A page allowing download of the alleged pornographic images was posted on August 16th on The Pirate Bay, which is run by Swedes and hosted in Sweden. The images were made available through a so-called torrent, through which users can download material directly from other users.
The pictures had been downloaded nearly 900 times by Monday.
The torrent’s title suggests the two young girls depicted were aged 8 and 10. The description of the images claimed that they showed “full nudity of young girls”, although added that they were “not porn”. Police disagree – Björn Sellström of Swedish Police’s child porn unit told The Local: “this is a case of child pornography.”
Prosecutor Cathrine Rudström told The Local that she had only recently been passed the case, and there was so far no suspect.
“The Pirate Bay are not suspects,” she said, adding that the administrators of the site had reported the suspected pornography. She said she had requested data from The Pirate Bay, including IP addresses, to enable suspects to be traced.
The moderators of The Pirate Bay knew for two weeks that the suspect material was available via the site, but did not take it down. On 17th August moderator ‘Himod’ added a comment to the site’s discussion forum:
“We sent a mail asking if this content are [sic] illegal or not in Sweden. Until there is a reply, the torrent stays.”
Responding to angry users of the site, Himod added: “I don’t give a shit if you folks are upset. Me and the other moderators job are NOT to have an opinion about if it is imoral or not.”
This contrasts with statements made by The Pirate Bay’s co-founders last month after police threatened to block the site over child porn. Then, Fredrik Neij said that when alerted to child pornography administrators had “gone in as soon as possible and removed the files.”
Cathrine Rudström said she was unclear whether The Pirate Bay was technically able to remove torrents. “They are not stored on their computers,” she said.
But IT security expert Joakim von Braun told The Local: “I cannot think of anything that would stop them from removing them. It would be easy work.”
“You should remove that material as soon as you see it,” he said.
Peter Sund, one of the other founders of The Pirate Bay, defended on Tuesday the decision to keep the link to the material on the site.
“We have a no-censor policy,” he said.
“The moderator reported it to the police. It could have been whatever. We can’t download it and check what it is. It’s the police’s responsibility to get back to us,” he added.
Sund also insisted that “real child porn” had never been found on The Pirate Bay.
But lawyers say that The Pirate Bay could still bear responsibility for helping spread the material.
Agne Lindberg, an IT and intellectual property specialist at law firm Delphi, said:
“The question is whether, although their site is not hosting the material, they are contributing to someone else’s crime.”