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Child Pornography Is at Home on the Internet

Distribution of child pornography and adult obscenity has expanded exponentially with advances in computer technology and increased availability and popular use of the Internet. This globalization of criminal activity is a significant challenge to the U.S. Department of Justice capacity to investigate and prosecute these crimes. Child pornography is relatively easy to identify. Obscenity is less easy to identify and the legal definition of obscenity was established by the U.S. Supreme Court in Miller v California, 413 U.S. 15 (1973). Under this ruling, the following three conditions must be met before material is considered obscene and subject to prosecution:

? The average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that the material appeals to the prurient interest.

  • ? The work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law.
  • ? The work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.

Increasingly, obscenity is transmitted via the Internet and this has caused confusion as to which community standards should be applied in determining whether material is obscene. The Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys (EOUSA), and the FBI as a matter of policy, pursues major producers and traffickers of obscene materials.

The National Obscenity Enforcement Unit was established in 1987. The unit was later renamed the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) to reflect its work on child sexual exploitation crimes. CEOS attorneys assist the U.S. Attorney’s Offices (USAOs) in investigations, trials, and appeals of child pornography cases. These cases include the prosecution of individuals who possess, manufacture, or distribute child pornography; who sell, buy, or transport children interstate or internationally to engage in sexually explicit conduct; who travel interstate or internationally to sexually abuse children; who abuse children on federal lands; and who transport obscene material in interstate or foreign commerce.

Occasionally, due to their expertise, CEOS attorneys may prosecute cases themselves. In addition to assisting prosecutors, the CEOS has several other responsibilities relating to child pornography and child exploitation issues. These include advising USAOs on child victim witness issues; developing proposals for policies, legislation, government practices, and regulations; and training federal, state, local, and international prosecutors, investigators, and judges [6].

The CEOS and its High Technology Investigative Unit (HTIU), created in 2002, are experts in prosecuting child exploitation cases, and in investigating high-technology child exploitation crimes. CEOS attorneys and HTIU computer forensic specialists investigate and prosecute defendants who violate federal child exploitation laws and also assist the 94 USAOs in investigations, trials, and appeals related to these offenses [7].

The NCMEC maintains the CyberTipline, an online reporting system for Internet service providers (ISPs) and the public to report online child pornography. It receives over 90,000 child pornography (possession, manufacture, and distribution) tips per year. From 2005 to 2009, U.S. attorneys prosecuted 8352 child pornography cases, and in most instances, the offenders used digital technologies and the Internet to produce, view, store, advertise, or distribute child pornography.

Prior to the mid-1990s, Internet access and the availability of digital home recording devices (still, video, and web cameras) were very limited, thereby confining the production and distribution of child pornography material to relatively few individuals. Now the ease with which a person can move from viewing child pornography to producing and distributing child pornography is illustrated in numerous cases. In addition, advances in computer memory storage, the speed of downloading and uploading, and advances in file-sharing technologies make it very easy to quickly transfer or receive large volumes of child sex abuse images. Numerous technologies are used by offenders including peer-to-peer (P2P) networks, Internet relay chat (IRC), newsgroups, bulletin boards, photo-sharing sites, and social networking sites, among others. Experts posit, and common sense suggests, that the easy accessibility to this material online draws new offenders to the crime [8].

Children tend to be trusting online and will befriend people of any age or sex that they may not know. Offenders take advantage of this naivete and target children who openly engage others online or have a strong social networking presence. In most instances, they openly post pictures or videos of themselves. Offenders can gain information from the online presence of potential victims by reviewing posts and friends lists and pose as an acquaintance, another teen from the same or a different school, or a stranger with similar interests. Friends lists may serve as a source to identify additional victims once the sextortion process starts. Once a child becomes a victim of sextortion, the victimization may last for years. Victims have reported having to meet demands for sexually explicit images and videos multiple times per day. The FBI has identified cases in which children committed suicide, attempted suicide, or engaged in other acts of self-harm due to their sextortion victimization. In one instance, the victim purposely engaged in activity that resulted in hospitalization to get a break from the offender’s demands. As soon as the victim was released from hospital, the victimization continued.

