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Violence Against Women on the Internet

Campus Sexual Assault Policies
(opens: 4.16.02)
(opens: 4.23.02)
Sex Trafficking
(opens: 4.30.02)
The Internet as a Site of Resistance
(opens: 5.7.02)
(opens: 5.14.02)
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Child Pornography

While the Court seemed unwilling to examine the harm caused by child pornography, it is clear that children have been victimized by the proliferation of pornographic images that the Internet enables. On March 19, 2001, a Newsweek article detailed the culture of silence and anonymity that allows child pornography to flourish online. Here is an excerpt from that article.

The Web's dark secret
By Rod Nordland and Jeffrey Bartholet

Father Fortunato Di Noto counts himself as having once been among the innocent, or at least the blissfully ignorant. … He had begun to offer an Internet course to parish children, believing it was a vital learning tool. During one of the first meetings of his informal study group, a little girl said she wanted to search for "lollipops." Using an Italian slang word for lollipop- slurpy - Father Fortunato punched the letters into the search engine. But slurpy is also slang for a sex act; what came back was a connection to an outfit called the Pedophile Liberation Front, which defends the lifestyle of pedophiles-people who are sexually attracted to children. Through that link, Father Fortunato found other sites, and discovered letters addressed to kids attempting to lure them into relationships. "I'm lucky because I have faith," says the priest. "If I didn't, I'm sure I would have gone out there with a machine gun and taken justice in my own hands." …

This kind of material makes most people turn away with profound revulsion. Other people will dismiss the problem as one of lone perverts trading dirty pictures. But that very instinct-to turn away-serves the child pornographers well. "The problem is that these kinds of things aren't very well known, and since they're not well known, people have a hard time believing them," says Father Fortunato. "Silence is what allows pedophiles to win." The fact is, thousands of children around the world have been brutally abused to create these images, and demand for the pictures is burgeoning, fueled by the Internet. That in turn encourages more abuse. Child pornography comes in many forms, ranging from photos of kids in baths to the terrible images that Father Fortunato discovered. Some are old images that have been scanned into computers; others are new. Many pedophiles never act on their urges, while others commit acts of cruelty that are, simply, unthinkable. Yet the thousands of children in the photos, tapes and videos pinging around the Internet never had the option to turn away.

Fifteen or 20 years ago, law-enforcement officers in the United States figured they had child pornography under control. They cracked down on peddlers and buyers-who were using overland mail and neighborhood photo labs-to such an extent that it was hard for pedophiles to find and interact with one another. A lonely and hunted breed, they often resorted to crossing national borders to places like Sri Lanka and the Philippines that had more available victims and less strict law enforcement. "Child pornography was pretty much eradicated in the 1980s" says Kevin Delli-Colli, who runs the U.S. Customs CyberSmuggling Center, a unit that combats the import of child-sex photos and films. "With the advent of the Internet, it exploded."

Suddenly, pedophiles could use their own computers to make instant copies of pictures-grabbed from an Internet club on a Web site located in, say, Moscow-and send them to like-minded friends around the world. Men who had fantasies that they were once ashamed to admit or afraid to act upon now found a "community" in online clubs and chat rooms devoted to preteen sex. No longer did pedophiles have to prowl the seedier sections of the city for photos or films; they could meet friends and download, in their living rooms, child pornography made with film-free digital cameras (no need to risk exposure at a photo store) and homemade CD-ROMs. Nor did Americans believe they had to travel to lands where sexual laws were milder. Scarier still, sexual predators interested in older kids no longer had to lurk near a school or neighborhood hangout. Via the Internet, they could enter a home, introduce themselves to a teenage child and carry on along process of seduction.

Today, international pedophile rings sell and trade hundreds of thousands of images. When police in 13 countries, including the United States, broke up the Wonderland Internet ring in 1998, they discovered computer files with three quarters of a million images of child pornography in Britain alone. (The 200 members of the Wonderland Internet relay chat group each had to provide 10,000 images in order to join.) Collating the photos and extracting head and shoulder shots, police in the United Kingdom working with other specialists identified 1,263 different victims, all of them under the age of puberty. In the Netherlands, when activists broke up the Apollo ring of child abusers led by Gerald Ulrich the same year, they discovered CD-ROM duplicating facilities in his home; on the first Ulrich disc alone, Dutch police identified more than 200 victims-and 16 more such discs have yet to be fully cataloged. Many of the images on the Ulrich CD-ROMs and Wonderland computer tapes showed children as young as 3 months subjected to explicit sex acts.

A number of recent cases illustrate how global these networks are. When authorities last year took down a child-- porn Web site run by Wayne Camolli in Palm Beach, Fla., they were acting on a tip from Belgian police. They found that confederates of the notorious Belgian pedophile Marc Dutroux had sent pornography to Camolli, who was later sentenced to 16 months in federal prison after being convicted on one count of transmitting child porn. In Dutroux's dungeon-equipped house, police had found 500 videotapes, many depicting the rape of children, according to Belgian police investigative files obtained by Newsweek.

