Millions of children around the world are being sexually abused
and molested. Billions of dollars are changing hands as part of a
growing crime wave of child pornography. This is anything but a
victimless crime. Children - some as young as infants - are being
barbarically assaulted for the sexual gratification of their abusers
and those who view their photos.
While inroads have been made in the fight against child
pornography, the problem remains severe. We have much more to do.
The Internet has become a child pornography superhighway, turning
children into a commodity for sale or trade. Analysts at the
National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) have
reviewed 9.6 million images and videos of child pornography on the
Internet just since 2002. There are millions more such images in
cyberspace that we have yet to find.
Law enforcement agencies are cracking down on this crime wave. In
November, the chief operating officer of the National Children's
Museum in Washington was arrested and charged with distributing
child pornography over the Internet. Also this month, police across
Europe announced they had arrested nearly 100 people linked to a
network that allegedly produced and sold child pornography videos to
2,500 customers worldwide.
In 1998 Congress asked NCMEC to create a "9-1-1 for the
Internet." We established CyberTipline (www.cybertipline.com), which
has received more than 500,000 reports from the public and Internet
service providers regarding child sexual exploitation. More than
460,000 of those reports involved child pornography.
What is child pornography? It goes far beyond nude pictures of
children. It is the visual depiction - whether in still photos or
video - of children being sexually assaulted. In some instances,
rapes of children have been shown live over the Internet to paying
customers. In 1982, the US Supreme Court held that child pornography
is not protected speech but child abuse.
Some suggest that many people who view child pornography just
"look at the pictures." But our work on these cases has led us to
conclude that for most of those who view these images, sex with
children becomes a compulsion and evolves into physical acts with
When NCMEC analysts scour the Internet for child pornography,
they determine whether website content is illegal, use search tools
and techniques to identify and track down the distributors of child
pornography, and then provide the information to the appropriate
local, state, federal, or international law enforcement agency. …