The Stone Phillips Standard

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Yesterday, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales issued a kiddie porn "wake-up call":

"It is not an exaggeration to say that we are in the midst of an epidemic in the production and trafficking of movies and images depicting the sexual abuse of children," Gonzales said.

"The threat is frighteningly real, it is growing rapidly, and it must be stopped."

The attorney general said one of every five children online is now solicited. He cited a recent estimate that 50,000 predators are online at any given time prowling for children.

Gonzales attributed the one-in-five stat to "one study," which is most likely a 2000 report conducted by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. But way back in 2001, Spiked Online's Sandy Starr actually read that report:

The NCMEC's national survey of 1501 American 10- to 17-year-olds found that 'approximately one in five received a sexual solicitation or approach over the internet in the last year'. There is a huge leap from 'sexual solicitation or approach'…to 'approached by a paedophile'.

The report found that almost half of the solicitations reported did not come from an adult, but from other children: 'juveniles made 48 percent of the overall and 48 percent of the aggressive solicitations.' The report also points out that only 'one quarter of young people who reported these incidents were distressed by them'. 'Sexual solicitations' between children in an internet chat room are the online equivalent of adolescent fumbling, a world away from the threat of paedophilia.

Gonzales himself gave the source for the 50,000 prowling predators, citing "the television program Dateline."

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  1. Facts, schmacks..

    Objectivity is boring. Don’t you get it?

  2. Setting the stage for further government data collection. The AG’s appearance is the opening salvo in the attempt to get data retention laws passed. Such as the EU just passed. (Storing of all connection and location data of Internet, cell phone, pager and other traffic for up to 2 years).The USDOJ has already approached the EU to get access to their collections.
    What better argument than the one noone can resist and noone can check up on the numbers: Child abuse.
    Full AG speech here:
    http://www.usdoj.gov/ag/speeches/2006/ag_speech_060420.html

  3. Ian Hacking had an essay long ago on child abuse and its invention as a social problem. It’s fairly recent, like the 60s, and later than that for sexual abuse.

    It’s a hysteria attractor, so good copy. Taking ownership of the social problem pays big-time.

    Here it is, “The Making and Moulding of Child Abuse” _Critical Inquiry_ 17:2 Winter 1991

    Probably it’s in one of his subsequent books as well.

    _Critical Inquiry_ tends to be in college libraries.

  4. This sort of nonsense would be less likely in a Democratic administration. Rebulicans are obsessed with sex, probably because of the their strongly Christian-right base.

  5. Don’t bother me with FACTS! The government doesn’t have to deal with FACTS!

    By the way, I’m still watching you guys, and you’re all on my list.

  6. so many epidemics, so little time. We have an epidemic epidemic.

  7. so many epidemics, so little time. We have an epidemic epidemic.

    Their going to have to come up with a new scare word soon. Epidemic has been used for so many things that it’s lost all its punch.

  8. Martin is absolutely, 100% goddamn right–all this crap is another “what about the children?!?” salvo towards a surveillance state, which, fundamentally , is the fondest wish of these assholes.

  9. A/S/L? Wan2 cyber?

    Solicitation!

  10. This sort of nonsense would be less likely in a Democratic administration.

    Unfortunately the evidence doesn’t agree.
    When it comes to sex and children all sides are falling over each other to throw away all pretense of protecting liberties.
    Most all of the recent sex offender laws were passed unanimously, a feat that used to be reserved to the likes of the Soviet Union. It is political suicide to vote against it.
    The media are helping this by stirring the hysteria and, again, buying government’s and activists’ propaganda wholesale. What else can they do? Journalists don’t wants to expose themselves to charges or allegations of viewing child porn.
    This issue is taylor-made for the control freaks.

  11. Jeff P,

    You aren’t about to pick-up any dog-ends?

  12. Here are the relevant parts of the AG speech. Speaks for itself.
    Not only data retention, but also examination of all data by ISPs under threat of criminal penalty. There is no other way to accomplish what the AG wants. And, of course, it will protect us all so we don’t get accidentally traumatised.

