The porn's in the post

Andrew North on the outrage caused by a tasteless `spam'

Thousands of subscribers to America Online and several other online services received an unwelcome surprise when they checked their e-mail last week. They found they had been sent junk e-mail offering a wide range of child pornography.

Investigations into the source of the "spam" are still continuing, but there are signs that it is actually a tasteless hoax. The message purported to be from a named individual with a New York state address. But as many recipients have already pointed out, no one would be so stupid as to put their real name on such a posting.

The author claimed to be "a fan of child pornography" and was offering videotapes, posters, games and even tape recordings of young boys moaning requested names. Recipients were also told they could have their own face "morphed" into a video to make it appear that they were participating. Prices and payment details were attached. The message informed people they had been sent the offer "because your e-mail address was on a list that fit (sic) this category".

Variously titled, "Child pornography", "Child Fun" or Child XXX", AOL was first alerted to the posting last Monday, when its helpdesk was deluged with complaints. Users of other online and Internet services, including CompuServe, Prodigy, AT&T WorldNet and Netcom also reported receiving the message. More than 200 people had complained about the message to CompuServe UK's helpdesk within 24 hours of the posting.

The posting originated from two AOL addresses (TipToe0001@aol.com and R9ch@aol.com), but people who tried to reply found their messages bounced back immediately. Experts suspect the addresses were actually "screen names", which were simply deleted once the spam had been sent. In common with many other Internet companies, AOL's software allows subscribers to create several screen names for each account.

In theory, it should be possible for AOL to trace the owner of the accounts or accounts. But this will not necessarily lead to the author of the message because the account could have been used illegally. The company said: "The source of the e-mail is still unknown." The FBI is now investigating the case and British police have also been contacted.

Opinion in the newsgroups was tending towards the view that the child porn spam is either a prank or an attempt to smear the person named in the e-mail. One theory is that people who had contributed to newsgroup discussions on combating child pornography on the Net had been deliberately targeted with the posting. Alternatively, people's e-mail addresses may simply have been grabbed as they passed through particular Web sites.

Whatever the case, it is hard to believe this mass posting was a real attempt to sell child pornography. Moreover, by sending it to so many people, the originator was inviting trouble. As one newsgroup contributor wrote: "Short of actually walking in to a police station and confessing, I can't imagine a faster way of getting attention from local, state and federal authorities than sending e-mail to a thousand strangers announcing that you have child porn for sale"

Suggested Topics
News
Food blogger and Guardian writer Jack Monroe with her young son
people
News
people
News
peopleSinger tells The Independent what life is like in rehab in an exclusive video interview
Arts and Entertainment
booksPhotographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years - but he says it wasn’t all fun and games...
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
News
i100
Sport
Aguero - who single-handedly has kept City's Champions League dreams alive - celebrates his dramatic late winner
footballManchester City 3 Bayern Munich 2: Argentine's late hat-rick sees home side snatch vital victory
News
Muhammad Ali pictured in better health in 2006
peopleBut he has enjoyed publicity from his alleged near-death experience
Arts and Entertainment
Tony breaks into Ian Garrett's yacht and makes a shocking discovery
TVReview: Revelations continue to make this drama a tough watch
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
TV
News
The assumption that women are not as competent in leadership positions as men are leads to increased stress in the workplace
science... and it's down to gender stereotypes
Life and Style
The racy marketing to entice consumers to buy Fairlife, which launches in the US next month
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Inner sanctum: Tove Jansson and friends in her studio in 1992
booksWhat was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Lawyer - Cheshire

    Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CHESHIRE MARKET TOWN - An exciting and rare o...

    Austen Lloyd: Residential Property Solicitor - Hampshire

    Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE - SENIOR POSITION - An exciti...

    Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Engineer

    £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Engineer is required ...

    Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor

    £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor is req...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
    Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

    24-Hour party person

    Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
    Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

    A taste for rebellion

    US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
    Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

    Colouring books for adults

    How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
    Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

    What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

    Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
    Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

    Call me Ed Mozart

    Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
    10 best stocking fillers for foodies

    Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

    From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
    Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

    Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

    Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
    'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

    'I am a paedophile'

    Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
    Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

    From a lost deposit to victory

    Green Party on the march in Bristol
    Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

    Winter blunderlands

    Putting the grot into grotto
    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

    London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital