Criminal Justice and Internet Pedophilia
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Rapid developments in technology particularly in tools that enhance information and technology have had a great impact on man’s life. The advantages associated with this technology which include; increased speed of accessing information, increase in the amount of information that is available and increased speed in communication across all kinds boarders all at a reduced cost are argued to be so desirable that every individual who has the means has employed the technology.
Within the last ten years, the Internet has become part of the everyday life for millions around the world. The development of the medium is so impressive. Substantial research shows that in the year 2003, there were at least 600 million people using the Internet worldwide. This figure was predicted to hit a billion by the beginning coif 2005. Due to the expansion in the network, reduced cost and further developments, this figure could currently be standing at approximately five billion. The Internet makes it possible for information in all kinds of areas to be accessed. It facilitates entertainment, communication as well as education. The growth of the Internet is unfortunately too fast for the development of control mechanisms that are effective.
Survey carried out on public opinion shows most Internet-related risks (cybercrimes) are associated with threats to the safety of children that stems from Internet pedophilia and other materials of pornography available on websites. Press reports, police reports, literature and results obtained from research conducted among young individuals who use the Internet to determine the scale of the problem confirm the increasing concerns of its threat to children. Most countries have large numbers of individuals who use the Internet with the numbers predicted to double in the near future as more of those who are not users declaring to join the network soonest. Most of these countries are however not socially aware of the threats associated with Internet pedophilia. Knowledge about this problem is alarmingly scarce and in those countries where there is awareness of the problem, curbing the threat is a problem because of the rapid development of the Internet technology (Howitt, & Sheldon, 2007).
A report research conducted by Wojtasik (2009), for Nobody’s Children Foundation imply that Internet pedophilia is one of the major threats of the Internet to children according to this research, pedophiles take advantage of the Internet services that enable anonymous online communication to approach potential unsuspecting victims. The research confirmed that the anonymous service is very popular the young Internet users with over 56 percent using chartrooms while at least 80 percent of the participants used Instant Messenger (IM) communicators. 93 percent of all the participants confirmed using these communication services daily (Wojtasik, 2003).
When using these services, children are expected to follow the fundamental safety guidelines that have been designed to protect them from Internet pedophiles. Amongst the rules are not giving strangers their personal details and/or any other details that might disclose their identity. The rules also require the children not to meet the anonymous online strangers outside the Internet (in person or through calls). Most children do not however adhere to these rules magnifying the magnitude of the problem. The research reports that in spite of a majority of the participants being aware of the dangers associated with ignoring the mentioned rules, more than 60 percent gave their phone numbers to strangers they met online, of these, at least 40 percent have done it repeatedly (Wojtasik, 2003).
More than 40 percent of the children who participated in the study have given their home address to online strangers with 20 percent having done it repeatedly. At least 43 percent of the participating children have sent an online stranger their photo with 30 percent having done it repeatedly. The report also discovered that the strangers often invited children to meetings which the children unfortunately tended to accept. These findings, particularly that one of proposal for meetings increase the risk of children having direct contact with pedophiles. The research confirmed that adults who seduced children through the Internet often aim at arranging personal meetings in which they are likely to molest the children (Wojtasik, 2003).
The research reports that more than 75 percent of the children who participated in the study have been invited by the online strangers for a face to face meeting. At least one quarter of the children reported having actually met (in person) a person they knew from the Internet. The data collected by this research also confirmed that in online communication with strangers, most often than not, children are targets of sexual interest (Wojtasik, 2003). According to the report, 55 percent of children who use the Internet have been induced to undesirable and unwanted sexual conservations. At least 10 percent of these conservations are accompanied by abusive images, 30 percent aggression, over 65 percent request for the children’s photos and an overwhelming 70 percent proposals for a meeting. The study also revealed that girls were the main target of internet pedophiles (Wojtasik, 2003). This is based on the fact that girls were more often induced to sexual conversations (62 percent) more than boys at 34 percent. In addition to this, 90 percent of children Internet users have encountered pornographic images and other materials on the Internet of which a majority have used.
The research though carried out in Poland displays to us how big the issue of Internet pedophilia is. The situation is worse in more developed countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom. According to this research which can be assumed to be a global representation of issue, children who use the Internet tend to ignore the fundamental safety measures that have been provided to protect them. As such, they seriously are vulnerable to the risks that are associated with Internet based pedophilia. Of most concern and very disturbing is the children’s tenancy to willingly give their phone numbers, home address and even accept proposals for meetings with the online known “friends” in the real world.
