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Child Abuse Negl. 2009 Aug;33(8):560-8. doi: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2008.12.011. Epub 2009 Sep 13.

Child pornography in peer-to-peer networks.

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  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Department of Computer Science, Falls Church, VA 22040, USA.



The presence of child pornography in peer-to-peer networks is not disputed, but there has been little effort done to quantify and analyze the distribution and nature of that content to-date. By performing an analysis of queries and query hits on the largest peer-to-peer network, we are able to both quantify and describe the nature of querying by child pornographers as well as the content they are sharing.


Child pornography related content was identified and analyzed in 235,513 user queries and 194,444 query hits.


The research confirmed a large amount of peer-to-peer traffic is dedicated to child pornography, but supply and demand must be separated for a better understanding. The most prevalent query and the top two most prevalent filenames returned as query hits were child pornography related. However, it would be inaccurate to state child pornography dominates peer-to-peer as 1% of all queries were related to child pornography and 1.45% of all query hits (unique filenames) were related to child pornography, consistent with a smaller study (Hughes et al., 2008). In addition to the above, research indicates that the median age searched for was 13 years old, and the majority of queries were gender-neutral, but of those with gender-related terms, 79% were female-oriented. Distribution-wise, the vast majority of content-specific searches are for movies at 99%, though images are still the most prevalent in availability.


There is no shortage of child pornography supply and demand on peer-to-peer networks and by analyzing how consumers seek and distributors advertise content we can better understand their motivations.


Understanding the behavior of child pornographers and how they search for content when contrasted with those sharing content provides a basis for finding and combating that behavior. For law enforcement, knowing the specific terms used allows more timely and accurate forensics and better identification of those seeking and distributing child pornography. For Internet researchers, better filtering and monitoring is possible. For mental health professionals, understanding the preferences and behaviors of those searching supports more effective treatment.

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