Hunting pedophiles on the Net

By James R. Kincaid

By Salon Staff
Published August 28, 2000 7:04PM (EDT)

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During my first two years of high school (ages 13 to 15) I frequented a number of online gaming and chat services, mostly MUDs and MUSHes. While there was plenty of flirting and even occasional simulated sex, I never once received an invitation to meet someone for sex in the physical world. The few mudders I did meet in person were all from my same general age group, and all had platonic intentions. No doubt there are a few pedophiles and child molesters online -- every large group of people contains some undesirables, and children should be taught how to avoid them. However, the idea that the Internet is crawling with predators lying in wait for innocent children and teenagers simply isn't born out by my own experience. The government does a disservice to all Internet users, adult and child alike, by encouraging such paranoia.

-- Sarah Karlson

James R. Kincaid offers a calm voice of reason in the midst of America's climate of hysteria regarding child sexual safety.

He asks the very difficult and pointed questions of why we continue to point fingers at our neighbors when the evidence overwhelmingly shows that our children are far more likely to be abused within their own homes by their own family.

How much longer will we sell our children short for the sake of sensationalism? I only hope for the sake of our children that people take Kincaid's message to heart and start to pursue real solutions to child abuse -- gritty and uncomfortable and not at all glamorous.

-- Christin O'Cuddehy

I'm afraid I have to disagree with Kincaid's conclusions in his article on the FBI's programs. The question is not whether there are child abductions involving the Internet. The question is whether or not we want there to be child abductions involving the Internet.

The fact that they've caught people in their snares and managed to get convictions (or plea bargains) to stick, indicates that there is some desire to transgress the law here. And if none of them actually get away with it, well, we should thank the FBI, not doubt the efficacy of the program.

It is my hope that nobody ever succeeds. And hopefully, the publicity that these programs provide will keep people from even trying.

-- Steven Burnap

James R. Kincaid's article almost reads like an apology to those who have been arrested under these sting operations. Did it ever occur to him that any adult male traveling across state lines to meet a preteen girl really doesn't have much of a defense? If they can't prove entrapment, you'd better believe they'd plea bargain as quickly as possible.

I can't figure out what he's so nervous about. Those who are willing to commit this crime are caught. There are no innocent victims, and perpetrators can be stopped before real harm is done by some of these men.

-- Bill Greer

Salon Staff

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