People involved in child pornography are from all over the United States and the world and come from a wide variety of backgrounds. The following list represents a small sample of cases found during a September 22, 2016, search of the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s websites:

  • ? Alabama man indicted for producing child pornography involving multiple victims
  • ? Alaskan physician convicted of Internet child pornography crimes
  • ? Albuquerque man pleads guilty to federal child pornography charges
  • ? Appalachian man pleads guilty to receiving child pornography
  • ? Birmingham man sentenced to 30 years in prison for child exploitation and child pornography
  • ? British man sentenced to 85 years in prison for trafficking child pornography
  • ? Bronx man arrested for possessing and distributing child pornography
  • ? California man sentenced to over 16 years in prison for producing child pornography
  • ? Chesapeake man sentenced to 11 years in child pornography case
  • ? Cleveland sex offender faces child pornography charges
  • ? Columbia man indicted for producing child pornography
  • ? Delaware man indicted for child pornography offenses and planning to meet 14-year-old for sex
  • ? Former acting HHS cybersecurity director sentenced to 25 years in prison for engaging in child pornography enterprise
  • ? Former airman sentenced for child pornography crimes
  • ? Former Belleville resident pleads guilty to receipt of child pornography and possession of prepubescent child pornography
  • ? Former church staff member sentenced to 50 years in prison for child sexual exploitation and possessing child pornography
  • ? Former pharmacy technician indicted for attempting to entice a minor online and child pornography offenses
  • ? Former U.S. Army Corps of Engineers employee sentenced to 30 years in prison for transportation and possession of child pornography
  • ? Former U.S. Army reservist sentenced for production of child pornography
  • ? Former U.S. Coast Guard officer sentenced for child pornography
  • ? Former U.S. congressional staffer pleads guilty to receiving child pornography
  • ? Former U.S. Navy lt. commander and Catholic priest pleads guilty to child pornography charges
  • ? Illinois man sentenced to 11 years in prison for attempting to entice a minor
  • ? Indiana gospel singer found guilty of sexual exploitation of a minor and distribution of child pornography
  • ? Indiana man sentenced to 35 years in prison for producing child pornography
  • ? Joplin man sentenced for child porn
  • ? Kenyan child pornography producer sentenced to life in prison for participation in Dreamboard website
  • ? Kern county man pleads guilty to receipt and distribution of child pornography in “sextortion” case
  • ? Lawrence man sentenced for distributing child pornography
  • ? Louisiana man sentenced to 20 years in prison for engaging in child exploitation enterprise and production of child pornography
  • ? Maryland man sentenced to 10 years for transporting child pornography into United States
  • ? Memphis man sentenced for distributing child pornography
  • ? Miami resident guilty of receiving child pornography
  • ? Milwaukee man sentenced to 10 years in prison for receiving child pornography
  • ? Minnesota national guardsman pleads guilty to producing child pornography while deployed to Afghanistan
  • ? Monona man sentenced for possessing child pornography
  • ? Newport man sentenced for child pornography possession
  • ? Ogdensburg man charged with producing child pornography
  • ? Omaha man sentenced to 5 years for child pornography
  • ? Painesville man indicted on child pornography charges
  • ? Reading man charged with possession of child pornography
  • ? Recidivist child sex offender sentenced to life in prison for child pornography-related offenses
  • ? Retired master deputy sheriff sentenced to 20 years in prison for child pornography charges
  • ? Rochester man guilty of possessing child pornography
  • ? Sedalia sex offender pleads guilty to child pornography
  • ? Shelton attorney charged with child pornography offenses
  • ? Texas man sentenced to 300 months in prison for sexual abuse of orphans while working in Malawi
  • ? Two individuals sentenced to federal prison for participation in long-running online child pornography ring
  • ? Virginia man pleads guilty to production of child pornography
  • ? Virginia music volunteer sentenced to 300 months in prison for production of child pornography
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