Magazine article Newsweek International

Mail Call

Magazine article Newsweek International

Mail Call

Article excerpt

Should We Blame The Internet?

Readers were deeply disturbed by our March 19 cover story about the sexual abuse of children on the Net. "Thanks for raising public awareness," wrote one. "I didn't know whether to vomit or cry," said another. "The anti-censorship movement upholds freedom of speech--but if it leaves children vulnerable to such disgusting crimes, where's the good?" A few staunchly defended the Internet: "It's safer than even home--most abuse cases involve family members."

Unspeakable Acts

As a 20-year-old college student, I cannot describe the shock, sadness and anger I felt on reading your Special Report on child pornography ("The Darkest Corner of the Internet," March 19). I commend NEWSWEEK, Father Fortunato Di Noto and all the law-enforcement officials committed to putting an end to this unforgivable exploitation of children.

Katherine Bateman

Seattle, Washington

At the very least, I firmly believe, all pedophiles should be chemically castrated and those who kill should be executed or receive life-without-parole sentences. The practice of such vile abuse can be stopped only if the courts are prepared to mete out exemplary punishments and are politically backed up to the hilt. No child's life should be ruined or forfeited for the sick and perverted gratification of such heinous barbarians.

Dominic Shelmerdine

London, England

Your article on child pornography and cyberspace is yet another "blame it on the Internet" piece. How about calling your cover story "The Darkest Corner of Humanity" instead? The Internet is a forum for humanity's greatest achievements and its worst. It functions as an evolving picture of our civilization, beginning with the late 20th century. Accordingly, the Internet should be judged as a mirror that reflects who we are on a global scale. Without doubt the sexual exploitation of children is a horrendous thing. But I don't believe that the Internet fosters such exploitation. Unfortunately, that already exists. Rather, it merely allows us to see this darker side of ourselves.

Robert E. Frazier

Falls Church, Virginia

You investigated the international linkage of the Internet, pedophilia and child pornography but failed to note that Japan is the child- pornography center of the world. As reported by The Economist (May 8, 1999), Japan "probably produces four-fifths of all the videos and magazines that show children in sexual situations."

James W. Porcaro

Toyama, Japan

Your sidebar about Marc Dutroux tells a sad story about child abuse and murder. But what's the connection with the Internet? Indeed, it is obvious that much of the criminal activity described in your report originated long before the Internet became popular. As you note, most child abuse (86 percent, according to the Department of Justice) is perpetrated by someone known to the child. If the Internet disappeared tomorrow, child pornography and child abuse would continue unchanged. Perhaps the only thing that would disappear would be slanted reports that attempt to exploit or even generate hysteria directed against new technology. Or does NEWSWEEK intend to campaign against the CD-ROMs, videos and photographs that are more culpable than the Internet in this issue?

Thomas W. Fuller

Turin, Italy

Your sidebar "Justice Delayed in Belgium" proves there's something rotten in the kingdom of Belgium. Michel Nihoul admits he arranged orgies for prominent people but denies there were children at his parties. Sadomasochism, group sex and wife-swapping among consenting adults are not illegal in Belgium. But such activities can have a devastating effect upon the careers of high-ranking politicians, police officers, businessmen and magistrates who took part in them. Nihoul has threatened to blackmail these people by publishing photos of his orgies; he has bragged about friends in high places protecting him. …

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