During the following week, Indy-Girl repeatedly expressed concern that John was avoiding her: “You’re usually so fun to chat with . Chat rooms have spawned an underground subculture in which social status is based on comprehensive libraries of images.
Many users consider themselves “collectors,” trading pictures until they assemble sets that feature certain children, stars on the Internet, being sexually abused over time.
In a study of child pornography, the historian Philip Jenkins, of Penn State, found that chat rooms foster a kind of “bandit culture.” Self-described “Loli fans” see themselves as part of a subversive fraternity, unified by the pursuit of forbidden pleasures.
On a Saturday night in the summer of 1998, an undercover officer logged in to a child-pornography chat room using the screen name Indy-Girl.
Within minutes, a user named John introduced himself and asked her, “Are you into real life or just fantasy?