Monday, August 20, 2007

Cyber-Vigilantes Shine Spotlight on Blogging Pedophile

Seattle resident and self-described pedophile Jack McClellan caused outrage over a Web site he created for the purpose of directing men to places to meet children and displaying photos of young boys and girls on the site. While many may view McClellan's material as offensive, authorities maintain that he has not broken the law. Several cyber-vigilantes are creating Web sites to combat McClellan's efforts.

Ron Tebo was watching Fox News Channel recently when he saw an interview with Jack McClellan, a self-described pedophile from the Seattle area.

McClellan was defending his Web site that guided other men to the best spots to meet young children and included photos he'd taken of boys and girls in public spaces.

"I was immediately disgusted over it, and I knew something constructive needed to be done about it," said Tebo, a West Seneca resident who works as a webmaster for the Professional Bartending Schools of America.

Grabbing National Attention

Tebo decided to try to stop McClellan by turning the Internet against him.

He set up his own Web site,, which calls McClellan "a ticking pedophilia time bomb," carries warnings aimed at parents, and urges readers to write whenever they spot McClellan.

Tebo's anti-McClellan site has gotten national media attention, including a live interview Monday on CBS' "The Early Show."

"Thank you for this site, and thank you and God bless you for trying to help the communities of the world look out for sick people like this," wrote one visitor from Apple Valley, Calif.

Cyber-Vigilantes Unite

Tebo has a personal reason for going after McClellan. He said he was abused by a neighbor when he was 6.

Tebo is one of a growing number of Internet users who are targeting pedophiles online.

While disturbing language on the Web can enjoy constitutional protections, cyber-vigilantes are using high-tech methods to make life uncomfortable for people who covet children.

"There are a lot of well-meaning and frustrated people out there who want to take things into their own hands," said Parry Aftab, executive director of, a nonprofit organization that seeks to keep children safe online.

Blogging on a Thin Line

This raises ethical and legal questions on both sides, and illustrates the fundamentally unmanageable nature of the Web.

McClellan was relatively unknown until earlier this year, when a Seattle-area newspaper did a story on him that later was picked up by Fox News.

McClellan has said publicly he doesn't think there's anything wrong with adult men showing affection toward children as young as 3. He said he's never sexually abused a child.

"I term it more of an erotic appeal with female, prepubescent children," McClellan told The News in an interview Monday from Los Angeles, where he is living in his car. "It's the whole package of these girls. Their playfulness. Their anarchy. Their irreverence."

His Web site served as a how-to guide for fellow pedophiles in Washington State. He rated the best places where they could find children -- municipal swimming pools, school recitals and other public places.

McClellan also posted photos of kids he'd taken at the venues.

He's not a convicted sex offender, so he isn't barred from places where children gather; police in the area said nothing on his site was illegal.

McClellan Still Determined

Watching the Fox News segment in April, Tebo was upset that McClellan was able to peddle his ideology online, so he registered the domain name for his anti-McClellan Web site.

"My intention was to take the traffic from that pedo site and divert it," said Tebo, who has a Web site,, that collects prank and blooper videos and was the subject of a Buffalo News article in May.

"Parents are writing me, 'Thank God, thank God, thank God for your site. I didn't know about this man,'" Tebo said.

McClellan's Internet service provider took down his original site, but he doesn't shy away from publicity, and he's found other forums for his views.

The attention forced him to move from Washington State to Los Angeles, but he continues to spend time around children and he hopes to start up his blog again.

"I feel maybe I have an opportunity to educate people," McClellan said. He added that he's seen Tebo's site and wonders why someone in New York has taken an interest in him.

Web Site Angers Father

Tebo is a father of 10-year-old twin boys, but he has another reason for launching the site.

Tebo said he was abused by a neighbor when he was 6 years old and living with his family in the Town of Boston.

He and a younger family member were abused over the period of a year, until they moved, he said.

He never told anyone about the abuse at the time because he felt ashamed that it happened and guilty that he wasn't able to protect the family member.

However, he wants to make sure McClellan and people like him don't get the chance to do that to any other children.

"It's difficult. I think that motivates me in the back of my mind," Tebo said.

Offensive but Not Illegal

Law enforcement officials are limited in what they can do, because unless the site contains pornographic images, it's usually protected speech, said Paul M. Moskal, a spokesperson for the FBI in Buffalo, N.Y.

"The public doesn't want the FBI abridging people's First Amendment rights. No matter how offensive someone's point of view may be, that doesn't necessarily make it illegal. And it's not up to the FBI to make that judgment," Moskal said.

The inability of police and prosecutors to take action is frustrating to Aftab, Tebo and others who worry about kids' safety.

Though Moskal said police agencies are "very leery" of citizens intervening in potential law enforcement matters, frustration is driving Tebo and others to act on their own.

In some cases, Web watchdogs have hacked into pedophiles' Web sites, stolen their identities, or conducted scams that target pedophiles, Aftab noted.

Fighting Speech With Speech

Civil liberties advocates say they find McClellan's comments offensive, but they have some concerns about these tactics.

"It underscores that the only response we have to the most disturbing speech is more speech," said John A. Curr III, who heads the regional office of the New York Civil Liberties Union.

That said, Curr added, when the comments on a Web site shift from advocacy to stirring someone to physically act against a pedophile, that's when it could cross a legal line.

Tebo said he's been contacted by numerous media organizations since Monday's "Early Show," including producers for Larry King and Paula Zahn.

He said he does plan to keep up the Web site as long as necessary. He's also taken out a second site in a pedophile's name,

He's setting up another site,, that would have a broader reach.

"We want to put pedophiles on notice. We want to put child abusers on notice," Tebo said.