Child pornography is a form of sexual exploitation of children. The United States federal law defines it as any visual depiction of sexual activities that involves individuals who are less than eighteen years old. It is traded online around the clock whereby child pornographers capitalize on the internets ease of distribution to market their materials to pedophiles. According to federal law, it is illegal to produce, distribute, import or possess any images of child pornography. Violating this law is a serious offense whereby convicted offenders stand to face severe statutory penalties. This essay looks at the extent of internet child pornography in the United States and what the government is currently doing to address the issue. It will also outline some policy recommendations on how to minimize its prevalence.
The marketing of child pornography in the U.S. was almost fully eradicated in the mid-1980s through several successful campaigns organized by law enforcement agencies. Production of sexually explicit materials involving children was rather expensive and uneconomical. Anonymous distribution and purchase was an uphill task, while it was quite difficult for pedophiles to find one another and interact freely. Consequently, child pornographers became isolated and hunted individuals since the sale and purchase of such materials was extremely risky.
The market for child pornography was to explode in the advent of advanced digital technology, particularly the internet. The online platform provides the idea space for people to create, share, and access child pornography content across the world at the click of a button. Such material is readily available through online platforms such as email, websites, social networking sites, instant messaging, bulletin boards, and newsrooms. Pedophile can also use the channels to share their desires, interests and experiences related to abusing children as well as distribution and sale of materials. In addition, the online platforms have made it possible for child pornography offenders to communicate with one another. This way, they can normalize their interest in minors in a way that desensitizes them to the psychological and physical damage inflicted on victims.
It is worthy differentiating child porn from what is conventionally understood by the term pornography. It is a form of sexual exploitation of minors, with each image or video graphically venerating the sexual abuse of that particular child. Some child pornography content may depict children in a lot of distress whereby sexual molestation is undeniable. However, others may show minors that seem complacent. All in all, just because a victim appears contented does not mean that abuse is not taking place. Most of the time, the abuse is not a one-time occurrence, but rather an ongoing process that stretches over months or years. Makers of child pornography are known to groom children, or nurture a relationship with young victims whereby they gradually sexualize them over time. Such a grooming process induces a false sense of authority and trust over a victim so as to break down his or her resistance to abuse. Hence, even if a child seems complacent in certain pornography material, it is worth bearing in mind that the sexual abuse may have begun a long time before the content was created.
Child pornography victims do not only suffer from the sexual abuse they undergo during creation of porn material. Their dignity and wellbeing is also compromised given that their images can be shared and viewed by many people across the world. Once an image makes its way into the internet, it is quite difficult to remove it; meaning that it can continue circulating forever. The fact that a record of a childs sexual molestation is permanently found online can have a lasting effect on him or her. a majority of child pornography victims suffer from humiliation, fear, and helplessness considering that their images are always available for others to view.
The United States Department of Justice has been prosecuting an increasing number of offenders for child pornography on the internet. The current federal laws on the issue are quite extensive, applying to all forms of this pornography as well as the luring of minors both online and offline. The legislations outlaw the making, interstate transportation, distribution, possession or sale of visual images involving individuals under the age of eighteen years engaged in sexual activities, together with luring minor into such encounters.
When conducting an investigation into child pornography, the FBI, the Department of Justices Criminal Division, and the office of the US Attorney General are authorized to access subscriber information from ISPs (internet service providers). Should an ISP become aware of a breach of any child pornography laws taking place within its servers, they are supposed to report it to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, who will then alert federal authorities. Perhaps the biggest challenge facing law enforcement in such cases is the anonymous manner in which online communication takes place. In addition, the offenses are carried out at high speeds across the entire country, passing through numerous law enforcement jurisdictions. Sellers and buyers are usually located in different states, or anywhere across the world. Just as is the case with other online criminal activities, it is essential for local, state, and federal law enforcement officials to work together.
Akdeniz, Y. (2016). Internet child pornography and the law: national and international responses. Routledge.
Kathryn C. Seigfried, Richard W. Lovely, Marcus K. Rogers (2008). Self-Reported Online Child Pornography Behavior: A Psychological Analysis. International Journal of Cyber Crime Vol. 2 (1); 286.
Wells, M., Finkelhor, D., Wolak, J., & Mitchell, K.J. (2007). Defining Child Pornography: Law Enforcement Dilemmas in Investigations of Internet Child Pornography Possession 1. Police Practice and Research, 8(3), 269-282.
Wortley and SMallbone (2006). Child Pornography on the Internet. Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS); DOJ. (all)
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