    “But in order for Project Safe Childhood to succeed, we have to make sure law enforcement has all the tools and information it needs to wage this battle. The investigation and prosecution of child predators depends critically on the availability of evidence that is often in the hands of Internet service providers. This evidence will be available for us to use only if the providers retain the records for a reasonable amount of time. Unfortunately, the failure of some Internet service providers to keep records has hampered our ability to conduct investigations in this area.

    As a result, I have asked the appropriate experts at the Department to examine this issue and provide me with proposed recommendations. And I will reach out personally to the CEOs of the leading service providers, and to other industry leaders, to solicit their input and assistance. Record retention by Internet service providers consistent with the legitimate privacy rights of Americans is an issue that must be addressed.

    I am also proud to announce today that the Administration will send to Congress a new piece of legislation, the Child Pornography and Obscenity Prevention Amendments of 2006. This legislation will help ensure that communications providers report the presence of child pornography on their systems by strengthening criminal penalties for failing to report it. It will also prevent people from inadvertently stumbling across pornographic images on the Internet. I hope Congress will take up this legislation promptly.”

  13. “Unfortunately the evidence doesn’t agree.”
    No Martin. There is one party of the family values/mega-church/ten commandments bent and we know very clearly which one that is. They are santorally obsessed with anal sex, man-on-dog, dudes kissing, etc. and are an entrenched part of the republican party When a democrat plays this game (and many have) they are what would be called outliers. There is no red meat democratic constituency that backs them quite like the fromidable and growing claque of knuckledraggers who follow Dobson, Robertson, and Falwell. Use the Cathy Young two-step on something else. You’re wasting your ammo on this one.

  14. consistent with the legitimate privacy rights of Americans

    hah! I guess those rights are whatever the administration say they are.

  15. All you libbers are disgusting apologists for the creeps and molesters. Shame!

  16. When it comes to child porn / abuse, both parties are about equally fanatical. Some of the most notorious child molestation cases involved Dem prosecutors. Further, the child porn laws were significantly toughened under Clinton. The difference between the two parties is that the bible thumpers in the Republican party go after adult porn as well. While it is true that some of the hairy armpit feminists would do the same, they were never been able to get the Clinton administration to enforce the indecency laws. Bush came in and Ashcroft immediately went after adult porn, which is the reason why I can’t stand Ashcroft despite his generally wonderful choices in enemies.

  17. This sort of nonsense would be less likely in a Democratic administration.

    Except. of course, that the biggest abuses of the child molestation/implanted memory hysteria happened in Democratic jurisdictions like Massachusetts and California.

  18. First of all I doubt that one in five teen agers is solicited online. The red needle on the BS Meter is pegged on that one.

    Notice I used the term teen ager? Those people aren’t fargin’ children and in other eras and other cultures they’d be adults at puberty, which is the biological measure of what really constitutes an adult.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if kiddie porn trafficking is up compared to a few decades ago. That’s a serious problem that requires vigilantes with shotguns. However, the AG and the Jesus Freaks and the rest of the concerned populace dilute the message and turn it into some kind of perverted Reefer Madness parody when they try to dazzle us with crap to get us on board.

    Here’s a hot tip: Let’s ask the AG to focus on true kiddie porn and stop worrying about some pimply faced 14 year old hiding behind a flat screen monitor fumbling for his zipper.

  19. A followup study to the oft-quoted (and misrepresented) NCEMC study is never mentioned:

    “According to the study:

    * Most offenders did not deceive victims about the fact that they were adults interested in sexual relationships
    * The victims, primarily teens aged 13 to 15, met and had sex with the adults on more than one occasion
    * Half of the victims were described as being in love with or feeling close bonds with the offenders
    * Few offenders abducted or used force to sexually abuse their victims.”

    Not good news, but a far cry from the usual picture painted of the luring of pre-teens by violent predators, who pretend to be same-age.

    The number of children harmed by this sort of activity is miniscule in comparison to the weight of mental, physical and sexual abuse that is inflicted on kids in the US.

    Similar number games are being played with the mythical $20 billion dollar child porn industry -actually completely unsourced. The UK’s Internet Watch foundation says that the US hosts around 50% of the world’s commercial child porn sites – does anyone seriously believe that an $10 billion dollar industry which relies entirely on web visibility and electronic payments systems can exist illegally in the US,when most of the Western worlds LEAs, the major credit card companies and hosts of ‘child protection’ agencies are spending millions of dollars of tax-payers money and charitable donations to suppress this activity.

