The Internet & Child Pornography: A Marriage Made In Hell
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The Internet & Child Pornography: A Marriage Made In Hell

The possession and/or distribution of sexualised images of anyone under the age of 18 is a criminal offence. Is everyone with me so far? Anyone getting bogged down in the quagmire of International law, or needs clarification on the complexities of legal jargon here? No. Good.

Wikipedia states that around 80% of child sexual abuse images are of girls, and 91% are of children under 12 years of age. It’s estimated that around 100,000 paedophiles are involved in organised child pornography ‘rings’ across the globe, and that 1/3 of these are based in the US.

But where do these images and videos of child sex abuse come from? How is it possible for paedophiles to access and distribute such material? How do they continually evade the police, and what are the wider implications?

In a recent article, published in the Huffington Post, John Carr, one of the world’s leading experts on child protection issues, writes:

‘Not long before the internet arrived in our midst, Interpol claimed to know of only 4,000 unique images of child abuse across the entire planet…a few hundred children were depicted. That's in the whole of recorded history up to that point, about 1995.’

This year, under the Freedom of Information Act, five UK police forces released figures of the number of child abuse images they had seized between 2010 and 2012. Take a guess. Go on, you know you want to.


26 million images of child sex abuse were seized by five police forces across the UK over a two-year period. To put that in perspective, in England and Wales alone there are 43 police forces.

With the birth of the World Wide Web, came an immediate and drastic increase in the number of child pornography cases. In the United Kingdom alone, figures from 1988 to 2001 saw an increase of 1,500% in recorded child pornography crimes. That was 11 years ago. Just think how fast and how large the I.T. industry has grown since then.

The US Department of Justice cites the Internet as ‘massively increasing the "availability, accessibility, and volume of child pornography.”’ As well as, exclusively and ‘radically altering the way child pornography is reproduced and disseminated’ across the world.

A report published by the US Department of Justice reveals that the US alone accounts for over a million children who have been abused in the form of child pornography. If that statistic wasn’t bad enough, according to the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Taskforce, 58% of all victims of child sexual abuse are prepubescent, with infants and children below thirteen years of age increasingly becoming the victims of ever more crueller and more perverse sexual violence, all of which is recorded and then distributed online.

The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP), who this year warned of a “dramatic rise in both volume and severity” in the number of images involving children, also share this view.

As free, readily available online pornography has surged over the last decade, increasing exponentially, and with more and more people watching it more and more often, then inevitably, collectively, society becomes de-sensitized to its effects. Just as we have all become, to various levels, de-sensitised to the horrors of war, famine, and people suffering on the news. Admit it. When you first hear a news story about a guy who goes postal, your heart bleeds for all the innocent victims, and you feel genuine sympathy and sadness at the futility of violence. But after the 100th time that day you’ve seen the ‘Breaking News’ report, and listened to the same ‘eye witness’ interview over and again, you mentally tune out and start thinking about paying bills and ‘Is it too early to start sending Christmas cards?’ What we thought of as avant garde and risqué a few years ago, is now considered run-of-the-mill. The regular stuff just ain’t workin’ no more. We (society, not me) need our porn harder, dirtier, and with more ‘variety’. Which is exactly what we have now – degrading, violent, exploitative, submissive, and extreme sex acts, which are now the norm. Well, what’s true for television news is also true for pornography, and child pornography is no exception. Social trends are no respecters of ethical parameters. Hence paedophiles and sexual deviants want their porn younger, more violent, and more extreme. And that’s exactly what they’re getting. Infants. Toddlers. Five year olds. Six year olds. Boys and girls. Just imagine if the victim was a relative or someone you know. Imagine if the perpetrator was a relative or someone you know. Ask yourself how you think you might react, and if there’s anything that’s comparable to such an emotive topic as child rape and torture?

Ok. Ok. I went too far just now. My bad. Let’s stick to facts and figures, and trying to answer some of those questions posed at the beginning of this essay. Ahem, I mean blog.

