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The scale of Webcam child pornography is unknown, because it is new and extremely secretive.One online portal that advertises for-pay Webcam sites, many of them pornographic, lists at least 585 sites created by teenagers, internal site records show.To Justin, they seemed just like friends, ready with compliments and always offering gifts.Now, on an afternoon in 2000, one member of his audience sent a proposal: he would pay Justin to sit bare-chested in front of his Webcam for three minutes. So began the secret life of a teenager who was lured into selling images of his body on the Internet over the course of five years.In this virtual universe, adults hunt for minors on legitimate sites used by Webcam owners who post contact information in hopes of attracting friends.If children respond to messages, adults spend time "grooming" them - with praise, attention and gifts - before seeking to persuade them to film themselves pornographically. Many teenagers solicit "donations," request gifts through sites like or negotiate payments, while a smaller number charge monthly fees.While experts with these groups said they had witnessed a recent deluge of illicit, self-generated Webcam images, they had not known of the evolution of sites where minors sold images of themselves for money."We've been aware of the use of the Webcam and its potential use by exploiters," said Ernest E.
Not all victims profit, with some children ending up as pornographic commodities inadvertently, even unknowingly.In a series of meetings, The Times persuaded Justin to abandon his business and, to protect other children at risk, assisted him in contacting the Justice Department.Arrests and indictments of adults he identified as pornography producers and traffickers began in September."The fact that we are getting so many potential targets, people who knowingly bought into a child pornographic Web site, could lead to hundreds of other subjects and potentially save hundreds of other kids that we are not aware of yet," said Monique Winkis, a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation who is working the case.Law enforcement officials also said that, with the cooperation of Justin, they had obtained a rare guide into this secluded online world whose story illuminates the exploitation that takes place there.
Investigators are also focusing on businesses, including credit card processors that have aided illegal sites.