    The issues of child abuse are serious enough without the NCEMC and the AG misdirecting the debate and of course consequent funding.

  20. Um, budgie, remember the Communications Decency Act? Both parties, and the Administration in particular, were all gung ho on that one. Neither party wants to concede the “family values” position. Another example is how the War on Drugs was fought during the Clinton years with full force. There are many more examples, including a few where Bush has co-opted some Democratic principles. It’s all about power, not about core beliefs.

  21. The child porn laws are thought crimes. It is one thing to go after people who molest and take pictures of children. No argument there with throwing them in jail until hell freezes over or people who actively distribute child porn. We have a system though where someone who possess a picture that he didn’t take and has no idea where it came from is committing a serious crime worthy of lifelong stigmatization and years in prison. Why? The argument is that the child is victimized all over again every time someone looks at the picture. That to me seems a bit of a stretch. Are you really victimized when someone you don’t know looks at a picture of you without you knowing? Certainly, if I posted a compromising picture of you on the internet and you knew that 1000s of people saw it, you would very much be a victim. Who is the victimizer? Certainly I am for posting it on the internet, but is everyone else who looks at it also victimizers? We don’t think of it that way in any other context. Take celebrities for example. In a very real sense, the people who snuck into Whitney Houston’s apartment and took pictures of her bathroom in a very sense victimized her. It was a nasty wrong thing to do. But would anyone seriously argue than the rest of us are just as bad as the photographers every time we stop in the grocery store line and leer at the pictures in the tabloids? Absolutely not. Why is child porn different?

    The answer is that we have made it a crime to think lustful thoughts about children, even if you never act on them. Someone who merely possess child porn but never produces it or acts on their urges (only about 33% of people who view such stuff ever act on their urges) is treated the same way as someone who acts on those urges. That is a thought crime. As much as I object to child pornography, I object more to the government creating thought crimes.

  22. There is one party of the family values/mega-church/ten commandments bent and we know very clearly which one that is.

    Right. While on the Left:

    There is one party of the community values/mega-secularism/it-takes-a-village bent and we know very clearly which one that is.

    And on many issues, like this one, both view individual liberty as a hinderance to be legislated out of existance for the greater good.

  23. John, you need go no further than the beheading videos to make your point. Here,it is most defintely the thought component being punished, all the other rhetoric aside.

    If we are going to make thought-crimes, we should at least be intellectually honest about it. But since when have pols of any stripe ever been accused of that?

  24. John,

    We all object to CP and I agree with you on the thought crime angle. In the state of Pennsylvania it is child abuse to view a CP image. What utter nonsense. There is also the theory expounded by the AG in his speech and codified in law that viewing CP leads to active abuse leads to violence and so on. If that were true then it would also hold for adult porn, not?
    I am trying to sound the alarm on the surveillance laws being proposed. The proposal would for the first time hold ISPs liable for what “resides on their system”, which is your and my e-mail, financial transactions and more. Why did we ever need a telecommunications act or why is our mail protected? There are going to be some powerful forces in support of the government on this. The MPAA and the RIAA for example.

  25. “Neither party wants to concede the “family values” position. Another example is how the War on Drugs was fought during the Clinton years with full force.”

    I’ll concede that Clinton was a major disappointment on the drug war issue. Why was that Pro Libertate? Dig into the issue and you’ll find that he was getting his ass handed to him when he dared to suggest that money should be shifted toward treatment and away from the narco-enforcement agancies. It wasn’t a politically tenable stance at the time. Which party do you think made sure of that? I’d be curious to know how many posters here (those who are old enough to remember) sang his praises when he was actually trying to fight the good fight. How many were doing the same when Carter moved to decriminalize pot? My guess is not many.

    As for the “family values” issue, there is absolutely no comparison. That shit was invented and is still trotted out front and center as a core issue by, again,…which party? Dan Quayle ring a bell? Self respecting republicans should consider taking on those folks first before playing any equivalency games. For my part, I’ve routinely blasted Hillary and Tipper for this shit. My hope is that more righty libertarians do the same.

