Attempts? I know that attempting to do something illegal is often made a crime, (think murder) so as long as this is on the books, clicking on what you think is child pornography is going to be declared a crime, irrespective of whether there was actually any child pornography there.

    It seems to me that I’ve seen stuff like that on the internet often. I get tons of spam email that tries to give you the impression that they are providing dirty pictures of little girls (they almost always say in big print that they are “teens” while in small print qualify them as 18 and over.). What’s wrong with mere curiosity? Do they really have pictures of girls under 18? Why can’t you click to see. If it’s true, leave immediately and don’t download.

    Apparently the cops act under the theory that curiosity kills the cat and fills our prisons too.

    It’s nonsense, but there you have it.

  13. SI:

    I don’t see how it’s not entrapment. A dummy Web site is set up with the express purpose of entrapping any person who clicks on it. A person has merely to click on the link — there’s no action necessary other than clicking — and then he or she is subject to arrest? Despite the fact that no child pornography was actually viewed? In other words, the government sets up an opportunity for the “criminal” to merely think about committing a crime and then he or she is nabbed?

    So every time I yell out “fuck you” to a driver who cuts me off, I’m guilty of rape?

  14. It's just all too half-assed in it's execution which makes the debate between SI and Ex seem way to lofty for this. If one click, not even by you, can bring the FBI to your door with a warrant then something's wrong here.I'll tell you another reason why this is scary. About 3 years ago I had to create work for a human development video. Building humans is one thing, but kids? Who does that? Well they're hardly just small adults, there are very specific proportions to children of various ages. Well I had a very hard time finding references, and you can't exactly go up to the info desk at your local Borders and ask for books with lots of photos of little children, the less clothed the better. I even thought to myself if there was some kind of cyber police, my googling would probably set off some kind of alarm researching this. Since then I've found, after hearing lots of stories of pedophiles, that I covered a lot of the same ground like clothing catalogues and kid's magazines, so IF I clicked one of these FBI links and while executing their search found these things here, then I could potentially be looking at being registered as a sex offender.

  15. I think the only way the FBI should be allowed to do this is with a two link system. The first link has to be provocative but ambiguous. Clicking that link then would have to take you to a page with VERY SPECIFIC details of what you will get once you click this 2nd link. Then I can maybe see them having enough legal grounds to take action.Bite your tong…err…fingers. Don't give them any ideas. You're making it too easy for them. Let them figure it out for themselves.

  16. I guess I’m being too much of a lawyer, trying to explain how the law works. I’m really not defending it, simply explaining. I agree it’s scary. I agree it’s despicable. There was a photographer I remember from back in the 60s or 70s, (I think his name was Hamilton) who’s oeuvre was pictures of little children and teenagers, often naked. Very tasteful, artsy pictures, usually taken and printed in soft focus. They had them in my local library for all to check out. In today’s climate, he’d be arrested, but at the time he was considered a major photographer.

    I don’t do criminal law, so take what I say with a big 50 lb bag of salt, (Lifey, help me out here) but it’s entrapment only if they get you to do something you were not already predisposed to do in the first place. In the example of fake prostitutes, the people that go up to the disguised cops are looking for hookers. The cops can’t solicit them, but merely have to look like hookers and wait for someone to offer money for sex. Then they have them, even though they have no intention of providing that sex.

    In this case, the little picture Philly has at the top of the post clearly indicates that if you click on it, you will probably see unclothed or partially clothed minor Asian girls. If you click on it, then it can be inferred that you knew and intended to view child porn. You’re predisposed to do so, and hence no entrapment. Even if you’re doing research for a project.

    But, still, all that gets you is a warrant and a visit from the cops. It does not automatically get you a conviction, or at least one that will stand up on appeal. There are lots of defenses to the charge, Philly’s “I was doing research” being one of them. The “someone tapped into my wireless connection” is another good one. Frankly, the conviction of this guy should be overturned on appeal. But that’s what lawyers are for.

    The fact that people are being convicted indicates that they probably are picking up pedophiles. I’ll bet the guy had suspicious pictures on his computer. The article doesn’t say, it just talks about the implications of the police sting.

    But you guys are missing the bigger picture I originally commented about. The fact that in order to restrict the cops use of the internet, if that’s what’s being suggested here, you open up the possibility of restricting other types of internet use, which has implications for our own access to the internet.

  17. I see contradictions:

    The cops can’t solicit them, but merely have to look like hookers and wait for someone to offer money for sex.
    the little picture Philly has at the top of the post clearly indicates that if you click on it, you will probably see unclothed or partially clothed minor Asian girls.

    Unfortunately we don’t have the actual FBI ad, but let’s use mine as the example for now. You said “the cops can’t solicit” yet isn’t that what the ad is doing? Isn’t that the very definition of an advertisement, a solicitation? So this thing seems to be entrapment from the get go. Second, you said in the case of cops posing as prostitutes they have to “wait for someone to offer money for sex. Then they have them”. UNTIL it’s made clear that the suspect understands fully what’s going on AND THEN punctuates that with the acknowledgment of payment, he can’t be arrested. You can’t be arrested for talking to the hookers or checking them out, which, imo, is comparable to clicking on a link to a site that is supposed to have these images.

