Thursday, July 16, 2009

So what does the DIA's software block?

The news report in the Dominion Post that ISPs can acquire filtering software from the government to allegedly "block child porn" of course all sounds good. It is voluntary, and who would oppose blocking child porn, unless you're a pervert of course.

Well, if Claire McEntee were a better journalist, she would have asked some rather pertinent questions. Here are mine:

1. What is the definition of child porn? Does the software block all "objectionable" material, which goes well beyond what people commonly think of as child porn, but also includes adults wearing school uniforms roleplaying and includes erotic stories about legal acts between adults? How focused is it? Who is really going to lobby for erotic material that is legal to be let through?

2. Isn't the bigger problem those who abuse children and in the course of that video/photograph it and distribute those images, and doesn't this do absolutely nothing to stop it (it just stops people seeing material others produce)?

3. How does DIA respond to the report in Wired that an increasing problem is law enforcement agencies finding that much "child porn" is produced by the "children" themselves with camera phones - the children being teenagers who are underage. Such behaviour is foolish and should be discouraged, but not exactly what the law should be prosecuting.

4. What is the scale, extent and main geographic sources of the real child porn problem? That means those who are underage who are abused and have images taken of this abuse and distributed. How much material circulating is decades old (when such material was sadly legal in some European countries and poorly enforced elsewhere), how much is produced in developing countries, Russia or Ukraine where law enforcement has other priorities, how much is material swapped between child rapists, how big or small is the alleged "industry"? After all, what fool would pay for illegal material online when any payments can easily be traced?

Nobody knows because nobody can undertake research on the topic without becoming a criminal, and some law enforcement/censorship agencies have institutional interests in seeking increased funding to address the problem. It is perhaps the only area of the criminal law where research is effectively closed.

Let's be clear. Laws relating to censorship should shadow those related to crime. Images of what consenting adults do (or stories) should not be a subject of the law. Real child porn - images of those under the age of consent as victims of sex crimes - is appropriately the business of criminal law, as those producing it are accessories to the crime itself. However, there needs to be some genuine open discussion about what the business of the law is, what is the extent of the problem and ensuring that measures to address the real problem,are not sledgehammers to crack a nut.

In that context, if ISPs want to purchase software to block sites, then let them feel free to do so. However, it should not be a trojan horse for censoring more than material produced in the context of a real crime.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Why should my browsing freedom risk compromise by filtering because of the activities of a miniscule proportion of users?
Child porn is ,imo, a minor problem that generates hysterical over-reaction.
Collectivist do-gooders P.O.

Anonymous said...

Child pornography is sickening, but I have often wondered whether its legal status perpetuates child sexual abuse rather than preventing it. Viewing child porn is largely a victimless crime and no more encourages abusers than adult porn encourages adult rapists.

Child porn is simply a record of a crime being committed. Maybe it would be easier to track down the people committing the crimes if amnesty were given to those in possession of the evidence.

ZenTiger said...

Viewing child porn is largely a victimless crime

I think not. Even on the basis of the law of supply and demand. "Largely" doesn't quite excuse it, IMHO. It's not just a record, it's a "product for sale".

I think LS outlined why tracking it down might be difficult, although I agree with you that this is exactly the sort of investigation that one would expect international cooperation on.

It would be interesting to get some facts and figures about the extent of the problem as LS suggests. If it turns out to be worse than realised, it would justify increased effort.

ZenTiger said...

Oh, and no reason I can see to grant amnesty.

KG said...

The problem as I see it is that all kinds of restrictions are introduced 'for the sake of the children", thus making criticism of them unacceptable.
The MIA claims it will be checking 7000(!) websites per month, which is clearly impossible.
And as long as the list remains secret, they're free to add any websites they choose without any form of oversight. Who the hell decided that they alone were the arbiters of taste and legality? And what qualifies them as such?
If this is allowed to pass under the radar then so will censorship of blogs, using much the same rationale and that's why we ought to resist any internet censorship.

Angus said...

Notice the politically correct euphemism "child porn" that gets bandied around these days. Desensitization at work again methinks.

ZenTiger said...

I'm against the government filtering any web sites. Too many reasons right mow, so I'll leave it at that.

Regarding child porn, slavery, trafficking etc - I'd rather see them cooperate at an international level and hunt down illegal sites and get the site owners. These people don't do this stuff for free. Some-where, there will be money changing hands. Just follow the money, and nail them.

libertyscott said...

I doubt there is an industry, it is more about collectors swapping material. Viewing is an invasion of the privacy of the victim, who didn't consent/couldn't consent to the recording. Yes, the focus should be on actual abuse, the images provide evidence of it, and also mean people get excitement from the misery of others. However, my chief concern is the definition is wider than this - there are plenty of legal websites showing legal age women dressed in cheerleading outfits, school uniforms etc, which may be illegal in New Zealand as "child porn".

There is already much international co-operation on this, with international raids increasingly well co-ordinated. However, the lack of decent objective information about the problem becomes an excuse to censor more widely. For example, why are stories banned? They are truly victimless, and perfectly legal in the US, so very easy to obtain in NZ.

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