  26. John,

    We all object to CP and I agree with you on the thought crime angle. In the state of Pennsylvania it is child abuse to view a CP image. What utter nonsense. There is also the theory expounded by the AG in his speech and codified in law that viewing CP leads to active abuse leads to violence and so on. If that were true then it would also hold for adult porn, not?
    I am trying to sound the alarm on the surveillance laws being proposed. The proposal would for the first time hold ISPs liable for what “resides on their system”, which is your and my e-mail, financial transactions and more. Why did we ever need a telecommunications act or why is our mail protected? There are going to be some powerful forces in support of the government on this. The MPAA and the RIAA for example.

  27. “Neither party wants to concede the “family values” position. Another example is how the War on Drugs was fought during the Clinton years with full force.”

    I’ll concede that Clinton was a major disappointment on the drug war issue. Why was that Pro Libertate? Dig into the issue and you’ll find that he was getting his ass handed to him when he dared to suggest that money should be shifted toward treatment and away from the narco-enforcement agancies. It wasn’t a politically tenable stance at the time. Which party do you think made sure of that? I’d be curious to know how many posters here (those who are old enough to remember) sang his praises when he was actually trying to fight the good fight. How many were doing the same when Carter moved to decriminalize pot? My guess is not many.

    As for the “family values” issue, there is absolutely no comparison. That shit was invented and is still trotted out front and center as a core issue by, again,…which party? Dan Quayle ring a bell? Self respecting republicans should consider taking on those folks first before playing any equivalency games. For my part, I’ve routinely blasted Hillary and Tipper for this shit. My hope is that more righty libertarians do the same.

  28. When you pay for child porn, whether through your credit card or by trading pictures with a fellow pervert, you are an accessory after the fact to the molestation. We convict people of murder for paying someone else to murder. How is paying someone else to molest a child any different?

  29. I’m with Joe here. Viewing an image of a 6-year-old giving someone a blow job (let’s not beat around the bush, that is what people are seeing) supports the industry that actually forced the child to commit that act.

    It’s not just a thought crime, it’s aiding and abetting a crime.

  30. You guys might have a point, purchasing the photo were an element of the crime. CP is a strict liability crime. The mere possession of it. Even something sent to you by mistake, is a crime. Further, it is a crime break into people’s homes and take pictures. If you purchase pictures of people’s homes off of my website, have you committed a crime by “supporting the industry”. I might be valid to make it a crime to provide financial support to a child pornographer just like it is a crime to provide financial support to a terrorist organization. That is not the law, however.

  31. I tend to agree with joe’s (and the Supreme Court’s) view on this. We’re talking about a pretty egregious crime here, and the harm to speech is less than the harm of not prosecuting the supporters of the child porn industry. I’m not saying that law enforcement couldn’t abuse its heightened powers in child porn to go after legal porn; I’m just saying that putting some of the liability for child exploitation on the recipients of child porn seems at least somewhat justified.

  32. “When you pay for child porn, whether through your credit card or by trading pictures with a fellow pervert, you are an accessory after the fact to the molestation. We convict people of murder for paying someone else to murder. How is paying someone else to molest a child any different?”

    Wow, spot the logic fallacy! The more accurate analogy is if somebody commits a murder, videotapes it, and then later sells copies of the tape. I’m not aware of any law that would punish purchasers of the tape if they did not have foreknowledge of the murderer’s plans. joe also, of course, ignores the question of free child pornography, which logically doesn’t function through a market mechanism. And he also ignores the point that under the “Dost factors” photographs of fully clothed children taken in public can be considered “child pornography”.

  33. Why am I not surprised that the commenters on this site, which tends to attract ‘if there’s grass on the field, play ball’ types, are not supportive of the well intentioned AG!?!

  34. Pro Liberate,

    You miss my point. My point is that CP laws are a thought crime. The government contorts itself to pretend that they are not, but they really are. For this reason, they set a terrible precident.

  35. Good point, joe–except the law doesn’t distinguish between people paying for such images or or just using–for free some P2P application or Usenet, neither of which pushes one penny towards the victimizers.

    Please, just be intellectually honest and call it what it is in such cases–a thought crime. It seems to me people are just so afraid of trying to defend the concept, they come up with bogus ways to avoid an obvious conclusion.

  36. Good point, joe–except the law doesn’t distinguish between people paying for such images or or just using–for free–some P2P application or Usenet, neither of which pushes one penny towards the victimizers.

