Blaming Technology For Exposing Problems That Were Already There

from the it's-helping-to-expose-the-issue dept

It’s always tempting for people to blame technology for certain problems, but sometimes it helps to look a little more thoroughly at the issue. An AFP report quotes the head of the FBI’s cyber division talking about the rising caseload concerning pedophile predators targeting children. It’s unclear if it’s the reporter or the FBI who implies this, but the article focuses on how much easier technology has made life for pedophiles, by noting that the FBI’s caseload has increased 2,000% for these types of cases since 1996. Of course, that makes one big assumption: that much of this activity wasn’t happening at all before. Another way of looking at it is that the technology has made it much easier to bring this problem out into the open where authorities can catch the scum who do such things. While the internet clearly has made it easier for pedophiles to target victims, there is the flip side that it has also helped catch many more as well. So, an increase of caseloads doesn’t necessarily mean that the problem is worse — but that people are more aware of it and are doing a better job of bringing cases to the attention of authorities. That’s a good thing. It’s also brought a lot more public exposure to the issue, which has helped with education campaigns as well. It’s easy to just blame the technology, but shouldn’t we be looking at the larger picture? It seems like this is a case where the technology helped expose a problem that was already there. While it may have made it easier for some, hopefully the technology continues to progress at a rate that also makes it that much easier to prevent this kind of activity.

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Comments on “Blaming Technology For Exposing Problems That Were Already There”

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Michael Long says:

Good point.

You make a good point: Are we to assume the number of pedophiles in existence has suddenly increased 2,000%? That thousands of people, “exposed” to internet pornography, have become “infected”?

Or is it more likely to assume that most of them were already out there, and that they think they can use the internet anonymously to get their fix?

A good question indeed, but I’m afraid that no matter what the answer, the proposed “solution” is going to be increased governmental monitioring of all network-related activities.

ebrke says:

Re: Good point.

And some of them are just plain stupid, which makes it easier to catch them. My local paper had a story about a man who was arrested for possession of child pornography after he took his computer to a repair shop because it was so gummed up with malware (probably acquired at the sites where he got his pornography). The repair shop immediately contacted the police.

Dom says:

A bit of both

Your point is valid, paedophiles are much more likely to be caught when using the internet to spread their evilness, but surely it works the other way. There would definitely be some people who stumble onto child pornography, completely by accident, and “awaken the beast”, so to speak.

Either way, the scum should be brought down, hard.

Ken says:

I think we're being a little pro-tech here ...

The FBI isn’t reporting that there are more or less pedophiles — it’s reporting that there are more cases of pedophile activity.

The anonymity of the Internet has clearly made it easier for predators to prey on kids, and so there is more preying going on.

Does the Internet create pedophiles; in all likelihood, no. But it certainly is a powerful tool in there arsenal, and it’s not making it all that easier to find the offenders.

The Tech and how it’s being used is clearly part of the problem.

Spork says:

Re: I think we're being a little pro-tech here ...

No. You can not blame the tools for the misdeeds the user performs. This point has been made ad nauseam. “Guns don’t kill people, People kill people”…blah,blah,blah. To blame the technology is to lighten the blame on the offender. The Internet is not the problem, the deviants and their deviant agendas are.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I think we're being a little pro-tech here ...

The Tech and how it’s being used is clearly part of the problem.

That’s so damn ignorant.

Explain to me the difference between that and the following analogy:

A plumber comes to an old lady’s house to fix her sink and winds up murdering her with a wrench (because it’s in his nature). The tech and how it was used is clearly part of the problem! It’s the wrench’s fault the plumber beat an old lady with it. Clearly we should do something about this terrible technology that commits murder.


Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: I think we're being a little pro-tech here

actually, the op is right. tech is part of the problem. just like guns, needles, cars and others are part of crimes, drugs, kidnappings.

to what extent is another issue. sure a gun can be deadly if in a murder’s hands, but if the gun company targets “criminal minds” with “criminal weapons” are they really doing “honest” business?

what about tobacco companies targeting kids back in the 40s-60s? did you know the flinstones (cartoon that has fruity pebles and vitamins) was actually sponsored by winston cigarettes? hell barney and fred did commercials saying how good cigs were. tell me that it’s only the people who smoke are in the wrong?

come on. everything is based on something else. to wHAT EXTENT is the real question.

how bad are guns/plumbers wrenches? how bad is the inet? come on…do some real thinking

Spork says:

Re: Re: Re: I think we're being a little pro-tech

You really don’t believe the tripe you just spewed from your keyboard do you?

“actually, the op is right. tech is part of the problem. just like guns, needles, cars and others are part of crimes, drugs, kidnappings.”

On this line of thinking lets take it farther. Not only would the Internet be part of the problem, but every aspect of the technology itself. I’m betting without a keyboard the pedophille would have a harder (but not impossible) time accessing the online material. So the keyboard and keyboard manufacturer is clearly part of the problem. Coming from another angle we could also blame the ISP and say they’re part of the problem, especially given the thought that if the offender couldn’t connect there wouldn’t be an issue either.

Sounds obsurd once you start breaking it down doesn’t it? Looking for technological scapegoats can go on forever and does nothing except reduce blame (no matter how miniscule of a reduction) to the offending deviant.

The Internet isn’t advertising “Now chock full of kiddy porn goodness”. So the examples of cigarette companies using Fred and Barny to sell to kids, and the idea of gun companies catering to criminals is not only inappropriate, but only serves to further side track the issue.

Like has been previously said ad nauseam, the tool is not to blame for the actions of the weilder. Society needs to stop blaming technological advancements on it’s own deterioration, only then might there be real progress.

“how bad are guns/plumbers wrenches? how bad is the inet? come on…do some real thinking”

If what you’ve highlighted above is considered “real thinking” then I for one am glad to not be considered a real thinker.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 I think we're being a little pro-t

if you wer able to actually read and understand, you would see the comments aren’t “stupid”


everything causes everything else. no children, no kiddie porn. no parents having sex (i.e. making babies) no kiddie porn. are parents at fault for kiddie porn? sure, if they don’t educate their kids about the responsibilites of online actions (note that i didn’t say educate the kids of the “evils” of the net, it’s the responsibilities that one assumes when using it)

what i was getting at, was yes, the internet is a source for kiddie porn and the like, however IT’S NOT THE SINGLE CAUSE OF IT. there are many other factors. i mean, hell, the USPS is a traffic area for copyright infringment (i.e. handling packages of bootlegged material and the like) but a solution of stopping the USPS is not viable. just like the net, it’s there, but how much does it contribute.


Spork says:

Re: Re: Re:3 I think we're being a little p

It’s humorous, borderline sad on how the same thing you blame me for is what you turn around and do yourself. Reading and comprehension, it’s amazing. Regardless, in effort for this to not turn into a “flame war” let me just take a minute to apologize and placate your ego.

Your Yoda-like stance on everything being connected was insightful and probably has merit. I am sure that my head was too far up my ass for me to initially see that. Your skillful use of caps is outstanding and without peer. You most assuredly are the only person doing “real thinking” on these boards and possibly the Internet as a whole.

saleh says:

Is this really related to technology at all?

Our society currently views pedophiles as one of the most vilified groups, and rightly so. However, while the FBI’s caseload has increased, they’ve said nothing about convictions.

Unfortunately, from what I’ve seen from several friends and neighbors’ recent divorces, the “accuse the soon-to-be-ex-husband of child porn” stage is now just a normal part of the divorce process and custody battle, generally 3-5 months after the initial filing. It triggers a pretty much automatic investigation, and it’s intimidating to have three or four FBI agents standing outside someone’s front door asking questions. There are zero reprecussions for a false accusation – it costs no money and little effort to force someone off their guard.

While my experience is only anecdotal, I’d be interested to see how many “suspected pedophiles” are accused by someone with a grudge against them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Certain Forms of Crime Really Increased?

What about children who intentionally offer their services?

Well, what about their parents/caregivers who obviously have so many more important things than their child’s safety, health and welfare in mind.

