Pedophiles use Internet to prey on children, promote pedophilia
By Joan Delaney; Epoch Times Victoria Staff; March 20, 2008
The advent of the World Wide Web has provided child predators a new way to connect with children—and with other abusers. With approximately 20 per cent of all Internet pornography involving children, law enforcement agencies are hard-pressed to respond effectively.
Worldwide there are more than four million sites depicting child abuse images, according to the University of Victoria's International Institute for Child Rights and Development (IICRD).
And as more developing countries gain access to the Internet, the availability of online child pornography, the number of pedophile groups and the sharing of information between pedophiles have been growing rapidly.
But just as predators can use the Internet to lure and abuse children, so too can it be used to catch them, and there are many organizations around the world, both government and private, geared to using technology to trap online predators.
In Canada, an initiative in 2003 between the Toronto police and Microsoft led to the development of the Child Exploitation Tracking System (CET), which has been successfully used in many developed countries.
It is now ready to be deployed in developing countries, and the IICRD is currently overseeing an international partnership between Microsoft, the RCMP and UNICEF to combat online child exploitation in these countries using the CET.
Offences such as child trafficking and child sex tourism have been greatly facilitated by the Internet, and pedophiles use it to abuse children online or to groom them in order to abuse them offline.
"The Internet provides accessibility and anonymity and those are the two things that are really fuelling the threat to children," says Suzanne Williams, IICRD deputy and legal director.
"The thing about predators and pedophiles is they're not necessarily on the fringes of society — many of them are very mainstream citizens, and because of that anonymity of the Internet they're able to engage in unacceptable behaviour."
A tip from Canadian police as part of a massive international online investigation led to the arrest in 2006 of Timothy Cox, who had been running an online site sharing indecent images and videos of children being sexually abused.
More than 75,000 explicit images were found on Cox's computer, and police discovered that he had supplied more than 11,000 images to other users through the chat room.
At the time of his arrest, 70 online pedophiles were waiting to download the indecent images. According a Globe and Mail report, the investigation identified more than 700 suspects in 35 countries, 24 of them in Canada.
Canada was labeled a pedophile haven by victim's rights groups in 2007 after a site that promoted "girl-oriented pedophilia" was shut down in Washington State only to re-emerge on a Montreal-based provider.
Macleans reported last May that Montreal is home to Epifora, a host company that provides services to some of the most prominent pedophile-friendly sites in North America and possibly the world.
While Epifora is text-based only and does not display sexual images, many pedophiles use Internet sites to trade information on such things as sex tourism.
"What they do is like a little club. They pass information on to each other as to where to get children and how. Pedophiles are known to trade information on places, people and accommodations that will permit child sex tourism," says Conservative MP Joy Smith, a long-time crusader against human trafficking.
While law enforcement is aware of these sites, little can be done to shut them down because their users don't do anything on the sites banned by the Criminal Code.
Smith is seeking to close this "gap" in the Criminal Code with a bill criminalizing the act of sharing information that would assist another person in committing a sexual offence, either in Canada or abroad.
The Internet has also become a tool to promote pedophilia, and anti-pedophile activists are becoming increasingly alarmed by a push to normalize pedophilia so that it eventually becomes socially accepted, much the same way homosexuality has.
They claim the goals of some highly organized pedophile groups include decriminalizing child-adult sex; promoting the idea that child-adult sex is not harmful and that children can consent to sex with adults; abolishing the age of consent; and promoting "holidays" such as International BoyLove Day.
Some major pedophile organizations include NAMBLA (North American Man-Boy Love Association), a women's organization called Butterfly Kisses and PAN (Pedophile Alert Network) in the Netherlands. The Netherlands also has a political party with a pedophile agenda.
The Charity, Freedom and Diversity Party wants to change the "negative" stigma around pedophilia by getting into parliament. The party plans to push for a lower age of consent and for the legalization of child pornography and sex with animals.
IICRD's Williamson says that prior to the Internet, people who may have had thoughts about sex with children often kept it to themselves. Now, through technology they can connect with like-minded individuals and "take it to the next step."
Dr. Fred Berlin, founder of the Sexual Disorders Clinic at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, says pedophiles who believe sex with children isn't harmful "seem to miss the point that children are not simply miniature adults, that they don't have the maturity to make these judgments."
A problem, says Berlin, is that there is such a stigma surrounding pedophilia that very little treatment is available for those who want to seek help for what is a psychiatric disorder.
Just as years ago the importance of treating people with alcoholism or drug addiction wasn't recognized, the same is true today for pedophilia, says Berlin.
"Part of it is that we have so demonized the word pedophilia that we don't realize that these are human beings who have an aberration in their sexual make-up through no fault of their own and who are deserving of help."
Berlin says there is a percentage of children, mostly boys, who have been damaged as a result of being sexually abused to the extent that their own sexual orientation develops abnormally and they end up being pedophiles.
Another deterrent to treatment is that many jurisdictions in the United States have laws requiring doctors to report pedophiles to the criminal justice system which may result in the pedophile being arrested. Berlin thinks this approach is counterproductive.
"I have a difficult time understanding if an adult is coming in seeking help why it is we as a society wouldn't want to facilitate our ability to do so rather than put up impediments that make it more difficult."