The proliferation of social networking sites such as Facebook and My Space has contributed a lot to Internet pedophilia (Lehman, & Lowry, 2007). As mentioned before chart rooms are very popular amongst young Internet users. Substantial evidence implies that more than 90 percent time spent on the Internet is in the chart rooms where young people meet friends and develop relationships with them (O’Grady, 2001). Social networking services and their impressive development increase the vulnerability of children to pedophiles while it also provides an opportunity for the pedophiles to network and encourage each other with the habit as they feel that they are okay and that the rest of the world does not understand them (Bethune, 2007). These services have made it easy for pedophiles to get unsuspecting targets as well as get support and strategies from other pedophiles complicating and increasing the magnitude of the issue.
Social networking sites such as Facebook and My Space allows pedophiles to have instant access to other pedophiles (predators) worldwide. The Internet also allows them to openly discuss their sexual desires and share ideas about ways to effectively lure victims to their intentions (Bethune, 2007). Social networking sites enable pedophiles to mutual support of their philosophies that uphold adult-child sex. In addition, these services also provide these offenders with instant access to potential but unsuspecting child victims around the world. The fact that these services enable individuals to remain anonymous gives an opportunity for pedophiles to disguise their identity when approaching children such that they can even present themselves as teenagers. These services also give pedophiles access to teen and other chart rooms making it easy for them to identify potential victims and determine how to lure them. Social networking sites provide predators with a means of identifying and tracking down home address/contact information (O’Grady, 2001). Using these sites, pedophiles are able to build and sustain long term Internet relationships with the targeted victims prior to making attempts to meet the children physically and molest them.
In spite of this risk, children continue to violate the safety rules that guide the use of the social networking sites particularly giving personal details and contact address. Violation of these rules might seem insignificant because it is not a law and its effects might not be evident immediately. However, it is important to note that young Internet users make themselves vulnerable to unscrupulous predators when they ignore these basic safety measures as they continuously use the social networking sites (Ainsworth, 2002).
According to research reports, media reports and occurring cases, the social awareness of the potential threats posed by the Internet to young users particularly from pedophiles is low. This can partly be attributed to the fact that the rate of Internet development is so fast that keeping control measures at par with it is almost impossible. However, there is need to educate children on these potential threats. The principles of safe Internet use and the importance of adhering to the safety rules need to be taught to children with a lot of emphasis. It would also be of great importance to address parents and educators on safety rules and the need to control Internet use by children. Another suggestion is for efforts to be made towards limiting the availability and accessibility of pornography to young Internet users. This can be accomplished through Internet resources control and software that filters pornographic material.
In response to the increase of pedophilia cases that are Internet based and the rapid development and deployment of the medium for communication many organizations have been formed worldwide to combat child abuse on the Internet. An example of these organizations is the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) that was formed in 2006 and is based in the United Kingdom but operates internationally. The responsibility of this organization is to bring to the United Kingdom courts all online child sex offenders which include Internet based pedophiles, producers and distributors of child pornography. This organization works in such a way that police power is combined with the expertise of government, business sectors, specialist charities and several other organizations that are interested and dedicated to tackling and combating child sex abuse.
CEOP comprises of law enforcement officers who have specialist skills and experience in tracking down and prosecuting child sex offenders. These officers work with other dedicated professionals from organizations that are crucial to this issue such as Microsoft, Childnet, NSPC and AOL. The organization has also set up partnerships with other non governmental bodies and businesses. CEOP works in conjunction with government departments such as education, Foreign and Commonwealth, Home Office among others to ensure efficiency. This organization has also made efforts to ensure that online child sex offenders are brought to book the organization has partnered with the United States, Canada and Australia (Lawford et al., 2006).
The organization combines expertise from Internet technology providers with law enforcement bodies such as Interpol and CIA to track down the predators and bring them to book. CEOP is more of a global response to tackling the issue of online child abuse. The organization has the Intelligence department that receives information on the offenders, the Harm Education department that creates public awareness on how to reduce the threat of online child sex abuse, and the steps that should be taken in the event it happens. This department also educates the public of their legal rights. The third department of CEOP is the Operations Faculty that takes measures to ensure that the offenders are legally dealt with (Lawford et al., 2006). .