In Italy, police with the help of Microsoft Italia last year ran a sting in which they "mirrored" a Russian Web site-believed to be connected to the current U.S. investigation-that was offering all manner of child pornography. Italian police have started criminal proceedings against 1,700 Italians for actively purchasing the pornography, and passed on to police in eight other countries details on other nationals who did so as well. Documents filed with Internic, the Internet registration agency, show that one of the Russian child-pornography Web sites-- which was in English-was actually registered to someone in Tuscaloosa, Ala. A Ft. Worth, Texas, couple, Thomas and Janice Reedy, last year were charged with providing access to child-porn Web sites with names like "Child Rape" and "Children Forced to Porn" through hyperlinks on their own home page, making more than a million dollars in fees from it, prosecutors said. A bulletin board on the site included ads from parents offering to swap their children for sex to like-minded parents. They now face sentencing, having been convicted on more than 80 child-porn-related counts. Charged with them were two Indonesians and a Russian, the apparent producers.

An investigation of a child-porn Web site by U.S. Customs agents in the summer of 1999 reveals the appetite for photos of sexually exploited children. The Web site, known to Customs as the Tajik Express because the Web address was in Tajikistan (although the actual computer server was in Massachusetts), recorded 4,107 hits from different Internet user addresses in the first month, as well as 95,450 downloads of images. In its third month, the site recorded an astounding 147,776 hits from individual users, and the download of 3.2 million images. The site was later shut down at the request of Customs, and six people were arrested.

Many law-enforcement officers worry that the spread of child pornography, as well as the easy access to like-minded people via the Internet, has a "legitimizing effect"-making the pedophile believe that his own impulses are OK, because they are shared by so many others. That feeds appetites for this material, meaning more kids will be victimized. "They're all looking for fresh stuff," says FBI agent Peter Gulotta. "They're all looking for photos they haven't seen before." …

Luckily, in this war, technology cuts both ways. While the Web has fed the boom in sexual exploitation, it has also given law-enforcement authorities powerful weapons to fight back. "This same technology-the Internet-also is making it easier to catch people," says Finkelhor. Arrests for possessing and distributing child pornography have been climbing steadily, in part because federal agencies are putting more resources in this area. In fiscal year 1992, U.S. Customs recorded 57 arrests for possession of child pornography transported across borders, 48 indictments and 69 convictions. By 2000, those numbers had grown to 320 arrests, 299 indictments and 324 convictions. …

Now a new law, signed by President Bill Clinton more than a year ago, will require electronic communication and computing services to report violations of child-pornography laws. If a company knows of a violation and fails to report it, it will face fines of up to $100,000. That information will be sent to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children in Washington. Since the center launched its CyberTipline in March 1998, it has analyzed some 37,000 reports about child exploitation. (If you have information, call 800-843-5678 or e-mail All tips are categorized and passed on to federal law-enforcement agencies or to local and international police. One case began when the tip line received information about a posting requesting pictures of "young, white (10-13) year-old boys." "I'm new to this stuff and am a little skeptical about mailing a check to someone I don't know," the online message read. "I don't want to get in trouble with the cops. But I love naked children." The author of the site also offered photos of naked boys, aged 9 to 14, "from summer camp."

The perpetrator was tracked to a fraternity house in Burlington, Vt., where police took over the investigation. The cops went to the frat house under a pretense and found that the perpetrator, Jeremy Lacey, was spending his summer as a counselor at a boys' camp in New Hampshire. Police then obtained warrants, searched the frat house and the camp, and found 1,238 images on one of Lacey's zip drives. Later they retrieved thousands more, as well as photos of boys taken at the camp. In June last year, after pleading no contest, Lacey was sentenced to three years in jail on two counts of using a child for a sexual performance and required to complete an in-house sex-offender program while serving his time.

Despite such victories, analysts at the CyberTipline worry they'll soon be overwhelmed. Currently, they receive roughly 400 to 450 leads on Internet child pornography and child sexual exploitation a week, but they expect that to surge to 7,000 or more when new regulations enforcing the law passed last year go into effect. "Instead of treating every specific tip or lead, we're going to have to triage as you would in the ER," says the center's operational head, John Rabun. "The federal law-enforcement system is simply not equipped to deal with this kind of volume."


As recently as March 18, 2002, a child pornography ring, consisting of ninety members including twenty-seven who admitted to molesting children, was broken up. According to The New York Times, the ring's members included two priests, a school bus driver, a teacher's aide and a police officer. See for more information on this child pornography ring.

It also might prove interesting to think about child pornography and the recent virtual child pornography decision in light of the unfolding sex abuse scandal in the Church. If the statistics about sexual assault and consumption of child pornography are accepted, the scandal reveals the necessity of insuring that child pornography (and virtual child pornography) are eliminated. The April 1, 2002 issue of US News and World Report called the sex-abuse scandal "a full-blown cancer, threatening to sap the church of its moral authority, public trust, and financial resources." US News reported:

Catholics in Crisis
By Angie Cannon and Jeffery L. Sheler

The cases themselves are horrifying: men of faith, respected and relied upon in their communities, taking terrible advantage of their most vulnerable parishioners, mostly boys and teens. Many incidents date back decades; virtually no region of the country is untouched. And still new cases were surfacing as late as last week. …

But beyond the actions of individual priests, revelations about cover-ups by some church leaders are equally distressing. What has emerged is a practice of silencing the victims and their families while shuttling the miscreant to another post - and a new crop of potential victims. In one of the most shocking cases, the Boston Globe reported in January that Boston's Cardinal Bernard Law had moved the Rev. John Geoghan in 1984 from one parish to another even though his predatory sexual behavior was well documented. Geoghan, accused of fondling or raping more than 130 children over 30 years, was sentenced to nine to 10 years in prison in February for fondling a 10 year old boy. He still faces charges of indecent assault and battery for allegedly molesting a boy in the 1990s. …

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Go to Part 3 - The Economics of Internet Pornography



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