Predators Make and Trade Child Pornography
The mainstream acceptance or tolerance of pornography and the expansion of the prostitution industry over the past several decades have also increased the demand and supply of child pornography. Although descriptions and depictions of the sexual abuse of children have existed for centuries, the number and availability of images, especially photographs and videos that require the actual sexual abuse of a child, have increased exponentially. The Internet has enabled globalization of the production and distribution of all types of pornography, including child pornography. Most predators trading in child pornography quickly moved from small-scale activities to large-scale transmission and cataloging of child pornography.
Most laws banning depictions of children engaged in or being used in sexual acts were written before computer technology. Because the language of the laws in the United States says “visual depictions,” child pornographers and those possessing child pornography have used the language as a loophole to escape punishment, saying that computer files are not legally the same as “visual depictions,” or photographs. In late 1997, a US. Federal Court of Appeals upheld the pornography conviction of a Los Angeles man who claimed that computer image files were not included under federal child pornography laws. He had been found guilty of pornography charges prior to 1996 when the definition in the law was expanded to include data stored on computer disk or by electronic means. He tried to claim that computer GIF files containing pornographic images were not “visual depictions.” Previously, in 1986, the court rejected a claim that unprocessed, undeveloped film did not constitute a “visual depiction.”42
Pedophilia sites are popular on the World Wide Web, some average 170,000 visits per month.43 These sites are usually havens for men who sexually abuse children. They can access these sites and read articles that defend pedophilia as a “sexual preference,” and engage in discussions with each other that enable them to defend and rationalize their behavior.
Communications in chat rooms on the Internet leave no record, so these sites have become the haven for predators trading child pornography. According to Graham Rees, co-director of the University of Queensland Prentice Centre in Australia, “IRC is probably the most common medium on the Internet for the exchange of paedophilia information.”44
In 1997, the US non-profit organization, PedoWatch, reported that 1,500 people each day joined the preteen erotica trading channels on Inter-Relay Chat (IRC). One investigative reporter accessed chat rooms going by the names of “preteen sex pics,” “gayboy sex,” and “preteen boy sex.” She found nine chat rooms with about 250 users dealing in child pornography. All the users had pornographic images of boys, 13 years and under, engaged in sex acts to exchange. 45
Undernet.org, the second largest IRC network, does not monitor any of the conversations or exchanges that go through its 44 servers in 11 countries. In 1997, when asked about that, a spokesperson responded, “While it may be technically possible, it’s not humanly possible. There are around 30 IRC operators online at any given time to try and run a network with 15,000 or more users.”46