CEOP played a great role in reducing cases of Internet pedophiles in the Canada. The team from UK’s CEOP together with Canadian policemen carried out an investigation that led to the prosecution of a pedophile who ran an online chat room that was devoted to molestation of children (Bosilovich, & Lawford, 2002). This chat room was not just limited to Canada, it as a network that connected pedophiles from all over the world. The investigation, under CEOP brought law enforcement agencies from at least 35 different countries to work together (Lunau, 2007). This case which happened in 2006 is considered to be one of the greatest breakthroughs in taking down Internet pedophiles internationally.
The United States also has numerous organizations that have been set up to protect children and their families against child offenders. They include the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Humane Association, American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children, Childhelp, and Child Welfare League of America amongst several others. These organizations all have one thing in common; they are established to help protect children against all forms of abuse including Internet based child sex abuse. These organizations interact with the local laws by identifying abused children and helping them recover from the trauma caused by the sexual abuse such that they are able to assist the police with investigation that will lead to the prosecution of the offenders, these organizations partner with both governmental and non-governmental institutions in bringing down child offenders. They also assist in creating pubic awareness on the threat of pedophiles and how they should involve the law in the event it happens (Detrick, 2000). These organizations help law enforcement officers in prosecution by being witnesses and offering their expertise as part of evidence in a court of law.
Canada also has a number of organizations that have been set up to deal with Internet pedophilia. One of these organizations is the Virtual Global Taskforce that was created in 2003 due to the increased rates of online child abuse and the lessons learned from these investigations. Though based in Canada, the organization operates globally and at times works with the CEOP. This organization is an alliance of several law enforcement agencies that combine their expertise to make the Internet a place that is safe particularly for children. Virtual Global Taskforce’s mission in addition to making the Internet a safe place is; to identifying, locating and providing help to those children threatened by Internet pedophiles and to bring the perpetrators to book so that they are accountable for their actions.
This organization is made up of the Australian High Tech Crime Centre, Interpol, the Us Department of Homeland Security, Royal Canadian Mounted police and the National Crime squad for England and Wales. This organization provides crime prevention and reduction initiatives that are innovative so as to prevent individuals from predators from committing online child abuse. This include sharing, searching and downloading images of children being sexually abused (Detrick, 2000). It also includes deterring individuals from grooming in children through chart rooms with the intention of sexually abusing the online of offline. This organization though independent from other international law enforcement partnerships, works together with the local law when it identifies a suspect or a child that is being sexually abused online through its technology. This organization interacts with the local law by helping it with the prosecution of offenders. The organization helps build the evidence that is needed in a court of law to prosecute the offender. The organization also trains local law enforcement officers on how to identify, track and arrest Internet pedophiles and the networks that connect them (Detrick, 2000).
In Australia, the Australian Federal police (AFP) work in conjunction with other governmental departments and non-governmental bodies that are dedicated to stumping out pedophilia in the country. Due to the increase in trade that involves pedophilia, the Australian Federal Police sent some of its to work with agents from the united States and the United Kingdom so that they could acquire the expertise that was required to fight the vice in the country (Osborne, 2003). This department is part of the local law and plays its part by identifying pedophiles and prosecuting them. It also prevents children from being abused by identifying those who are at risk and moving in to help them (M2PressWIRE, 2009). An example of an Australian organization that strongly supports the fight against child abuse is the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA). This organization interacts with the law by funding investigations and assisting the abused children to recover (Osborne, 2003). The organization also helps in prosecution of the offenders by providing evidence on the witness stand that the child was indeed abused.
As Internet technology continues to develop at the high speed, so is the increase in cases of Internet pedophilia. This is based on the fact that more children are using the Internet as the technology develops. Their use of the internet exposes them to pedophile predators particularly through the social networking sites such as FaceBook and MySpace. The fact that children mostly use chat rooms and tend to violate the safety measures that have been provided to protect them from threats such as pedophilia is of great concern. Different countries have many organizations that have been formed to address this issue. Most of the efforts have been successful in identifying, tracking and prosecuting the perpetrators. However, these measures are only taken after the offender has already committed the crime. It would be better to emphasis on preventive measures such as educating children on the threats of Internet pedophilia and the importance of adhering to safety rules such as not meeting their online friends in person and withholding their home address and telephone number from online friends. More Government restrictions need to also be placed on the use placed upon use of the Internet. The government should emphasize on use of filtering software in homes and other public areas that offer Internet to children including schools. There is need for more restrictions and control on Internet resources.
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