Abuse, Adolescence, Children, Culture, Emotional Abuse, Physical Abuse, Politics, Pornography, Psychological Abuse, Sexual Abuse, Sexualization, Society

Combating Child Porn is Necessary but Risky

Yesterday, New York state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced that three of the world’s largest internet service providers (ISPs) have agreed to block internet access to child pornography and eliminate it from their servers.

The companies Verizon, Sprint, and Time Warner Cable will cut off all internet access to Usenet newsgroups that spread child pornography; they will deny access to websites that host child porn; and they will fund an effort to purge their own servers of the stuff.

The move is especially significant because it represents a new strategy in law enforcement. Traditionally, agents target child porn producers and their customers. But this move targets the ISPs — the distribution channels.

While the FBI’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces have “traced child porn to 650,000 computers” they can investigate “less than 2 percent of the offenders” because of “manpower and funding” shortages. The provisions of Mr. Cuomo’s deal will take effect not only in New York State, but through out the country, and promise to be an economical way of shutting down child porn.

Mr. Cuomo had to do some arm-twisting to bring about the deal with Verizon, Sprint, and Time Warner Cable. According to the New York Times:

The agreements resulted from an eight-month investigation and sting operation in which undercover agents from Mr. Cuomo’s office, posing as subscribers, complained to Internet providers that they were allowing child pornography to proliferate online, despite customer service agreements that discouraged such activity. Verizon, for example, warns its users that they risk losing their service if they transmit or disseminate sexually exploitative images of children.

After the companies ignored the investigators’ complaints, the attorney general’s office surfaced, threatening charges of fraud and deceptive business practices. The companies agreed to cooperate and began weeks of negotiations.

Mr. Cuomo is currently negotiating with other ISPs to reach similar agreements.

According to officials from the attorney general’s office, this new strategy is unlikely to entirely eliminate online child pornography, but it has the potential of making it extremely difficult to find it.

My initial reaction to the news today was cautiously mixed. On the one hand, I want the initiative to work. One the other hand, I wondered, like Heather Green of BusinessWeek, where it might lead. In a representative democracy, he or she who controls the flow of information potentially controls the democracy. Moreover, it’s not as if the recent news of illegal government wiretaps is wonderfully reassuring. But I’ll put all that aside for a moment to discuss the problem of child porn.

It seems in some significant ways, adult pornography and child pornography are two separate beasts.

So far as I can gather, adult porn is a bit like alcohol in that it doesn’t seem to have many bad effects — and actually might be beneficial — when used in moderation, but it can be harmful when used excessively. Child porn, on the other hand, seems to be toxic from the start. That is, however, my own conclusion and while some scientists agree with me, others don’t.

Studies in Denmark, the United States, and Japan have suggested that legalizing adult porn reduces the rate of sexual assaults in a society. On the other hand, there seem to be reasons for believing that child porn increases sexual assaults on children. Consider these findings:

  • According to the Mayo Clinic, studies and case reports indicate that 30% to 80% of individuals who viewed child pornography and 76% of individuals who were arrested for Internet child pornography had molested a child.
  • A study conducted by psychologists at the Federal Bureau of Prisons has concluded that “many Internet child pornography offenders may be undetected child molesters”, finding a slightly higher percentage of molesters among child pornography offenders than the Mayo Clinic study
  • According to the National District Attorneys Association, “In light of the documented link between individuals who view child pornography and individuals who actually molest children, each child pornography case should be viewed as a red flag to the possibility of actual child molestation.”
  • The NCH has noted that “Many pedophiles acknowledge that exposure to child abuse images fuels their sexual fantasies and plays an important part in leading them to commit hands-on sexual offenses against children.”

Thus, there seems to be strong evidence for claiming that viewing child pornography increases the odds someone will abuse a child.

