By KURT EICHENWALD
Published: December 19, 2005
The 13-year-old boy sat in his California home, eyes fixed on a computer screen. He had never run with the popular crowd and long ago had turned to the Internet for the friends he craved. But on this day, Justin Berry's fascination with cyberspace would change his life.
Weeks before, Justin had hooked up a Web camera to his computer, hoping to use it to meet other teenagers online. Instead, he heard only from men who chatted with him by instant message as they watched his image on the Internet. 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 $50 to sit bare-chested in front of his Webcam for three minutes. The man explained that Justin could receive the money instantly and helped him open an account on PayPal.com, an online payment system.
"I figured, I took off my shirt at the pool for nothing," he said recently. "So, I was kind of like, what's the difference?"
Justin removed his T-shirt. The men watching him oozed compliments.
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. From the seduction that began that day, this soccer-playing honor roll student was drawn into performing in front of the Webcam - undressing, showering, masturbating and even having sex - for an audience of more than 1,500 people who paid him, over the years, hundreds of thousands of dollars.
For those of you who might not have seen it, the above seems to be the new godzilla on the block for investigative reporting. You know how it goes, some newspaper or tv show comes up with something like 'In dept undercover reporting finds that twinkie cream really made of old chinese newspapers!' and then you hear about nothing else for weeks or months and every other media outlet runs to do their new expose. Before you know it we have something like the Summer of the Shark or the whole school shooting thing or how perscription drugs kill. You can almost hear the voice over segway as they cut to commercial.
Do you know that your kids could be performing sexually for pedophiles RIGHT NOW in their room without your knowledge?!?!?!? Find out how these perverts are in bed with your kids!! Right after this commercial break.
You can read the rest of the story (though I think you need a NYT site signup) by clicking on the link but the general gyst is that this kid started getting payed to do various whozits in front of his web cam. It apparently escalated into a huge buisness where in the end he began recruiting other kids and starting his own porn companies. It all began with the free webcam he got for joining earthlink, which is sorta funny since I have one of those cams and at the time they had dubbed them the wee cams. Over 1500 people ended up paying him for various webcam services and the Times claims that of the 300 they checked out: "A majority of the sample consisted of doctors and lawyers, businessmen and teachers, many of whom work with children on a daily basis." It makes me wonder if pedophiles make a better living than most people on average. They always seem willing to pay exhorbant amounts of cash to score their fix and I've yet to hear of pedophiles mugging people like crackheads for it.
I sometimes wonder how many of the cam whores you see running around sites like SF, for instance, might be involved in crap like this though obviously on a smaller scale. Hell, it's almost like a part time job for teens. In the days to come I'm sure we'll see more reporters trying to piggyback on this story, running their own investigations and crap. If it's really as blatant as it seems to be, it seems odd that no one just goes around and pulls the plug.