With the help of their 1.8 petaflop supercomputer, Jaguar, researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee are sifting through internet traffic in search of suspicions patterns that will lead police to the perpetrators of child pornography.
In standard police work, checking a suspect's hard drive will show whether they have been downloading illegal content such as child pornography. But catching the criminals that produce such material in the first place is even more important, because they can often lead police to the children who are being abused. It is far from easy, since you can't necessarily tell who took the illicit images stored on a hard drive.
The problem with policing child pornography online is that there is simply too much of it, says Grier Weeks, executive director of the National Association to Protect Children. "We could quadruple our law enforcement dedicated to this problem overnight, and they'd still be overwhelmed," he says.
He approached the computer scientists at Oak Ridge in search of a solution, "They were genuinely stunned and moved by what they'd heard," he told New Scientist. "And within a week they were making a visit to the Knoxville Internet Crimes Against Children task force".