    Now I can see maybe setting up a fake kiddie porn site that requires payment to enter and then once the payment is made, BANG! But then, that’s clearly solicitation, isn’t it, which is probably why they’re doing this shady ad to circumvent that, but I say they haven’t succeeded in circumventing it at all and in their haste to circumvent it, they’ve opened a can of worms which the article and I have listed.

  18. I didn’t want to do this, but OK.

    Look at the statute cited in the Cnet article.

    Any person who—
    (1) knowingly transports or ships in interstate or foreign commerce by any means including by computer or mails, any visual depiction, if—
    (A) the producing of such visual depiction involves the use of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct; and
    (B) such visual depiction is of such conduct;


    (1) Whoever violates, or
    attempts or conspires to violate, paragraphs [1] (1), (2), or (3) of subsection (a)…

    OK, so as I read this, it means that anyone who attempts to violate the first provision is guilty of the crime.

    You could call the ad a solicitation, but if you did, then you would have to call a provocatively dressed woman a solicitation, and the courts could not do that without sweeping in every good looking, sexy woman. You need to do something towards the crime to meet the attempt. Walk up to the woman and ask “How much?” or click on a picture that suggests child porn.

    Yes the ad is an entrapment, but not in the legal sense. It’s not the intent of the ad that defines the crime, it’s the predisposition of the criminal coupled with some action that does it. If you don’t want to see child porn, don’t click on the ad. If you don’t want a hooker, don’t ask. If you do, the inference is that what you are attempting to do is violate a statute that says you can not look at the pictures promised by the ad.

    You can’t be arrested for talking to the hookers or checking them out, which, imo, is comparable to clicking on a link to a site that is supposed to have these images.

    Well, no. It’s not comparable.It’s not a crime to look at hookers. It IS a crime to look at child porn. Or more specifically, downloading it to your computer, thereby possessing it, which is what you do when you “check it out”. So simply checking it out IS the crime. Clicking on the link is an attempt to commit the crime.

    Silly, isn’t it? We have our sexual priorities so screwed up in this country, and religion is one of the main reasons we do.

  19. You could call the ad a solicitation, but if you did, then you would have to call a provocatively dressed woman a solicitation

    No, because the ad has to state what it’s offering. To make that analogy work, you’d have to actually post a porn image with no message.

    It’s not comparable.It’s not a crime to look at hookers. It IS a crime to look at child porn

    You’re assuming that the ad made clear, without any doubt, what you’d get by clicking. I say that’s impossible without the ad being so specific of what it’s offering that it is, by definition, an open solicitation.

  20. I think the only way the FBI should be allowed to do this is with a two link system. The first link has to be provocative but ambiguous. Clicking that link then would have to take you to a page with VERY SPECIFIC details of what you will get once you click this 2nd link. Then I can maybe see them having enough legal grounds to take action.

    Of course this still leaves open the problems of verifying who the actual clicker is. The best they can verify is what is the internet portal source for where the click occurred, which becomes more dubious with wifi which extends beyond the physical boundaries of your property.

    This whole sting is flawed, in principle and execution. This is yet another problem that has grown out of the Patriot Act, sloppy police work.

  21. We can’t wait that long and if we do, how many people are going to be victims of this wrongheaded FBI? SOMEBODY has to straighten those fuckers out, and by “straighten” I mean fix. I don’t care if any of them like to play dress up like Hoover. ;)

  22. SI:

    You haven’t convinced me that this is not entrapment. I’ll give you an example from real life.

    A guy — let’s call him X — is crusing around the Internet. He is not predisposed to visit kiddie porn sites, and in fact finds the idea of such sites reprehensible. However, in his e-journey, he comes to a trusted site, one he likes a lot and visits often. At the top of the site there’s a post with a link to Hot Teen Pix of Asian Schoolgirl Minors. Without reading the rest of the post, X — trusting soul that he is — clicks on the link, even though it explicitly states what it is. Now, it so happens that, although X was definitely ready to view pictures of naked Asian teenagers in this specific context, the link doesn’t take him to any pictures. Instead, his one-second mouseclick registers with the FBI. You’re under arrest, X!

    Was X entrapped? Of course. You (the FBI working through the trusted Web site) Made Me Click It!

    I think we’d have to know the entire context and all the particulars to be able to decide if the case is entrapment or not. But last I heard, you couldn’t arrest anyone for thinking bad thoughts. Perhaps that has changed.

  23. Ex, I’d agree with you, especially the last paragraph. I’m not sure though, where the original link was, so to understand it in context. The original article doesn’t say, but I’ll bet it was not in a situation like your example. I’ll bet it was on a bogus adult website. Nothing trustworthy about it. Without the specifics you put in your hypo, it may not be entrapment. As you say, you need to know all the facts and context.

    Entrapment IS a defense, but it still doesn’t keep the FBI from your door.

    Now, nobody has yet to mention the point of my original comment. Was it that dumb?

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