Is the boom in kiddie porn a Net effect or is 'victimless' behavior unduly punished?

Is the boom in kiddie porn a Net effect or is 'victimless' behavior unduly punished?

Summary: The Internet was one termed a "cult machine" and that may appear to be the case with child pornography. It was almost snuffed out in the domain of mail order and adult book shops but with the Internet it is a huge, sprawling blight on society, seemingly ever-growing.

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TOPICS: Browser
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The Internet was one termed a "cult machine" and that may appear to be the case with child pornography. It was almost snuffed out in the domain of mail order and adult book shops but with the Internet it is a huge, sprawling blight on society, seemingly ever-growing. According to the Washington Post:

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's CyberTipline received about 4,500 reports of children being victimized it its first year, 1998. This year the center, which works closely with law enforcement officials, has collected nearly 100,000 reports, more than 75 percent for online child pornography.

Child Porn site from TV News

And it's not just sheer numbers but also the extremity, the severity of the imagery.

"You can't wrap your brain around what we're talking about here," said Bonnie S. Greenberg, a prosecutor in the U.S. attorney's office in Maryland. "We're not talking about a 16-year-old who looks like she could be 19. We're seeing prepubescent children who are being raped, babies, toddlers being tied up."

It's not just that the Internet has fed an appetite for child pornography; it's also that the images have become a larger and larger focus for law enforcement. And some are questioning whether consumption of images without action -- or even proof that viewing kiddie porn leads people to child abuse should even be a crime.

"Sending people to prison for five or 10 or 15 years for looking at pictures is killing an ant with a sledgehammer," said Peter Greenspun, who defended Charles Rust-Tierney, the former ACLU head sentenced to seven years in prison for downloading hundreds of images. "These people are being put on sex-offender registries, they are being ostracized from the community, for looking at pictures."

Just what is the connection? The Postal Inspection Service found only a third of people convicted of kidde porn charges had also committed child abuse. But a much smaller study of inmates in North Carolina found 85% overlap between the two groups.

"There are a large group of individuals whose lives and families are absolutely being devastated because they looked at these images," said Fred Berlin, a psychiatrist who runs the National Institute for the Study, Prevention and Treatment of Sexual Trauma, affiliated with Johns Hopkins University. "They had absolutely no idea how severe the consequences would be and had no interest in doing anything other than viewing images."

I am really split on this: I think kiddie porn is NOT victimless, because children clearly have been victimized and the thought of people stroking to images of kids, knowing they've been victimized and not caring, is upsetting. On the other hand, the involvement of the person being prosecuted is really indirect and the consequences are so harsh. Isn't this a case of people being punished for "thinking bad thoughts"? With law enforcement focused on child porn, there might be an allure-of-forbidden-fruit going on, too. Finally, I'm not sure that the prosecutions are drying up the market; perhaps resources are better spent nailing the people who actually are harming the kids, rather than the demand-side?

There's a net addiction aspect here, too. There's no way that guy would have collected 1.5 million images in the offline world: the Net makes it possible to just keep going and going. But the mental health world ignores the syndrome and addictive behavior goes untreated, kids continue to be victimized and relatively harmless offenders are harshly punished.

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49 comments
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  • If the demand is choked

    then it will be much less profitable to harm the children. Simple economics.
    voyager529
    • If it's about economics

      I'm not so sure this has anything to do with economics. I don't think the pedophile doing this is thinking about how much money he will make but more thinking how he relive the event by looking the pictures or video. Kind of like how a serial killer keeps mementos of their crimes.

      So eliminating demand doesn't really do away with the problem it just hides it. If suddenly child porn wasn't available on the net I strongly suspect abuse of children would still continue same as before.