I see it every day, and I am no closer to being able to wrap my mind around the national epidemic of willful moral and ethical neglect of our children. The parents don’t want conflict, or to have to deal with an uncomfortable situation, so they cry “Why oh why didn’t the schools teach my child right from wrong?” The schools have enough acedemia to teach that they really do not have time for in depth morals and ethics from Kindergarten on. And they shouldn’t. It isn’t up to the school to teach the kids how to think, how to decide right from wrong, but todays parents would rather blame everyone but themselves.

Calling it a blameless society doesn’t really make it one.

ehrichweiss says:

guns don't kill people...

and the tech is NOT part of the problem. The pedophiles are the problem regardless of the technology.

If we regarded anything that aided in the pedos finding children as part of the problem then start working on your parks and schools since they are the REAL threat. Most of the kids who are approached by pedos online are above 12 years old and have some form of choice in the matter including transportation, however parks/schools allow for kidnapping of much younger children….or for school counselors to take advantage of their position…like my elementary school counselor who had an intensely creepy interest in harassing me and was later convicted of molesting some other child.

Anonymous Coward says:

The internet also puts these predators at a disadvantage. Before the internet, it was nearly impossible for a 38 year-old cop to pose as a 12 year-old to catch these predators. Now the freaks really have no idea who they’re talking to…it could actually be a deterrent. They can be duped by someone who never could have pulled it off before.

Brad Eleven (profile) says:

Related, not exclusive cause

The Internet is not only a social catalyst, its popularity also indicates one or more social shifts. Many of he same societal changes are responsible for changing attitudes about children. Consider that before the Internet, television had already enabled children to know more than their parents on certain subjects.

It could be said that new technologies (TV, Internet, mobile phones) have amplified the problem, but it was already present–as was this discussion about what is causing pedophilia to increase. Look at Neil Postman’s 1985 The Disappearance of Childhood, which sought to explain, among other things, child models, e.g., Brooke Shields. See also Jon-Benet Ramsey, who was a high-profile child beauty pageant contestant.

Child beauty pageants began before the Internet was a gleam in DARPA’s cyclops eye.

Anonymous Coward says:

Read This

human nature: Science, technology, and life.
Virtually Abnormal

The perils of policing cybersex.
By William Saletan
Posted Saturday, Oct. 14, 2006, at 7:12 AM ET
Eight years ago, when Bill Clinton was caught lying about his affair with a White House intern, Mark Foley voted to impeach him. “It’s vile,” said the congressman. “It’s more sad than anything else, to see someone with such potential throw it all down the drain because of a sexual addiction.”

As we say on the Internet: LOL. We now know that Clinton and Foley were on different teams, but not in the way Foley pretended. And the irony only begins there. The two men have played similar roles, not only in their reckless personal lives but in the cultural revolutions of their respective decades. Clinton introduced us to the ambiguities of sex. Foley is introducing us to the wilder ambiguities of cybersex.

In his 1998 deposition, Clinton was asked whether he had ever “had sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky, as that term is defined in Deposition Exhibit 1.” The definition referred to “contact” with the other person’s private parts. Clinton said he hadn’t. Seven months later, when he admitted that Lewinsky had given him more than pizza, Clinton argued that this didn’t meet the definition, because “if the deponent is the person who has oral sex performed on him,” the contact was only “with the lips of another person.”



That wasn’t even Clinton’s best line. During the deposition, his lawyer said “there is absolutely no sex of any kind in any manner, shape or form” between Clinton and Lewinsky. When Clinton was asked later whether that statement had been false, he opined, “It depends on what the meaning of the word is is.”

Two months after offering those rationalizations, Clinton signed the Protection of Children From Sexual Predators Act of 1998. The measure, co-sponsored by Foley, extended the prohibition on enticing minors to cover “sexual activity,” not just a “sexual act.” It also added special penalties for using a computer. “There has been an explosion in the use of the Internet in the United States, further placing our Nation’s children at risk of harm and exploitation at the hands of predators,” the legislation warned.

