Confronting child porn on web - Helplessness is no longer an option

INFORMATION technology has changed what it means to be human. 

Confronting child porn on web - Helplessness is no longer an option

It has created unimagined opportunity and wealth and it is inconceivable that this evolution will falter, though its tremendous, relentless pace may.

Information technology has created a world without boundaries, or at least a layer in our world where the age-old limits of geography and nationalism — and decency too — have been consigned to history.

It has changed commerce and work utterly and it has redefined individual privacy.

It has challenged that precious right in a terrible, destructive way never imagined even a decade ago.

That great advance inevitably has a downside and we reported on one of its most dramatic, intrusive and unacceptable ones yesterday morning and this morning.

Photographs of at least 40 girls, presumably boys too, and mainly from Cork — some as young as 13 — have been hijacked from perfectly innocent social media sites.

These innocuous pictures have been stolen and doctored in a most graphic and theatening way and posted on a website promoting child pornography.

All of those pictures, even the ones that have not been modifed, have had the most aggressive and vile captions attached, some suggesting she’s-asking-for-it responses that are little different from rape.

The story, first aired on Neil Prenderville’s RedFM radio programme, detailed how some of these photographs have been taken secretly in public places by individuals unknown to the subjects — sniper photographs to coin a phrase.

That those who take these images to defile and post on the web’s darkest side suggests a detachment, a cold remove and exploitation, from anything that could be regarded as normal that it must be confronted.

That one of the victims, now almost 20 but a 13-year-old in the hijacked pictures, warned that older pictures of her were ignored and that internet traffic concentrated on pictures of her as a child adds even more urgency to that obligation.

But how? How can we explain to a young woman or a young man that images of them have been stolen, defiled, and posted on the web, but that there there is little enough that can be easily done?

There can hardly be a better example of the web’s power and our ultimate inability to control it. Its universality is also its greatest threat.

A recent report on An Garda Síochána suggested that the force was so under-resourced that the majority of computer files on suspected white-collar crime were not reviewed so prosecutions were limited.

Cases involving pornographic images online were dismissed because of inordinate delay in assessing computer hard drives by gardaí. Everyone will agree, especially the gardaí, that this is unacceptable.

There are free speech and censorship issues too, issues that at this point in the conversation often provoke a helpless shrug and a legitimate question — what can we do to protect our children and ourselves from those who so misuse the web?

There is no obvious solution but if we could, almost 50 years ago, put a man on the moon then it is hard to think that a tiny minority of predatory pornographers could defy a concerted international effort to put them out of business.

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