Mark Bridger and Child Porn
That the Murderer of little April Jones is evil is on record. The Judge said so. Mark Bridger will spend the rest of his life in gaol and rightly so, joining a small group of people who’ve committed terrible sexual crimes against children who will never be released.
There is a lot of talk in the press about what motivated him to do this terrible thing. Of course a man with a sexual interest in children, child rape and murder is going to seek out images depicting such acts. The press then go on to blame “the Internet” and call for Google to redouble efforts to block such images, in an almost perfect demonstration of the post-hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. Children were raped and murdered before the Internet. The question is whether such images lead people who would not have otherwise raped and killed children to do so. Is it not just as likely that viewing porn acts as a substitute for the deed?
Does online pornography lead to more child rape and murder? This can be teased out in the numbers, though none of these studies where looking specifically at sex-crimes involving children.
The evidence is clear for all other forms of sexual crime – pornography acts as a substitute, not a complement for sexual activity. Availability of online pornography is correlated with lower incidences of rape and other sexual crimes. This has been found in Denmark, Japan and the Czech Republic. It also seems that the USA & Germany saw similar data supporting the hypothesis that sexual violence falls as online pornography becomes more available due to Broadband roll-out. (Google scholar is your friend when conducting this sort of research). The STRONGEST inverse correlations appear to be with sexual violence against children. That is child abuse fell when online pornography became available.
The fact that “porn addiction” has been blamed for killing people’s sex-lives in ‘meat-space’ rather supports this view.
Obviously pornography involving minors is evidence of a real crime – the abuse of minors. That needs to be stamped down on. And more strength to the arm of the law in seeking the perpetrators out. But if it’s clear, and it appears to be, access to virtual sex is a substitute for the real thing, then current laws banning simulated material appear to be misplaced. CGI is that good these days, lives might be saved by allowing production of simulated violent pornography. A great deal more research is needed before I will come down firmly on one side of that debate.
It maybe for example, with the current strong laws surrounding the viewing of such material, only those predisposed may seek it out. Perhaps people will be sucked into viewing ever more extreme material were it freely available, and this would encourage offending behaviour in those not already predisposed.
Whatever happens, it’s certainly not entirely Google’s problem. Google simply cannot ban search phrases, or you’d ban perfectly reasonable searches like those I put into Google scholar to research this article. Porn and especially that involving minors is already filtered, by the Internet Watch Foundation and in the UK Canada and soon Australia, Cleanfeed. Even so, capturing everything illicit is going to be impossible. The Internet is too vast, and too encrypted to police.
Google’s search index is estimated to contain details of around 44-45 billion web pages, although that will include a lot of historical data relating to pages that have since fallen down the Internet memory hole.
By way of comparison, Microsoft’s Bing search engine is estimated to have indexed around 13.5 billion web pages and Yahoo’s index is currently estimated to contain around 10.5 billion web pages.
It’s therefore estimated that the current size of the ‘Indexed web’ – i.e. websites/pages than can be located using a search engine – is somewhere around 15 billion ‘live’ webpages, but this is still just a fraction of the total number of web pages out there and doesn’t include websites that don’t allow themselves to be indexed or which restrict the ability of search engines to index their content, one of the biggest of which Facebook.
As far as registered domain names are concerned, again there are no clear or accurate global figures but to give you some idea of scale, on the 30th May 2013, there were 145,498,970 domains registered for just the five most popular generic top level domains ( ‘.com’, ‘.net’, ‘.org’, ‘.biz’, ‘.info’) and the most popular Country code TLD (‘.us’) and on that same day 143,800 new domains were registered and 112,589 existing domains were deleted, giving a net gain of 31,211 domains, and 189,302 domains were transferred.
… anyone you see demanding that Google should be doing more to block child porn hasn’t got the first fucking clue what they’re talking about.
The problem is one of attribution bias. Child murders are thankfully rare, and therefore notable. People remember them. There’s also the seeking of blame – the idea that monsters exist is uncomfortable. It is comforting that in campaigning against online pornography, you’re helping to prevent the same happening to another little girl. The reality, that you’re probably wasting your time, is depressing. People develop paraphilias, and sometimes these obsessions lead to terrible crimes. They did before the Internet. But the Internet appears to be preventing some of these people acting out on their sickening fantasies.
Mark Bridger will rot in gaol. But there may be little girls like April Jones who are alive now because of the depraved images he viewed before he killed her. That is not a comfortable thought, and what to do with it, I don’t know. But knee-jerk legislation because ‘something must be done’ is never the right response.