The $20 Billion Lie

December 5, 2006

In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act. – George Orwell

It’s nice to start on a positive note. One of the most absurd numerical figures ever floated in the child porn discussion was the idea that child porn amounted to a $20 billion business. Yes, $20 billion is such an easy figure to throw around… it’s nice and round… and totally bogus.

Imagine if the market for Child porn really was $20 billion. That might break down as one million customers each spending $20,000 per year on child porn… that’s a lot of wealthy customers. It could be ten million customers each spending $2,000 per year. That’s still a lot of people with a lot of money to spare. Well, it could be one hundred million customers each averaging $200 per year on child porn. That’s a more realistic dollar figure, but also a whole lot of people interested in child porn… If that’s not enough, as recently as March 2006, The Christian Science Monitor was quoting Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) as saying the child porn was a $20 to $30 billion business and that the use of child porn was “absolutely exploding”.

Finally, in April, 2006, two writers who actually seem to care about practicing journalism, Daniel Radosh and The Wall Street Journal’s Carl Bialik, looked into the source of the $20 billion figure. Both these articles provide a refreshing antidote to the otherwise pathetic state of journalism when the topic is child porn. The trail of the $20 billion figure leads to the NCMEC, then to a consulting firm McKinsey & Co, then to the FBI. When questioned on this, however, an FBI spokesman replied that, “the FBI has not stated the $20 billion figure.”

At the same time Radosh and Bialik were following the dead-end trail of the $20 billion figure, Representative Joe Barton, Chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce was stating here that, “child pornography is apparently a multibillion, my staff analysis says $20 billion-a-year business.” One is led to wonder exactly what type of “analysis” Rep. Barton’s staff performed to arrive at that figure… Perhaps his staff’s idea of analysis consists of parroting the same unsubstantiated figures that everyone else was reporting… some “analysis” that is.

Even though the $20 billion figure was thoroughly discredited in April, 2006, fully five months later, on September 19, 2006, U.S. Senator Wayne Allard saw fit to issue a press release tooting his own horn and noting that, “child pornography is a $20 billion industry worldwide”. Senator Allard issued more that 40 press releases in September 2006 alone. Perhaps Senator Allard’s constituents (and the truth) would be better served if Allard’s staff dedicated more time to verifying the accuracy of his press releases, and less time cranking out mindless drivel.

I wonder how many more lies we are being fed by those with a vested interest in exaggerating the child pornography “problem”.

2 Responses to “The $20 Billion Lie”

  1. […] The report comes from the Internet Watch Foundation, which may be a European version of the USA based NCMEC, an organization that’s been know to toss around unsubstantiated figures about child porn. (See The $20 Billion Lie) […]

  2. […] posted a video The Myth of Commercial CP – Part I. Many of the points I make in my first post, The $20 Billion Lie, are covered in Dr. Oldfield’s […]

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