While more research is needed, analysis of one set of data, made available from 34 UK police forces, and highlighting 97 case studies where possession of indecent images of children resulted in the identification of physical child sex abuse, revealed that offenders guilty of both crimes are almost exclusively white men. Most of them are between 19-45 years of age, and are either unemployed or work in schools and care homes. While a smaller percentage works in manual and manufacturing industries, professionals such as doctors and lawyers were non-existent in this particular sample.

Identification of paedophiles and child sex offenders remains extremely difficult for the authorities, with little available data or research regarding offenders and trends. Prosecutions are often equally just as problematic, as tech-savvy, web-based criminals become increasingly more adept at evading the police. Child sex abuse ‘rings’ take full advantage of both the freedoms of the Internet, and its lack of regulation. In fact, there are some who even cite online child sex abuse as part of their argument for protecting free speech and a free Internet. Multiple international servers are commonly used, transmitting images in fragments, in order to circumvent International laws. Some child pornographers also bypass detection by using malware to illegally gain control of other peoples’ computers, on which they remotely store child pornography.

John Carr, in a 2011 article on child pornography, explains further how criminals manage to continually avoid prosecution. He argues that organised, tech-savvy criminal gangs of paedophiles that distribute material on a massive commercial scale, have evolved with the Internet, moving away from publicly accessible places, and hiding their identities in online file-sharing sites, peer-to-peer networks, and closed, paid-for sites and various 'niche' forums. For example, the recent Reddit scandal, where 49 year old Texan, Michael Brutsch, hiding behind the username 'violentacrez', used sub sections, or 'subreddits' such as "incest", "chokeabitch" and "creepshot" in order to post indecent images. john Carr went on to say that policing in this field is principally covert and intelligence based.

According to UK police statistics, approximately 55,000 people are actively engaging in the online file-sharing of child sexual abuse images, via peer-to-peer networks.

In Japan, while the production and distribution of child pornography was only made illegal in 1999, possession of child pornography remains a legal right, and overtly sexualised images of children are an ingrained part of Japanese culture, with shops nationwide selling material in all formats containing naked and erotic pubescent and pre-pubescent girls. In 2006, Japan had over 16,000 websites portraying child abuse. That was six years ago.

In 2012, The Independent newspaper wrote an article highlighting the issue of child pornography in Japanese culture, and found DVD’s for sale of adult men having sex with under 12-year-old children. The DVD’s were advertised online.

The paper reports that a government survey carried out in 2010 found that 10% of Japanese men admitted owning child pornography, while approximately 600 cases of child sexual abuse at the hands of child pornographers are recorded every year, with the internet quoted as being the ‘largest factor’, by a Kyoto police spokesperson.

ECPAT International, a global network committed to protecting children from sexual abuse and exploitation, explain some of the difficulties in pursing these crimes. They argue that while the overwhelming majority of child pornography prosecutions reveal IP addresses that are known to have accessed online child pornography, under Japanese law, judges are prohibited from issuing search warrants based on IP address information.

Meanwhile, back in the UK, CEOP’s Head of Intelligence, Andy Morling told The Daily Mirror, in their recent special investigation into child pornography, that while reports of child abuse have increased by over 260% in the last two years, government funding in this area is being cut by 10%.

Most material that contains child pornography, is not only a crime in itself, it’s also a record of a child being sexual abused. Unfortunately though, the abuse and exploitation doesn’t stop there.

A CEOP report published in June 2012, says ‘there is a wealth of research that illustrates various aspects of the correlation between viewing indecent images of children and committing contact child sexual offences.’ According to the report, the amount of people looking at child pornography, which then goes on to commit actual sexual abuse of children, is 55%.

The CEOP report also states that academic research further supports the claim that ‘anyone who possess indecent images of children, poses a risk of committing contact sexual offences against children.’

A study published in the academic textbook, Media, children and the family: Social scientific, psychodynamic, and clinical perspectives, found that ‘between 77 and 87 percent of convicted child sexual offenders used indecent images of children to stimulate themselves sexually, to lower the inhibitions of their child victim, or to teach the child to replicate the activity in real-life sexual situations.’

