A massive database of child pornography is being created by a coalition of AOL, Earthlink, Microsoft, United Online (Who? Oh, the NetZero folks.), and Yahoo. This is part of a strategy to support the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (or NAMBLA). Now there's a database ripe for the hacking!
They do know that collecting the images doesn't actually remove them from the Internet, right? (Do we still capitalize "Internet"? I guess we do.)
The idea is that, by having copies of the images that are floating around cyberspace, they can look for the same files being collected or transmitted online. They would do this by spying on e-mail attachments, looking for the images on web sites, and other tactics. From what I can tell, this would be warrantless, across-the-board spying. AOL, for example, would look at each e-mail as it scans for viruses.
The top lawyer for AOL said, "[W]e believe it is possible to increase the chance that child predators will be caught and provide a deterrent to those who would be tempted to exploit children on the Internet."
OK, by all means, find the people who are actually abusing the kids and prosecute them. I'm with ya there.
I don't agree that someone who possesses these images is necessarily a "child predator". Unless they know who took the pictures, they are not directly involved. Some say that the viewer of such images is providing a market for child pornography, but I don't see how someone downloading an image for free is in any way contributing to the crime. Unless the web site they go to has Google ads or something.
Just as there is a difference between a pedophile and a child molester, there is a difference between the viewer and creator of child pornography. What's the difference? A pedophile is someone who is sexually attracted to children; a child molester is someone who sexually abuses children. One is thought; the other, deed.
Would a pedophile who finds child-pornographic images on the Internet be more or less likely to commit abuse? Would he be tempted to act on those feelings, or would he be satisfied to keep them in the realm of fantasy? I don't know; does watching a violent movie tempt someone to commit violence? Some yes, some no.
I imagine that a pedophile would not necessarily need child pornography. If they are truly attracted to kids, then why not the Toys-R-Us catalog (straight guy's analog: Victoria's Secret)?
The ones to go after are the creators of child pornography; not because it's "filth" in and of itself, but because children are abused. I'd study the pictures. See if I recognize any landmarks. See when and where a new image is posted on the Internet to try and track down the source.
Given that children are being harmed, I'm concerned that the limited resources might be diverted to prosecute the wrong people. Find the guy with the kid and the camera! (Tip: check the EXIF info on the images. These guys are foul predators; maybe they'll be stupid and careless, too.)