Banning child porn online

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There is no one who could successfully argue that online child pornography is a good thing, so yesterday’s announcement by Google and Microsoft that they will actively prevent sites that promote or peddle such vile things from appearing on their searches. Hooray the problem is solved!

Well no. As much as I welcome the move to ban these sites and images, the sad fact remains that people who wish to access these things will continue to do so – as far as I can see this only stops the “casual” or “curious” pervert and not those who are regulars in this dark world. Yes this “ban” will help and it will stop people from being dragged into the murky depths as easily but it is only a start to an ongoing problem. It’s not the images or clips of the acts that are the issue as much as the acts themselves. In some ways it could be argued that hiding these pages will actually mean the problem is hidden too. I’m not stupid and I know that the police and government put a lot of time and effort into stopping the original abuse in the first place – but these animals were around before the internet and will continue to be now without it.

We live in a period where more and more people are coming forward to report sex crimes of all types yet the numbers of prosecutions are dropping. There are some serious questions to ask – starting with the safety of our children. It’s easy to point fingers and be blasé at the many headlines about abuse in the church or in schools, but these are genuine problems that need to be addressed. When it’s an issue of child protection people need to flag up any issues and the claims must be fully investigated. Too often the word of one person against another is all we have, but it’s a start. While there is always the danger of a witch hunt taking place against disliked figures, or a childish “joke” being made ruining a career there are too many cases around to ignore or belittle the issue. We need schools and institutions to educate staff and pupils about the warning signs and issues involved – rather than us dealing with the problem after the event perhaps we could protect children in advance.

The other question here is not that the search terms are being banned, but that the sites they led to still exist. If the authorities can find the sites then surely with the technology available we can block them, their site hosts or remove the images. I don’t understand how we can do the former but not the latter here. If they exist – which we know they do – then shut them down. “Oh but they just appear somewhere else” – so we should just leave it? No, we block and continue to block until they get the message.

This is not about censorship or even pornography in general because I would defend the right of grown consenting adults being able to look at “legitimate” or “legal” images or movies – even with the huge minefield that area comes with – this is about protecting children across the world. We have international laws to protect children in place already and surely it wouldn’t take much for that to extend to the internet; there must be a way for the international community to stop those facilitating, hosting or promoting the sites. If you consider the technological advances we have seen in he last two decades then the tools must be there to cut the problem at source. If people can’t make money from this sick industry it can reduce the volume of it being made and shared.

There is another consideration though that hasn’t been considered – the rise of the technology that children themselves have access to. We must educate kids from a young age not to film themselves or take suggestive photos and share them online, with Snapchat or allow others to film them in compromising positions too. It’s one thing to stop the industry element of this problem but with the rise of the self-made images and films there is a danger that youngsters could be adding to the problem themselves. It goes without saying that we should never blame the victims of abuse, but if a twelve-year-old uses their phone to film themselves and shares it how do we deal with that side of the issue?

There are no easy answers to this issue or we wouldn’t still be talking about it, but any action against these purveyors of filth is a positive step and hopefully this is the beginning of an industry-wide initiative to eradicate this issue from the web.

JD

 

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