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.
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
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 cybertipline.com.) 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
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 http://www.nytimes.com/2002/03/19/national/19PORN.html
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
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.
Return to VAW Module II
Go to Part 3 - The Economics of Internet Pornography