It is extremely difficult to find out and demarcate people who show interest towards child sexual abuse, and with a lack of available research data, accurate profiling becomes almost impossible, making the task even harder. However, an article published on October 15, 2012 in The Sydney Morning Herald, seems to support UK findings that young white men working in schools are a group representing a higher percentile of probability of committing child sex abuse. The article also highlights the difficulties society faces in identifying these crimes. The report revealed that a schoolteacher caught downloading and viewing child pornography in 2008 was allowed to continue teaching at the school for three years. It wasn’t until similar allegations were made against the teacher in 2011, that action was taken. But as the recent Jimmy Savile child sex abuse scandal shows us, even the most famous and seemingly good-hearted and good-natured people, even the most lauded and respected members of society, can turn out to be monsters.

One needs only to think about the numerous allegations and scandals regarding the Catholic church and young children in their communities, to be reminded that often, too often, those very community leaders, the most trusted and virtuous among us, charged with protecting and educating our innocent young ones, can and do hide dark and terrible secrets. And that without a change in how we tackle this problem, it’s never going to go away. In fact, on the contrary, all the evidence points to an increase in child sex abuse crimes, not a decrease. We are nowhere near finding a solution.

The role of the Internet has deservedly received acclamations, and is recognized as an immensely powerful medium of information and virtue. But we simply cannot ignore the relationship between the web world and the seemingly endless cases of children being sexually abused.

The Internet is the number one place where images and videos of child sexual abuse exist. But it doesn’t just exhibit them; it has guided, shaped, influenced, and been the most powerful and effective tool in increasing supply, creating demand, promoting and advertising, and the distribution of child sex abuse images, and been instrumental, pivitol, in allowing online child pornography to continually evade International laws for over a decade. As well as hiding and protecting the criminals who commit these most appalling of crimes.

It is not simply a case of policing, although more needs to be done by police forces and judicial systems all over the world. As a society, we can no more lock up every sex offender, any more than we can every single drug user, and just as we cannot invade people’s privacies and break the law in order to prevent crime.

Online child sex abuse should not occupy a seat at the cyber-table. Period. And if that means tighter controls, then so be it. Exactly what this means, how to implement it, and in what form it should take, I have no idea, but freedom of speech and the freedom of the Internet stop well short of the line separating them from child sexual abuse, and the time has come to make a decision as to how to resolve the disparity between a free and uncensored Internet, and the protection of vulnerable people.

Street Talk


I agree, really interesting and informative article. I had no idea about, but totally agree with the description and language of this issue. We should stop calling it child porn, and start referring to it as 'online child sex abuse', because that it exactly what it is.

  about 1 decade ago

This article - and the links, which are great, by the way - raises several very interesting points, most notably is the question of regulation. So many people seem to be polemic about this; either leave the Internet as it is, or censor it completely! This is absurd. The United Nations' ITU is meeting in Dubai later this year to discuss how best to move forward, and it's under attack from every two-bit hack and his dog for bringing down a perceived 'iron curtain' on the net. It's the same with immigration. It seems as if no-one can mention the socio-political issue of immigration without being brandished as either a socialist (as if that's an insult!!), or a fascist fascist! Where has all the middle ground gone? The sane, reasonable, utilitarian, common bloody sense middle ground? Surely we can entertain the idea of holding a discussion about whether or not, and just as importantly, how, we should implement safer controls and regulation that monitor and govern such things as child pornography? Is that really so unreasonable? Because whatever we've been doing up until now, hasn't worked. As this article illustrates, the damage continues to be done, and is increasing! I consider myself a liberal, but i'll say this: if a person 'downloads' a movie or album from the internet, and pays nothing for it's theft of intellectual property. end of story. I understand the reasons and arguments for it, and to a larger extent, i agree. But it doesn't change the fact it's wrong. And everyone knows it. We even call it 'downloading'. It's stealing. I do it. You do it. We all do it. But it's wrong, and we need to address it. We need to address drug trafficking, online scams, fraud, etc, but what could be more of a reason than child sex abuse? Come on? We should at least be able to discuss the notion of regulation.

  about 1 decade ago
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