photo blog_head_zpsfzwide7v.jpg
Valar Qringaomis

Get email updates of new posts:        (Delivered by FeedBurner)

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Myth of Child Porn (Online)

"In spite of proud FBI claims, many lawyers and journalists, including me, suspect that the child pornographer is the same penny-ante presence online as he was in Times Square. Bruce Selcraig, a government investigator of child pornography during the 1980s who went online in 1996 as a journalist to review the situation, concluded the same. In the cyberspeech debate, he said, the dissemination of child porn amounted to "a tuna-sized red herring."

Aficionados and vice cops concede that practically all the sexually explicit images of children circulating cybernetically are the same stack of yellowing pages found at the back of those X-rated shops, only digitized. These pictures tend to be twenty to fifty years old, made overseas, badly re-reproduced, and for the most part pretty chaste. That may be why federal agents almost never show journalists the contraband. But when I got a peek at a stash downloaded by Don Huycke, the national program manager for child pornography at the U.S. Customs Service, in 1995, I was underwhelmed. Losing count after fifty photos, I'd put aside three that could be called pornographic: a couple of shots of adolescents masturbating and one half-dressed twelve-year-old spreading her legs in a position more like a gymnast's split than split beaver. The rest tended to be like the fifteen-year-old with a 1950s bob and an Ipana grin, sitting up straight, naked but demure, or the two towheaded six-year olds in underpants, astride their bikes.

So when these old pictures show up on the Net, who's putting them there? Attorney Lawrence Stanley, who published in the Benjamin A. Cardozo Law Review what is widely considered the most thorough research of child pornography in the 1980s, concluded that the pornographers were almost exclusively cops. In 1990 at a southern California police seminar, the LAPD's R. P. "Toby" Tyler proudly announced as much. The government had shellacked the competition, he said; now law enforcement agencies were the sole reproducers and distributors of child pornography. Virtually all advertising, distribution, and sales to people considered potential lawbreakers were done by the federal government, in sting operations against people who have demonstrated (through, for instance, membership in NAMBLA) what agents regard as a predisposition to commit a crime. These solicitations were usually numerous and did not cease until the recipient took the bait. "In other words, there was no crime until the government seduced people into committing one," Stanley wrote...

In 1995, the FBI launched its child-pornography task force Innocent Images, which trains special agents under a congressional grant of ten million dollars to rout out pedophiles on the Net. From 1996 to 2000, the unit initiated 2,609 cases. But barely 20 percent of those generated indictments, with just 17 percent resulting in convictions. The FBI's Peter Gullotta told James Kincaid that Innocent Images had achieved 439 convictions since 1995. How were these criminals found? "It's like fishing in a pond full of hungry fish," Gullotta told Kincaid. "Every time you put a line with live bait in there, you're going to get one." This might sound like inducement (especially to journalists like myself, who have talked to the fish)—the same tactics that Stanley described in the 1980s, only updated from snail mail to e-mail...

According to the FBI's Gullotta when he spoke to Kincaid, the typical catch has no previous criminal record. Almost no such case goes to trial; the defendants plead guilty. The government calls this more evidence of guilt. But, again, closer examination of such cases (in fact, of most child abuse charges) reveals that pleas are often taken under advice of counsel to eliminate the chance of a long prison sentence and also to limit the personal destruction that publicity wreaks even if the accused is exonerated.

Unfortunately, plea bargains, because they lack the details of depositions, interrogations at trial, and the defense's version of events, make it almost impossible to tell what the person is accused of doing, much less whether he did it. Federal statistics aren't much help. According to Kincaid, neither the FBI nor the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children now keeps track of how many children are actually lured to danger after online assignations, the feared eventuality that motivates these operations. Journalists are frustrated by more than insufficient data, though. In 1995, while I covered the story of the first man convicted for possession of "lascivious" videotapes of minors who were neither naked nor doing anything sexual, I arrived at the Justice Department in Washington D.C., only to learn that my scheduled viewing of the evidence had been canceled because, well, the tapes were illegal. Exposing the models to my eyes, an agent told me, would criminally harm them (I later learned that portions of the tapes had aired on Court TV). I drove six hours to western Pennsylvania, where the court clerk set me up with a VCR, and I yawned through hours of badly filmed images no racier than a Bahamas tourism commercial. Similar restrictions were placed on reportage of the Landslide investigation. According to the Times, "the authorities did not release the addresses of the actual [foreign] sites" allegedly offering child-pornographic images, and the only models described were two British siblings, a girl and a boy, ages eight and six. But agents did not reveal whether these children were photographed engaging in sexual activity, and journalists were obviously unable to inspect the images themselves...

Statistics that I got from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in 1996 indicated that the feared eventuality that motivates all this activity had rarely come to pass. Only twenty three minors were enticed to malls and hotel rooms by their adult suitors between 1994 and 1996, none of these "children" was under thirteen, and most were at least a couple of years older than that. A 2001 survey conducted by the University of New Hampshire found that almost a fifth of ten- to seventeen-year-olds who went online received sexual solicitations from "strangers," an unspecified number of whom may have been adults. However, it would be hard to impute widespread harm to these experiences. Three-quarters of the youth said they were not distressed by the posts. And, wrote the researchers, "no youth in the sample was actually sexually assaulted as a result of contacts made over the Internet." As for pedophiles caught in the act, as far as I can gather only one such case has occurred: the infamous Orchid Club, whose members took turns having sex with a child in front of videocams that broadcast their doings to their compatriots in real time."

--- Harmful to Minors - The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex / Judith Levine
blog comments powered by Disqus
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Latest posts (which you might not see on this page)

powered by Blogger | WordPress by Newwpthemes