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PEER-TO-PEER NETWORKS

Peer-to-peer networks allow electronic connections between two users directly, without mediation through a central server. Typically, peer-to-peer (sometimes known as P2P) connections are used for file sharing, in both business and personal environments. Examples of this type of Internet channel include Napster, Gnutella, Morpheus, BearShare, and KaZaA.

Peer-to-peer connections are generally not anonymous, although people who don’t know each other can share files. Using file-sharing software, a user can access a peer-to-peer network without going through a browser such as Netscape Navigator or Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. When search terms are typed in, the software searches other computers connected to the network. When a match is found, the user can download the file to a hard drive.

Caution!

  • Some peer-to-peer networks are established solely for exchanging pornographic images and video. Unlike commercial adult-oriented Web sites, which impose credit-card fees on users, the graphic content on file-sharing networks is available free of charge. In addition, peer-to-peer file transfers can bypass content filtering, although the function itself can be blocked by certain filters.

  • Children and teens who use peer-to-peer networks to search within their boundaries can be inadvertently directed to pornographic material. For example, on KaZaA, a popular P2P, the keywords “Britney Spears,” “Pokemon,” and the “Olsen twins” can yield sexually explicit content.

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