Yet, even if there were no relationship at all between viewing child porn and abusing children, it would still be the case that children are abused in the production of child porn. According to Wikipedia, “The United States Department of Justice estimates that pornographers have recorded the abuse of more than one million children in the United States alone.” And from the same source, “There is an increasing trend towards younger victims and greater brutality; according to Flint Waters, an investigator with the federal Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. ‘These guys are raping infants and toddlers. You can hear the child crying, pleading for help in the video. It is horrendous.'”

As you might expect, the effects on children can be devastating: “The impact on the child victim who is exploited to produce pornography is often serious. Children can experience a myriad of symptoms including physical symptoms and illnesses, emotional withdrawal, anti-social behaviour, mood-swings, depression, fear and anxiety.” I have heard from creditable sources over the years that those symptoms can continue long into adulthood.

So, the way I see it, viewing child porn most likely causes at least some people to abuse children. But even if it didn’t, there is no reasonable doubt children are abused in the creation of child porn. Consequently, it it seems to me that it is in the interests of the children — and nearly all the rest of us too — that Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s strategy of targeting the internet service providers works. Presumably, the harder it is to get hold of child porn, the fewer children will be abused. Moreover, a society that cannot protect its children is hardly a society worth living in.

Yet, things are never simple in the real world.

Thus, there have been such injustices as the New Jersey grandmother who was in 2000 charged with endangering the welfare of a child after taking pictures of her 4 and 6 year old granddaughters naked. More recently, a 13 year old girl and a 16 year old boy had sex, and, despite that the 13 year old told the boy she was the same age as him, the boy was arrested, charged and convicted of lascivious acts with a child, a class D felony. In another case, a 16 year old girl sent a 17 year old boy two explicit photos of her naked, which eventually resulted in the boy being charged with two felonies: possession of child pornography and sexual exploitation of a child under 18 years of age.

This is not a country that often has the discipline to refrain from sexual hysteria, and I fully expect this new strategy of law enforcement will eventually lead to absurdities.  So, I think safeguards should be put in place now to ameliorate the inevitable problems that will otherwise occur.  For instance, I would like to see some assurance this new strategy isn’t going to lead to the prosecution of every teen who sends her boyfriend cheesy nude photos of herself.  It’s dumb enough that teens do that these days: It would be much worse if they were prosecuted for it.

Perhaps much more importantly, however, is the threat this kind of cooperation between government and internet service providers could eventually be expanded in such a way that it leads to shutting down freedom of speech on the internet.

Today the ISPs are merely searching for porn.  But who is to say that tomorrow they won’t be searching for political opponents of whatever administration is in power.  I wish I lived in a country where such illegal activities were unheard of, but I don’t.  The recent news the US government has engaged in illegal wiretaps was all the more disturbing because little or nothing was done about it even after the truth came out.

I think the problem of child porn is serious enough to warrant we try Mr. Cuomo’s new strategy of dealing with it.  But I am leery of that strategy being abused both because of the sexual hysteria in this country and because of the natural tendency of governments to eventually use whatever tools are available to them to repress political dissent.  I would like to see some safeguards put in place now to prevent abuses of the new system, rather than later, after a world of injustices have been committed.

In our society, he or she who controls the information, potentially controls the country.  The stakes here are very high.

References:

Child Pornography: An International Perspective

Does Blocking Child Porn Put Pressure on ISPs to Block Music?

ISPs Block Access to Child Porn

Net Providers to Block Sites with Child Sex

Netting Child Pornography

6 thoughts on “Combating Child Porn is Necessary but Risky”

  1. I was reading the links you provided and then more and more. I was aware of some of the cases but not all.

    Child abuse and rape should be prosecuted and pursued wherever it occurs. Rape and abuse are not protected by free speech.

    Nude children however are free speech in the terms of being nudist or painting, drawing or photographing naked children. That is not a crime and should never be a crime.

    Lumping adolescents and teenagers who had sexual contact with older or younger children and who are not violent or at risk of repeating should never, never be put on a sex offender registry. To place a sixteen-year old or fourteen-year old or ten-year old on a sex registry for life is INSANE!!!!!!!!!!!

