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The Net and Porn 2 August 2002 Edition
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Pornography and the Internet have always been close companions -- and judging by the regular stream of stories in the mainstream media, nothing's about to change.

On an increasingly regular basis we're reading about internet-based porn rings being busted and kiddie-porn merchants being carted off to jail, which leaves many wondering how we can control this illegal trading.

Perhaps if as much money and effort were poured into stemming the flow of kiddie-porn over the Net as is currently being spent on trying to stop the unauthorised online copying of music then the problem would be much smaller.

Unfortunately we don't have any ultra-rich organisation interested in protecting their monopoly in kiddie-porn in the same way as the RIAA and its peers are doing with music.

Fortunately the initial public perception that it's the Net which is to blame for all this pornography has subsided somewhat.

People are slowly waking up to the fact that the Net is just another communications medium like the fax, phone or snail mail. The only difference is that the Net allows porn-merchants to distribute their wares with much greater efficiency and at a lower cost than any previous method.

In fact, in many ways it is the Net itself that is helping authorities crack down on these porn merchants.

It seems that many of those who engage in these illegal activities are suffering from a false sense of security when it comes to the level of anonymity that the Net offers.

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I mean -- did the alleged kiddie-porn merchant arrested yesterday in West Auckland really believe he could run a website caring such material without leaving a trail leading back to himself?

However, the fact that so many people from such a wide cross-section of our society seem to be caught dabbling in this type of illegal material must cause us to ask some very important questions that have nothing to do with the Net...

What is wrong with a society where teachers, principals, members of the clergy, otherwise upstanding business-people and even women feel the need to obtain and trade in stuff like kiddie-porn?

Although some are purely mercenary in their motives, it seems that there are an awful lot of others who don't do it for money but for some type of personal satisfaction.

Are we, as a society, doing something wrong that so many people are effectively deviating from the accepted norms of behaviour and sexual desire?

I suspect that only a very tiny percentage of those who are engaged in this type of activity are actually being caught, so the problem is probably much, much larger than we might think.

The authorities can continue to trawl the Net and lurk in chat-rooms to catch the occasional villain who slips up -- but shouldn't we be seeking to address the real cause of the problem rather than treat the symptoms?

What do you think?

Is an addiction to kiddie-porn a mental illness perhaps? Does the fact that allegedly, one of the world's largest kiddie-porn merchants has been found to operate out of NZ indicate another flaw in our mental health system?

This is a problem that is not going to go away any time soon and I suspect that the porn-merchants will begin to get a lot smarter -- something that will make identifying and arresting them even harder.

Have your say.

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