Sunday, August 11, 2013

incarcerate or educate?

 Two different approaches to child pornography on the Internet:
...Microsoft announced that it planned to implement a new mechanism to fight child pornography by creating a pop-up warning when someone searches for illegal images of child porn on Bing, The Guardian reports. However, Google, which owns the largest share of online search traffic, has decided not to include the new program in its search engine. 
“Child abuse imagery is illegal and we have a zero tolerance policy to it," a Google spokesperson said in an email in The Huffington Post on Tuesday. "We use purpose-built technology and work with child safety organizations like the Internet Watch Foundation to find, remove and report it, because we never want this material to appear in our search results. We are working with experts on effective ways to deter anyone tempted to look for this sickening material.”
The Most Boring Radical has related thoughts:
Certainly if we were interested in actually deterring these crimes–if we believed that these were serious criminal problems and we needed people to stop engaging in them–that’s what we’d do. We’d have commercials running during sporting events warning men of the penalties they can face for engaging in these kinds of online behaviors; we’d have health classes in school cover the legal dangers of online sexual activity; we’d put warnings up before people entered certain websites, reminding them of the penalties in their state of engaging in certain activities. 
But, we aren’t doing that. Why? Because these are crimes the police are interested in creating, not deterring. If we actually believed that scores of guys in their 20s and 30s and 40s were meeting horny teen girls in adult chat rooms and meeting up with them for sex, you can be sure that we’d have campaigns designed to deter such behavior. But, it’s not happening (probably mainly because actual 15yo girls who really want sex with older guys don’t need to resort to skeezy chat rooms to find it, and aren’t doing so). There is nothing to deter. There is, however, money to be gained from creating the crime and arresting people for it.
Money to be made. That's about right. More money is made from the investigation, prosecution, and incarceration of child porn users than child pornography producers ever dreamed of making.

It costs taxpayers about $27,000 per year to incarcerate someone. At a time when government needs to spend less, it makes sense to educate people about the penalties for downloading child porn if that will keep them from committing a crime. Those penalties are not well known. 

People do not expect the penalties for looking at pictures to be greater than the penalties for molesting a child. 

People do not know that simply looking at an image online leaves a copy on the hard drive. 

People do not know that the law makes no distinction between intentional and accidental downloading or between images that have been viewed or not viewed. 

People do not know that curiosity can result in years and years in prison.

If a warning about the penalties would keep someone from clicking that link--from looking at child porn--wouldn't we all want that?