Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

The dire menace of child porn—and other sex-related myths

with 6 comments

A regular occurrence nowadays is hysteria over child porn—often coupled with cries for increased policing, reduced civil rights, Internet blocks, or similar. A disturbing case was the FAQ of the Cologne policee, which dealt at length and almost exclusively with child porn when I visited it about a year ago—at the moment, the contents are far more appropriate and helpful (just possibly because of the email I sent to complain). Even everyday citizens without agendas are obviously influenced by the bogeyman-propaganda. (Cf. e.g. a post where I recently commentede.) This entry is written partially to have an easy link to give to these people.

The scope of the problem is often exaggerated by several orders of magnitude. A previous article of mine puts the absurd claim that there would be 14 million (!) child-porn sites under the loupe of basic reasoning—I have later seen numbers that indicate a true figure somewhere between one and two thousand. (That article discusses several other issues, including the dangers of counting IP addresses as individual people, and the problems caused by an ever expanding definition of what is considered “evil”.)

A highly illuminating external sourcee investigates and debunks a number of common claims, including a 200,000-websites (let alone 14 million…), a 20,000-images-per-week, and a $3-billion-a-year claim. (A number of other interesting articles are linked to from there.) In particular, it makes the very important point that a “hit” is not the same thing as an access attempt or a page view: Each image (including those used in the page design), JavaScript file, CSS file, whatnot, on a page causes a separate hit; for a page with pornographic contents, several dozen hits per page is on the low side. This fundamental distinction is rarely made in the discourse (be it out of ignorance or out of a deliberate wish to use exaggerated numbers), resulting in claims that are dozens, possibly even hundreds of times too large.

A very disturbing tale is that of Operation Orew. (For more information on the miscarriage-of-justice/witch-hunt issues see e.g. [1]e, [2]e, [3]e, [4]e, [5]e)

(As an aside, looking at Operation Ore, digital evidence is not only so easy for the layman to misinterpret, but so exceedingly easy to plant that I would personally recommend strong limitations to its use in courts—including entirely disallowing computers/hard-drives that have been confiscated by the police.)

An issue recurring repeatedly (at least in Sweden and Germany) in recent times is that of Internet blocks, e.g. that ISPs become legally obliged to filter out pages on a governmental blacklist—this despite expert statements and practical experiences indicating that this is an inefficient and intrusive approach. (Source in Germane.)

Generally, there is a lot of FUDw, exaggeration, and fear-mongering going on in the area of sex and sex-related crimes. Consider e.g. traffickinge, pimpse, satanistic child-abusee, and campus rapese.

Say no to abuse of children—and to exaggerated, unfounded, and destructive claims around child-porn.

Advertisements

Written by michaeleriksson

September 28, 2010 at 4:01 pm

6 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Can you tell me where your information about “hits” comes from? As a web-designer who follows the “hits” on the sites she has developed, I find your information misleading and incorrect.

    A “hit” is noted as a page opening into a web browser. “Hits” are counted for each page opening within a site. Also noted when running analytical tests on site visits are: new visitors, return visitors, visitors who are referred from another site, visitors who use search methods to get there, or who directly enter the url for the page they are opening. In addition, it is possible to note how long each individual spends on each page they open, how they “bounce” around within the site (so if they return again and again to certain pages).

    The number of images within a page has absolutely NOTHING to do with the number of hits recorded, unless you are counting an image which is a link to a larger version of itself – although that would still be considered a new page.

    External files which may include links in their scripts do not show up as individual images inside of a web page. This is what keeps the pages running smoothly and cleanly.

    Despite your obvious lack of true research and investigation into your sources, you still miss the point. Bogeyman or not, child pornography exists just as much as terrorism and there is nothing you can say to deny these claims. They both exist and they both need resolution. Instead of continuing down the path of how scary the media makes these topics out to be, shouldn’t you consider putting your efforts toward finding resolutions to the problems?

    Heather Rasmussen

    September 28, 2010 at 6:03 pm

    • Speaking as someone who has been involved in professional web-development on and off since the mid-90s, I do know what a hit is. If you doubt, have a look at e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Page_view , which is the concept you are talking about. Hits are described at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hit_(web_request)

      As for your last paragraph, it is an unfounded personal attack (and, frankly, one which makes you look silly in the light of your discussion of hits). Further, there are plenty of people already attacking that subject—indeed, the problem is that too many do, that the public is lead astray, and that the price paid is disproportional to the gain. Problems should be addressed with an amount of resources that is in proportion to its size relative other problems—and we must make sure that the cure is not worse than the disease. Thus, you are the one who misses the point.

      michaeleriksson

      September 28, 2010 at 10:36 pm

      • Touche. Thank you for teaching me something.

        I think the real issue I have with your stance is that it didn’t make sense with respect to my initial “Am I screwed?” post. My proposal was that if the government was going to Big Brother us on the Internet and related digitally accessed forms of communication to get to the terrorists, maybe they could use these same techniques to get the child pornographers.

        Do you not agree that we sometimes overlook real issues in our world by causing new problems? I do believe the bogeyman exists in terrorists and child pornographers. They aren’t at the same level of course, and the attention to each is disproportional. The question is, how do we resolve these real world problems, despite their news coverage?

        Heather Rasmussen

        September 29, 2010 at 4:40 am

      • And thank you for being gracious and willing to revise your opinion.

        You are quite right in that my initial comment(s) to your post (let alone my own post) did not deal with your main topic: My purpose was to counter-act the common, media- and politician-driven, misperception about the scope of the child-porn problem and the harmful effects this misperception has on society. Among other things, I contend that Big Brothering is a disproportionate violation of the private spheres of the citizens (while the Internet equivalent of a phone tapped by court-order is a different issue). If the techniques work against terrorists (a very big “if”’, BTW), they could be used against child pornographers too; however, that is entirely beside my topic.

        Concerning your last paragraph, I am little uncertain what you mean by “Do you not agree that we sometimes overlook real issues in our world by causing new problems?”. I do agree, however, that the statements taken individually (real issues are sometimes overlooked, new problems are caused) are correct, and would see the reverse (overlooking real issues causes new problems) as at least occasionally true.

        As an aside, the media attention given to terrorists here in Europe is lower than it appears to be in the US (in my estimate from afar)—still considerable, but lower.

        michaeleriksson

        September 29, 2010 at 7:42 am

  2. […] witchhuntse. Also discussed by me on several occasions (at least [1], […]

  3. […] reading about the witch hunts is also valuable with an eye on somewhat similar modern phenomena concerning e.g. child-porn or satanistic child […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s