But the Internet revolution turned out to be kinkier than the sexual revolution. The sexual revolution only changed how people touched each other. The Internet revolution took sex beyond touch. A degenerate like Foley can reach out and mess up your kid without even setting foot in your state. Is that abuse? It depends on what the meaning of abuse is.

Computers didn’t invent noncontact sex. That’s been around since the telephone. Ken Starr’s “Table of Contacts between Monica Lewinsky and the President,” for instance, lists 17 incidents of phone sex but only nine incidents of “in-person” sex. Most of the intern’s lip contact was with a receiver, and not the kind you can depose. But phone sex is risky. Someone might hear you. If you’re calling a minor, her parents might pick up the phone or eavesdrop.

That’s where computers come in. Clinton’s romp with Lewinsky during a phone call with lawmakers was “just sad,” Foley told reporters at the time. “It’s unbelievable that he could behave so carelessly in that setting.” Foley took more care. While voting, he never had sex in person, or even over the phone. He did it over the Internet. Boys chatting with Foley were interrupted by their mothers, but the chats were inaudible, so the moms never knew what was up. “Hope she didn’t see anything,” Foley told one boy. “No,” said the kid. “She is computer dumb.” “Good. Haha,” replied the congressman.

The ethereality of cybersex makes it hard to prosecute. Every state outlaws Internet solicitation of sex with kids. But if you postpone physical sex till your quarry is 18, as Foley tried to do, you can skirt these laws. That’s why he kept asking boys about their birthdays. Until that day, the sex had to stay online. Like Clinton, Foley carved out a kind of sex that in his mind wasn’t officially sex. For Clinton, it was oral; for Foley, it was digital. He’d pick you out as a page. He’d befriend you by e-mail. He’d groom you with instant messages. He’d find out your birthday. When you turned 18, he’d pounce.

What do you do with snakes like Foley? Some states pursue them into cyberspace and outlaw dirty messages. Georgia, for instance, forbids any “Internet contact” with minors involving “explicit verbal descriptions or narrative accounts of sexually explicit nudity” or even of “sexual excitement.” Actually, the recipient doesn’t have to be a minor. He can be anyone “believed … to be a child residing in this state.” You can charge Foley under this law even if he never goes to Georgia or writes to anyone there. All you have to do is meet him in a chat room, pose as an Atlanta teenager, and wait for him to say something gross.

If a pervert won’t act on his words, you can criminalize the words. If he won’t utter them, you can prosecute him for writing them. If he won’t come to your state, you can go get him. If he has no victim, you can invent one. This is no joke. In almost every state, laws specify that you can be convicted of an Internet sex offense against a child even if you contact no child and commit no physical crime. In fact, the most recently analyzed data, published by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, suggest that more people are arrested for using the Internet to solicit cops posing as kids than for using it to initiate relationships with real kids. The unnatural has been surpassed by the artificial.

Cybersex is only getting weirder. Most Canadian college students surveyed by a dating Web site say they’ve already had sex through instant messages. By year’s end, more than 100 million people will be playing online games. Fifteen million Webcams are in use; hundreds can be viewed for a fee, and many are pornographic. You can even interact with a “virtual girlfriend” on your cell phone. It’s a creepy world of imaginary meetings and deeds. The only thing creepier, perhaps, is to prosecute them like the real thing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Read This

“In fact, the most recently analyzed data, published by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, suggest that more people are arrested for using the Internet to solicit cops posing as kids than for using it to initiate relationships with real kids.”

I have long suspected that many of those charged have merely humored the “kid” in the situation, by letting themselves be approached and agreed to things they never intended to go through with. I wonder how many of those were initiated by the ‘kid’, directly or indirectly. It seems to me there are more adults out looking to trap a predator than there are predators, and that sometimes the zealots are creating a predatory situation when none would have otherwise existed. I too, have a problem with people going to a real jail, and suffering real losses when they have not victimized a child, they have not physically comitted a crime. On the other hand, I know there really are people who troll children’s sites for sex, and I do not believe they should go unpunished. I just have a problem with the whole “stalking for a predator” thing that is going on. Aren’t there enough real crimes against children without people going online and tricking someone into saying the wrong thing? Aren’t there laws against stalking?