    Please, just be intellectually honest and call it what it is in such cases–a thought crime. It seems to me people are just so afraid of trying to defend the concept, they come up with bogus ways to avoid an obvious conclusion.

  37. We convict people of murder for paying someone else to murder. How is paying someone else to molest a child any different?

    Bad model. We may pay someone of paying to murder someone else, but you can get an image of someone getting murdered on the evening news with no penalty.

    You can find the video of Nick Berg getting beheaded all over the internet. Is that illegal? And does the apparent popularity of such images fuel a market in beheadings?

    I’d also point out that the market for paid internet pornography is a fairly recent development. Prior to the development of the WWW, you could get any variety of pornography you wanted on Usenet, free for nothing (and thanks to enthusiastic cross-posters, you frequently got plenty you didn’t want). So I’d argue that the incentive to create child pornography existed prior to any profit incentive to create it. There might be an argument that the profit incentive causes more pornography to be created than would exist otherwise, but I’m not sure how you’d quantify that.

  38. Would viewing a computer-generated image of a child doing something dirty count as child porn?

  39. We convict people of murder for paying someone else to murder. How is paying someone else to molest a child any different?

    Bad model. We may penalize someone for paying for somebody’s murder, but you can get an image of someone getting murdered on the evening news with no penalty at all.

    You can find the video of Nick Berg getting beheaded all over the internet. Is that illegal? And does the apparent popularity of such images fuel a market in beheadings?

    I’d also point out that the market for paid internet pornography is a fairly recent development. Prior to the development of the WWW, you could get any variety of pornography you wanted on Usenet, free for nothing (and thanks to enthusiastic cross-posters, you frequently got plenty you didn’t want). So I’d argue that the incentive to create child pornography existed prior to any profit incentive to create it. There might be an argument that the profit incentive causes more pornography to be created than would exist otherwise, but I’m not sure how you’d quantify that.

  40. Well, John, it’s not an easy issue. Still, the law does look at intent and other things in your head for some crimes. I have a bigger problem, for instance, with hate crime legislation, which I do see as thoughtcrime. I’ve heard that child pornography possession is, more or less, a strict liability offense, which is a little disturbing in the Internet age. Oops, you visited the wrong site while surfing–better make sure you empty that cache!

    You know, I believe that the Supreme Court has also ruled that simulated child pornography (i.e., pornography with adults who look like minors) is merely pornography and lacks the end-user liability that the real thing has. That, if true, throws in a wrinkle for any prosecutions of end users.

  41. Does it really matter? Whether child porn laws are thought crimes or not isn’t relevant to what AG Gonzales is clamoring for here.

    In essence, he’s saying “Based upon a loose interpretation of a study that I saw on TV news, your children are in constant, terrible danger from sexual predators, we need still more authority to monitor everyone in order to protect them. If we don’t have this authority, American children will be raped and murdered at an unprecedented rate.”

    Shouldn’t the AG base policy around more substantial research? Even if he did, does anyone believe that he’d to limit himself to sexual predators if he had expanded authority? I think it’s another “for the children” smokescreen to look of other things to prosecute, like online gambling and adult porn.

  42. So-called “free” porn on the Internet, of either the legal (consenting adults) or illegal (kiddie porn, bestiality, plant porn, what have you) varieties, is not generally presented with no intent of some form of compensation.

    Typically, there’s at least some form of advertisement, either for a pay site (embedded in the image in the case of Usenet), or for related sites/services (presented on the Web page with the image).

    It’s certainly another degree of separation from directly supporting someone who is victimizing nonconsenting minors, but there’s still a chain of support present.

    Someone who deliberately seeks out and downloads such material, even if it is presented for free, bears some degree of responsibility for its creation, and is, in my humble opinion, an accessory after the fact.

  43. So-called “free” porn on the Internet, of either the legal (consenting adults) or illegal (kiddie porn, bestiality, plant porn, what have you) varieties, is not generally presented with no intent of some form of compensation.

    I think you need to look a little harder. You might start with a few P2P networks where all sorts of goodies are available completely free and gratis. Certainly seems to upset the record and film companies.

