You’re fooling yourself if you don’t believe it. You’re kidding yourself if you don’t believe it. -Styx, “Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)”

Apologies to Styx for the strike-through, but after reading a recent Reuters article about the G8 Summit in Germany I knew I needed to quote this song. The lyrics needed a minor modification to make them fitting. The story reports that:

The G8 has been working with Interpol for years to combat child pornography and helped it establish the International Child Sexual Exploitation Image Database, which is intended to help police identify and rescue victims of such abuse.

They’ve been working for years, but by most accounts that problem is just getting worse, not better. Really, the very title of the story (“G8 needs private sector help to end child porn”) shows just how foolish our political leaders, law enforcement officials, and the media have become when dealing with child porn.

So now I pose the question that no politician, law officer, or journalist ever thinks to ask. Do they really think that we will ever end child porn?

I don’t think we will ever end child porn, and I suspect the current policies used to deal with child porn are having the unintended consequence of causing more and more child porn to be made. In drawing the conclusion that we cannot end child porn, I draw heavily on reading I’ve done about the failed war on drugs. The sites Drug War Facts, and LEAP, are informative.

Drugs are a physical item that must be physically moved, often across continents. Large quantities of drugs are heavy. Despite all resources poured into the drug war for many years, illegal drugs are still widely available in cities, suburbs, in rural areas, even in our prisons. We cannot even keep illegal drugs out of our prisons!

Child porn, in contrast, exists today mainly as data. Child porn can be moved from one continent to another electronically, in a matter of seconds. Child porn can be duplicated and still retain its value to its users.

I we cannot keep a physical item like drugs out of our prisons, how can we ever expect to keep a electronic data out of the hands of child porn aficionados? We can’t.

The LEAP site includes this quote about the decades long drug war.

The stated goals of current U.S.drug policy — reducing crime, drug addiction, and juvenile drug use — have not been achieved, even after nearly four decades of a policy of “war on drugs”. This policy, fueled by over a trillion of our tax dollars has had little or no effect on the levels of drug addiction among our fellow citizens, but has instead resulted in a tremendous increase in crime and in the numbers of Americans in our prisons and jails. With 4.6% of the world’s population, America today has 22.5% of the worlds prisoners. But, after all that time, after all the destroyed lives and after all the wasted resources, prohibited drugs today are cheaper, stronger, and easier to get than they were thirty-five years ago at the beginning of the so-called “war on drugs”.

The current approach to dealing with child porn makes it likely that years from now we will be saying, “after all that time, after all the destroyed lives and after all the wasted resources, child porn today is cheaper, more abusive, and easier to get than it was thirty-five years ago at the beginning of the so-called “war on child porn”.

Child porn will always used for the same reason that illegal drugs will always be used – there is a demand. And some people are always going to be willing to do whatever it takes to get access to those materials.

Unintended Consequences

One area where some success has been made is in efforts to prevent credit cards from being used to purchase child porn. In 2006 there was the formation of the Financial Coalition Against Child Pornography, covered in a NCMEC press release). There is some evidence that this effort is having success. The Reuters article includes

Germany recently smashed a child pornography ring thanks to credit card data provided by financial institutions and credit card companies.

Unfortunately, credit card fraud appears common among those buying child porn. (Big surprise there?) See Wired and the BBC for more information. Of course, making it more difficult, or risky, to use credit cards to buy child porn doesn’t appear to be making any dent at all in the availability of child porn. Judging by the typical story child porn is still Exploding.

Have any of the people battling against child porn ever stopped to consider that making it more difficult to buy existing child porn might lead to the creation of more new child porn? If someone can’t buy child porn, but still wants to get child porn, what do they do? Does anyone know? Does anyone care?

On the Internet, I have seen rumblings that the new currency for child porn is child porn itself. Specifically, new child porn. If one can’t buy it, then one must either find it, beg for it, or trade for it. I’ve seen discussions on the Internet that suggested that for someone new to begin trading with an established collector, the only option is for the newcomer to bring something new. New child porn. And how does one get new child porn? One probably makes it?

Another theme common to news accounts of child porn investigations is that the ages of the children involved are getting younger and younger and in some cases involve babies or even newborns. Rarely do those news accounts speculate why child porn involving such very young children is becoming more common. Is it that tastes are changing and child porn aficionados are developing a preference for babies? Or is it that first-time child porn producers choose babies because they know that the baby can’t tell anyone what happened, and in all likelihood, the baby will not remember what happened. It certainly avoids the Kylie (or Vicky) problem, doesn’t it?