Anonymous Coward says:

Nothing ever changes in the world...

…except the speed and ease of communications. A veritable industry has risen since the advent of the television based on how the world is falling apart and the end is near, so buy these books about it and join this religion and give them all your money. This is the exact same thing. The world has been every bit as good, bad, pure and deviant since the beginning of mankind. Even the Bible, once Cain slew Abel, 25% of the world’s population were then murderers (assuming no other siblings of Adam and Eve at that point).

Nothing ever changes, we just hear about it more.

r. moore says:

what about the 4th amendment?

thank the patriot act and a little political correctness in attitude for the caseload. the patriot act has allowed the fbi to search “door to door” or in other words everyone for suspicious activity.

i raised a daughter by myself as a single father and was for many years surrounded by girls growing into women…without incident. i go out of state to work, get on the internet at a public [motel] computer and find myself on a pedophile watch list.

some kid [whose parents don’t have time to keep up with what he’s doing online] downloaded his instant messenger onto the computer with password locked in. i came in and checked my stock portfolio every evening only to be inundated with popups. running a fever from allergies and tired from a week of training i snappped and wrote them to stop interfering with my online activities. their mother called the motel and the motel defended me so, mom calls the police and said i tried to pick up her kids.

i was rousted out of bed at midnight by the police in this sleepy little missouri town below st louis and told i was being investigated. for some reason they never bothered to question that the mother only knew of the problem because i told her what her kid had done and where i was so she could protect her child or why she would turn on me instead of thanking me.
strangely the computer wouldn’t reboot so the officer could check the files to see what was said[my idea not his genius butt. see he did the computers for the police dept]. that and asking the motel for help shutting the messenger off was my only defense against this evil slut.
the supreme court just ruled you had to id yourself and i reluctantly gave over the info and was then informed i was going on a federal pedophile watchlist. God bless freedom and america.
so remember innocent until proven guilty. if i had been arrested i would have been convicted by the media and ruined for life. never again will i help an unknown child or use a public computer.

Anonymous Coward says:

I don’t mean to play devil’s advocate, but didn’t Mike just post a story about how violent crimes went down after a violent movie was released, possibly because it acted as a vent release for some people? Similarly, couldn’t child porn be acting as a vent so that fewer children actually get molested? I suspect that most of that “2,000% increase” in child porn cases were for /possession/ of porn, not for actually soliciting a child, and so I have to wonder…is all of this increased “enforcement” actually endangering more children? I mean, if I’m going to get prosecuted the same for wanting to do something vs. actually doing it, why wouldn’t I just do it?

Think about it. Obviously I’m not defending child porn, I’m just taking our current line of thinking to a logical conclusion. Like the war on terror, are we ever going to get to the point where we’ve entrapped every sexual predator, and actually made the streets safer? Or are we just going to keep broadening the definition of child porn so we can keep picking the low-hanging fruit and declare that we’re protecting the children, when we’ve really done no such thing?

Sabbath says:

Here is a question that isn't being asked...

Does the internet create pedophiles?

Face the facts, Porn is and many different types of porn are more widely available now than ever before.

There is chat, internet streaming video, pictures, and entire websites dedicated to discretely sell porn of some type and many types.

All it takes is a little exposure to prevert someone.

Iconoclast says:

Sex Offenders

The real question is: does child pornography translate into child rape?

Of couse child predators nurse their lech with CP- but we through a lot of people in jail simply for having illegal images without any evidence that they have ever hurt or ever will hurt a child.

Lots of people read science fiction- how many intend to go to the moon, get cybernetic implants or travel in time?

Many people watch the animal channel- how many live with chimpanzees or live in the bush with elepahnts.

Many people watch horror films- how many end up dismantling their wives with a chainsaw?

Some certainly, but there are thousands of people in jail for CP. My county of 30,000 or so has almost 300 registered sex offenders- some of whom consist of 19 year olds sleeping with 17 year olds, men taking a leak alongside a highway.

By all means castrate and hang child molesters, but lets make sure that they are child molesters and not simply some sad lonely person who needs to get a real life instead of living online.

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