      The only economic stand point I see is criminal websites operators profiting off the abuse of children. Eliminate that profit and the abuse still continues.
      voska
  • RE: Is the boom in kiddie porn a Net effect or is 'victimless' behavior und

    The problem is how 100000 report are for real child pron sites. How many reports are based on front page views. A place I used to be affiliated with had a major problem with child porn but but further examination beyond the front page shows the site either a click farm or phishing site. Let look at the bright size, thanks to law enforcement via the anonymity of the Internet we able to drive the industry back undergorund. Let not forget the successful sting operations that bust up major child porn rings. I think the new problem are is peer to peer.
    Richardbz
  • there is no ambiguity and it is NOT victimless

    Let's not minimize the heinous nature of this, there is no "Kiddie" in any of this. CHILD P*** is a crime, pure and simple. Viewing it is definitely a crime. Why? Things exist on the internet and anywhere else for only one reason, because they have an audience. By viewing any child p***, one is serving as that audience and thereby perpetuating this crime since people are only interested in new content. So in this case, the severity justifies the end which is to establish at least some sort of deterrence to this crime. If the audience size can be diminished somewhat, so will hopefully the need to find new victims by those despicable predictors before they can be caught. By the way, any time when someone is subject to sexual activities without the ability to give consent, it is R@PE, a crime that applies not only to CHILD p*** but to any any other p*** where participants are forced or coerced into performing those acts.
    nothingness
    • Viewing child porn creates a demand for the content ....

      ... and results in children being victimized. If noone viewed child porn there wouldn't be any being made. If the punishment is harsh then I am glad. The people participating should be ostericised.
      ShadeTree
      • This has worked well in the drug war too.

        NOT! If distribution is easy you can never dry up demand. The people that want to view this stuff are sick and should be treated as such but higher penalties won't stop them.

        There's another question here. If viewing these images is a crime then how is law enforcement able to press charges without commiting the crime themselves? It's kind of like busting the prositute [b]after[/b] the cop has had sex with her or busting the drug dealer [b]after[/b] using the drugs. These are both a no-no for law enforcement.
        slopoke
        • It's possesion not the viewing

          Being in possession of child porn is the offense. Much like being in possession of illegal drugs. Viewing is not illegal as you can't determine intent by just viewing. When a person views the image then saves it to their hard drive and burns it a CD and trades with others of like mind then you have intent. Just getting a email from some sicko containing a jpg of child porn doesn't make you guilty of an offense. What you do with the jpg does though. If you delete and or report the sender to authorities doesn't though.
          voska
          • Remember the Temp folder

            When I view the image it gets saved to my browser's temp folder. Unless I'm savy and religious about deleteing the contents of that folder then I'm at risk.

            The net result? It's viewing that becomes the crime. I belive that Pete Townsend (The Who) got in trouble just this way.
            slopoke
      • I don't think it works that way

        Yeah it's sick that people want to view this kind of stuff but really where is the profit motivation when a child is victimized by pedophile. I just don't see the pedophile victimizing a child with the thoughts of dollar signs in their mind.

        The one positive thing about child porn on the net is criminals are stupid. Their trading in the abuses of children is like hanging out a sign saying arrest me. How much abuse would never be caught if the traffic in pictures like this was never available. I'd think it would be like the pre-internet days when we just didn't know it was happening and live in blissful ignorance of the whole thing.

        So we catch a few voyeurs in the process. What's the harm? They are sickos anyways and if there is only 33% chance of them offending I'd rather see 66% who wouldn't harm locked up to protect us from the 33%.
        voska
  • Relatively harmless offenders?

    I have got disagree with you there. There are several layers to the victimization that goes along with this kind of thing. And the people who are viewing it without reporting it or doing anything about it are not relatively harmless. They are part of the whole problem.
    If you go hunting for this kind of thing to get off on the sick images then there is something seriously wrong with you (and I do not mean YOU specifically). It is kind of like someone just sitting there and watching someone get the shinola beat out of them without doing anything about it. There are laws in certain states for that kind of thing. No, you don't necessarily have to jump in the middle and get yourself hurt but most people know how to dial 9-1-1.
    This kind of thing would still be out there to some degree even if people did not go looking for it BUT there wouldn't be so much of it.
    So no, I do not think the people who go out and view this kind of thing with the sole purpose of getting off on it are harmless. They are an integral part of the problem. And just because they were not the person who actually did this to the child doesn't meant that they are not guilty of a crime. Maybe they should not have as stiff of a punishment as the ACTUAL offender but they should still be punished. Maybe my opinion is clouded because I am a parent but there you go.
    Shelendrea
    • 1/3 commited abuse against children

      If that's true that 1/3 of people looking for child porn are abusers themselves then arresting all these sicko people is worth the price. You can't tell if the freak is going to or has abused a child so I say lock em all up.

