When uncover investigators want to monitor the trading of child pornography in America Online chat rooms, they first send a message to "xxLutherxx," asking him to keep the chat room open.
The message goes to Sean Ramirez, the head of the Underground, a group that is dedicated to ending the pedophile chat rooms on the Internet.
Ramirez, 23, who lives in the Los Angeles suburb of Norwalk, said in an interview that he was molested as a youth and is dedicating his life to fighting pedophilia.
He and his group have powerful computer programs that allow them to close private chat rooms by a process known as "punting" -- a program that sends so much data to those in the chat rooms that their computers freeze. There is no permanent damage, but the rooms close quickly.
Ramirez and his group are reluctant to use the programs, though, because they face termination by America Online if caught.
While investigators stress that America Online fully cooperates when subpoenaed to track down the identities of pedophiles, Ramirez faults the online service. He said AOL has terminated people in his group who have reported pedophiles by sending America Online child pornography they received in these chat rooms.
"America Online invests mammoth amounts of money to stop the pirating of software on its system. They spend next to nothing to stop child pornography," Ramirez said. "It's clear that America Online worries more about protecting the multibillion dollar companies and their software than they do these poor children who have nobody to speak for them."
An America Online spokeswoman failed to have a company legal expert return telephone calls for comment.