Unquestionably, the Internet today provides new and unprecedented opportunities for sex offenders to meet and share explicit images and predation methods. Peer-to-peer (P2P) networks are one way these individuals share child pornography and other explicit materials. P2P networks allow collectors of child pornography to download and trade movies, images, and pornographic text with others in the network. In effect, individuals in these networks maintain "libraries" of images for others to share.
Until recently, P2P technology made it difficult for law enforcement to investigate these crimes. However, the development of new software now provides investigators powerful tools to identify the movement of pornography in P2P networks.
One such software tool allows law enforcement officials to identify and locate computers that trade or download child pornography—and the tool identifies and locates these computers geographically by IP address. Using this software, investigators have been able to identify over a half-million individual computers worldwide that have been involved in the exchange of child pornography.