      In the end I don't think reducing demand will help at all. Abuse will still continue and probably we just won't hear about it.
      voska
      • Knee Jerk= Jerk Response

        This issue is definitely not black and white, and the idea that people should go to jail for only viewing any image is ridiculous and is nothing short of being convicted for your thoughts. Most browsers cache images so if your directed to a site you may have cached images even if you've not willingly gone there. Your comment is the kind of ridiculous thing that would fill our jails with pot smokers while real criminals walk the streets... for that matter what exactly is child porn.. is a 16 year old girls that has sex on camera of her own volition and puts it on the net..child porn?? who will make these thought crime decisions, I'm not defending actual criminals who are abusing children but you can not arrest and convict people on the basis that they might commit a crime.. and how far do you take it, arresting people for having an X rated movie because a study somewhere shows that they might be more likely to commit a sexual crime.
        storm@...
        • I had a good response to this

          Appears ZDET won't let me post it. All I can say is not all just the proven. Hope this works.
          voska
  • Too wide of a net?

    I agree that we should convict people viewing it to curb demand, and it is not a victimless crime.

    With statistics like that, though, I wonder if they are skewing the numbers on purpose by casting as wide a net as possible. For example, what is their definition of kiddie porn? They describe some extreme cases saying it is getting bad, but the it looks like the numbers include everything where the image is of someone under 18 years old, regardless of the circumstances, including those 16 year olds that look 19.

    I am all for enforcement, but in all discyssions (environmental, political, etc.) I don't like it where statistical lines are drawn intentionally to create a "crisis". I can only hope that is what is happening in this case, otherwise, I don't really want to think about what we have become.
    The-Bytemaster
    • At least some of that is happening.

      I read a while back about the arrest of a guy for his searches for nude images of 15 and 16 year old girls. The rub? The guy was 16 himself. He was basically interested sex with girls his own age.
      slopoke
      • Interesting

        Arresting a 16 year old boy for viewing naked pictures of 16 year old girls. That would depend on how he got them. If it had been a girlfriend that had given them to him then that would be one thing. But he went searching for something that he should have known was illegal to possess.
        This is one of those gray areas that it is hard to make a firm decision on without knowing all of the facts.
        Shelendrea
        • Yeah.

          What this really points to is that sexual interst in someone past puberty is a far different thing than interst in pre-pubescent children no matter how the law defines "child". That's not to say that my (55 years old) being interesed in a 16 year old (I'm not!!!) is not wrong and shouldn't be illegal but it certainly isn't in the same category as the guy that wants to have sex with 5 year olds. The first would be r@pe in a statutory sense but the second is just plain sick and creepy no matter what the law says.
          slopoke
        • Didn't a case like this happen last year

          Some guys girlfriend sent him partial nudes of her self via her camera phone and she was arrested for creating child porn and he was arrested for being in possession of child porn.
          voska
          • 6 vs. 16

            Clearly, there's a difference in the need to protect a 16-yo than a younger child. The need is to protect *children.* 16yo's are able to marry in some states. So while they are minors for purposes of statutory r-p- and real r-pe, they are relatively able to make choices about whether to pose n-de. Kinda. The difference between a troubled 16yo and a troubled 20yo choosing to pose seems real but nuanced. A six-year-old, a 10-year-old, a 14-year-old is a different story.

            While it is wrong for a p-rn-grapher to take advantage of a 16yo, it is sort of like stat r-pe. It might be consensual but the burden is on the adult to make the better decision.

            I feel pretty confident that police response is heavily weighted towards actual CHILD p-rnography and less weighted towards teen p-rnography.
            rkoman@...
          • filters

            BTW, I had to dash out certain words to get past ZDNet's spam filters. If you're havin problems that seems to work
            rkoman@...