    You are correct that every commercial porn site is bolstered by dozens if not hundreds of advertising pages, link lists and come-ons, but at least in the area of child pornography, there are very, very few genuine producers of this material and even then the material is almost exclusively softcore early teens, which remains legal in many countries (indeed is arguably legal by US federal law).

    The existence of a huge international commercial child porn industry is a myth.

    Child sex abuse is not a myth. It is common and harmful but the part played by CP is negligible.

  44. When you pay for child porn on the internet with your credit card, I write your name and address in my little book. When you look at child porn for free on the internet, I… write your name and address in my little book.

    Internet anonymity- hyeh!

  45. Clean Hands,

    So if you view the advertising of any company, does that mean you are “aiding and abetting” their business model?
    Think about the consequences if this type of reasoning is accepted.
    These precedents are not long limited to highly distasteful activities. After the Patriot act passed, one of the first things then AG Ashcroft did, he had his people use it to bust some alleged CP purveyors. Do you remember how we were promised the law would only be used against terrorists?
    I guess the strategy works: Pick an emotional issue, use it to generate some anecdotal evidence, pass a bad law and people will love it.
    Arrrgh!

  46. Martin, it’s pointless.

    People hate this shit (justifiably) and the people who view it, so many of those constrained by a nominal aversion to thoughtcrimes (such as libertarians) feel the need to make up the most ludricrous arguments why it REALLY isn’t a thoughtcrime, but something more. It’s intellectual dishonesty at its finest.

    I’d rather someone just come out and say, “Yes, it’s a thoughtcrime, a really special one!” Not that I agree with the position, but it is not dishonest at least.

  47. Dan Savage this week has a letter that sort of illustrates how far these laws can be taken. The FBI agent he consults in his answer basically says that if two teenagers make a tape of themselves having sex, they’re probably guilty of producing kiddie porn, and if they hold onto the tapes until they’re adults, they’re definitely guilty of posession of kiddie porn.

    Hope no one is holding onto adorable childhood pictures of themselves playing in the bathtub…

  48. It is like this… if someone can get your IP address, and you are running Windows, and don’t have all the latest patches and are running through a firewall (and probably if you actually are running all the patches and firewall, it would just be more difficult)… they can put child porn on your PC without you knowing it! If they have your email address, and you are running Microsoft Outlook or Outlook Express, they can put child porn on your computer without you knowing it. Actually, a web site could put an imagine in a web page, resize it to 0x0, and there is virtually nothing you could do and no way to know you would have that stuff on your hard drive (it would be on your HD until you deleted your cache and defragged your hard drive).

    The fact that it is SO DAMN EASY for anyone to frame you for a crime that will put you away in prison for 20 or 30 years, followed by the rest of your life on a vigilant hit list, should be frightening! If you REALLY REALLY pissed off someone else in the reason forums, they could probably work out a way to get you thrown in prison. If you piss off a co-worker at work, they could definitly have you thrown in jail.

    This is not like dropping 10 Kgs of coke on someone to frame them, because the very high cost of 10 kgs of coke is prohibitive to most would-be framer-up guy. Anyone pretty much has the power to get anyone else thrown in prison, and there is not a whole lot you can do to protect yourself.

  49. So why is it that billboards proclaiming “1 in 5 children are sexually solicited online” are popping up all over the place (at least where I live) if the study has been around for 5 years? I think we’re being prepped.

    Those billboards have been driving me nuts, by the way. Clearly, 1 out of 5 of all persons under the age of 18 has not been sexually solicited online. That statement should arouse skepticism in anyone with enough awareness to actually have skeptical tendencies.

  50. Good point, joe–except the law doesn’t distinguish between people paying for such images or or just using–for free some P2P application or Usenet, neither of which pushes one penny towards the victimizers.

    But this assumes that the only benefit to the producer or distributor is a financial one, and I think perhaps a more analogous situation (although one with less oomph) is trading of “bootleg” live audio: a trading community encourages people to bootleg the audio, and it’s illegal to create (by the initial recording) and sell the audio, but not to own or purchase.

    Are the models for these penalties, I wonder, different because of the severity of the initial crime (recording or, {shudder}, recording) or because bands are more likely to encourage the trading than are kiddos?

    Dave W.? Still around?

  51. Think data retention requirements for ISPs will drive people back to dial-in BBSs?

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