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  2. I’m not sure whether the evidence is that solid about whether viewing child porn causes a person to molest children. I think there is a correlation but I don’t think it is causal.

    If all pornography were made illegal and a death penalty established for those who broke the law then it seems like if a person were to watch porn under those circumstances then viewing porn would be more important to them than, potentially, their life. I suggest that such a desire is not only mentally unhealthy but also exactly the kind of desire that will lead a person to commit sex crimes. Consequently, in such a society, we would find exactly the same correlation amongst porn viewers and sex offenders as we currently find amongst child porn viewers and child molesters.

    To put it more succinctly: Given societies attitudes towards child porn, the majority of those whose desire to view child pornography is sufficiently strong to make them risk their lives in order to view it have something wrong with them and that is exactly the kind of thing that would lead them to commit sex offences.

    I think you are right that this is essentially irrelevant when it comes to child porn because children are abused in its production and so those who view it are culpable for that. However, in the UK, we are currently bringing in legislation to ban any sort of depiction of children involved in sex acts. For example, a cartoon involving child sex would be illegal. I believe you already have a similar law in the USA. Yet it is not so clear why this should be illegal. There is no child abuse in the production of such images and if viewing such material does not cause people to molest children then it is difficult to point to the harm which this material causes.

    Of course we might find such things morally repugnant or disgusting but those feelings are hardly enough to justify the institution of a law. I think that the question of whether child porn causes sex offences is a serious one that needs to be answered because it is also conceivable that cartoon child porn could be used to treat paedophiles as paedophilia is an addiction.

    I should also point out that because of US law, the ISPs will be blocking both kinds of content. If we are worried about freedom of speech then we should make sure that any restrictions are as minimal as they need to be.

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  3. I am glad that someone thought outside of the box and thought to work with the distributors of the porn, instead of the makers of it, but you make a good point in saying that we need to place boundaries around how much control the government may have. Giving the government too much control is going against everything the Founding Fathers created for us.
    I also think that adult porn and child porn are two totally different animals. One deals with individuals who have come into their sexuality and sexual identity, whereas children have not done that and forcing them to do porn or selling them into prostitution forces them to deal with something they haven’t grown into yet. It is like forcing a flower to bloom early – the damage done outweighs the beauty.

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  4. The open Internet gets slammed shut by 2011 and maybe by Thanksgiving.
    Pornography is the single most profitable use of wire communication.
    A statutory exclusion for liability for censorship of pornography or data that is offensive to the ISP already exists in US 47.
    Display of Ms Jackson’s ‘flapjack’ will result in an FCC fine. It will probably not be $550,000 and the same .7 second ‘flapjack’ exposure became the most common unregulated wire communication search in 2004.

    In Re Curtis J. Neeley, Jr., Petitioner v. (10-6240) The supplemental petition requests that the FCC be ordered to regulate wire communications as required already regardless of the semantic title.
    Nudity transmitted to children can be snuffed out just as easily as nude children images can be snuffed out. ISPs are just the next group I will sue if (5:09-cv-05151) does not result in the FCC beginning to regulate the Internet EXACTLY like they already attempt to regulate TV.

    Pornography has no business being broadcast to children or Muslims and especially not as a result of a search for my name.

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  5. (5:09-cv-05151) resulted in finding that United States moral copy[rite] does not affect the Internet use of wire or radio communications. Update to reflect the facts on the ground.

    (5:12-cv-05074) will result in requiring the FCC to regulate the content of all interstate or world-wide wire and radio communications as required by 47 USC §151. This claim contains a request that 47 USC §230 now be declared invalid along with 17 USC §107 being also declared unconstitutionally vague. This may be me “tilting windmills” but the Internet was predicted ACCURATELY by Congress in 1934 in 47 USC §153 ¶(59). Go read it and see “the Internet”.

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