(The different levels refer to the levels of 'seriousness' of the images.)
Hyping Up The Figures
Online Child Porn Reports Increase Reports of websites that contain images of child abuse have continued to climb in the last year, a report has
However, as is typical, the media coverage concerning this finding is very
misleading. And this is partly because the IWF report does not really make clear
the distinction between 'websites', 'webpages', 'images' and 'URLs'. Neither
does the report make any attempt to indicate how many images found at different
URLs are simply duplicates of images. The consequence is that any real meaning
behind its figures is somewhat obfuscated - which is not unusual when abuse
figures are produced by organisations that need to justify their funding.
But the figures seem to boil down to this.
There were around 10,500 unacceptable images discovered by the
IWF during 2006. How many of these were simply duplicates, we do not know. But
given that hundreds of millions of images exist on the web - billions probably - this does not seem
to be as great a problem as the media would have people believe.
Furthermore, these images were distributed across some 3000 websites - or 'webpages' -
which really suggests that the offending images simply turned up on legitimate
picture websites - individually or as pairs - within the context of numerous
other images. But many in the media have twisted this finding to claim that
there are 3000 websites containing child porn - which is very
misleading indeed because it gives the impression that 3000 websites are devoted
to such material - when, in fact, the average was about 3 images per website.
And so, for example, the suggestion that a site like YouTube is a website that 'hosts child
porn' simply because an image uploaded by a member of the public remained on
view for some time before being taken offline would be ridiculous. But this is
the kind of claim being made. And it is simply
designed to inflame more paedophile hysteria.
occasional 'illicit' images of youngsters posted on
sites ... do not necessarily indicate that the posters are, themselves,
Furthermore, occasional 'illicit' images of youngsters posted on sites by
members of the public do not necessarily indicate that the posters are,
themselves, paedophiles. One has to remember that many, many millions of people
use the internet. And a significant number of them will not even be aware that
certain (non-sexual) images of youngsters are classed as 'porn'.
For example, imagine an image of a group of toddlers playing naked in a
paddling pool. Most normal people would not regard such an image
as particularly sexual or pornographic. But the IWF would certainly regard it as
such - particularly if this image ended up being copied and posted on to a
pornographic site; hence all the hoohah about taking any photographs of
There is some kind of sense to this, but I cannot help thinking that the more
removed are children from the consciousness of people the more alienated from
them must they become. And the more alienated from each other do groups of
people become, the more likely are they to treat each other badly or with
Indeed, while airbrushing away the visual aspects of children
might well help to reduce temporarily the pleasures that can be obtained by the relatively
small number of paedophiles who dwell amongst us, it also diminishes very greatly
all the other positive emotions towards themselves that children inspire - and
were designed to inspire - in the vast majority of ordinary
As such, hiding the children from all
of us might cause everybody more harm than is caused by paedophiles
drooling over various images.
the internet provides a relatively easy mechanism for
shifting the context
The dilemma, of course, is that images of children can have different
meanings in different contexts and in different minds. And given that the
internet provides a relatively easy mechanism for shifting the context and for placing the images into different minds, it is extremely difficult indeed to
find a solution that does not involve excluding almost all images of
For example, if the photograph above was a picture of my grandmother in her
youth and I placed it on a family website, most people who turned up at the site
would not view it as being sexual. But if it was copied and placed on a porn
site, not only would it more likely be viewed as sexual, but it would also likely
encourage connections in the minds of viewers between 'children' and
Similarly, the picture below is, I imagine, of three 12 or 13
year-olds fooling about with a camera ...
... but there were others in the 'series' that were slightly more revealing.
Once again, pictures such as these mean one thing when placed on one type of
site (e.g. Myspace) but they can mean something else when placed on a porn site, or on a
Here is another example - this time of two brothers fooling around with their
And there are many pictures on the internet that are far more 'unambiguous'
than those above, but which are, nevertheless, decidedly non-sexual in one
context, while being clearly sexual in another.
adults with youthful features can often be made up to
look like youngsters
An added problem is the fact that adults with youthful features can often be
made up to look like youngsters, and so it will always be very difficult to draw any
lines. Do we ban all potentially salacious images of all women who look under 18, or if they
happen to look under 18 in certain postures and clothes? And even if we did,
where would this lead us? After all, fifty years ago the following pictures would have
been more than enough to incite extremely lusty thoughts!
It might be hard to believe, but I can assure you that the above images were
more than enough for men to climax with relative ease.
And 100 years ago, the sight of a woman's ankle was good enough to incite the
And so, for example, should images of the following type be banned? After
all, a paedophile can see an ankle - and almost a whole leg!
Where does it end?
Anyway. The media also seem to be highlighting the increase in the
number of reports made to the IWF about child images, but this
number of reports correlates with the number of people visiting certain websites (pornographic or
not) and it might say very little about the number of
illicit images that exist.
For example, one illicit image on a website like YouTube is likely
to give rise to many thousands of 'reports'. As such, an increasing number of
reports does not, in and of itself, necessarily suggest an increase in the
amount of illicit content. And yet, it is the increased number of reports
about such images that most of the media seem to have been highlighting.
Well, as far as I can ascertain, the answer is obvious. The number of reports
has increased quite dramatically in comparison to the increase in the number of
images; and so the focus has been on the former rather than the latter.
And there is nothing better than the suggestion of a 'dramatic' increase in
something when somebody wants to fuel alarm.
But, surely, if anything, the number of images is far more relevant than the
number of reports!
In conclusion, MRAs who are concerned about the way in which men are so often
horribly demonised by the overblown exaggerations that emanate from those
working in the 'abuse industry' need to pay very close attention
to the evidence lying behind any claims and conclusions that they make. And if they look closely enough, they
will usually find that these claims have far more to do with
generating funding, growing empires and furthering agendas than they have to do
with describing reality.
And it is particularly important to scrutinise the claims given that so many thousands of innocent
western men every year have been, and are, horribly mistreated by systems of
justice that have been corrupted through and through simply in order to gain
convictions - and often when there is no valid evidence whatsoever
standing against these men.
in the case of the IWF report, there seems to me
to be a deliberate attempt to obfuscate the truth
And in the case of the IWF report, there seems to me to be a deliberate
attempt to obfuscate the truth in that, firstly, it attempts to highlight the
number of reports of illicit images and, secondly, it gives the
impression that the 3000 'websites' that allegedly contained illicit images were
porn websites when, in fact, they were mostly non-porn websites to which
occasional images ended up being loaded; with some of these images being
completely innocent - given the context both of the images and of the websites
on which they appeared.