LOS ANGELES—Public relations is public relations but facts are facts, and if there's one thing the adult industry hasn't been very good at, it's amassing statistics—facts—that prove its worth to society. Adam & Eve sponsors its internet-based Great American Sex Survey, which reveals a lot about its customers' sexual interests and practices, and both AVN and Xbiz have polled adult retailers and webmasters plus gathered data from other reliable sources to put together profiles of adult consumers.
But there's one organization, Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection (ASACP), whose ongoing work to fight child porn websites has helped both the industry and the general public for nearly 15 years—and now they've quantified their work over the past five years into an easy-to-understand report that researchers will be able to use as source material for future studies of this important subject.
"We're very excited about this," said Joan Irvine, ASACP's executive director. "It's going to be the first report to which the scientific community and anti-child-porn activists will be able to make reference. It has the data, and we're going to be doing a widespread distribution of this."
"By publicly sharing ASACP hotline data," explained Tim Henning, ASACP Vice President of Technology and Forensic Research, "we hope to support the efforts of many other organizations worldwide that fight CP [child pornography]. It’s only by collaborating that we can make progress towards eventually eliminating CP entirely."
Perhaps what's most impressive about the ASACP Hotline Report data is the number of "raw" reports of alleged child porn websites (and even some non-web-related material) the organization has dealt with between 2005 and 2009, the era the Report covers—407,897—and if data from the current year is included, the number is over half a million.
What's nearly impressive is the percentage of reports ASACP gets that are essentially duplicates of previous reports—just under 55 percent— which tells the story of the public's and the adult industry's support for ASACP's efforts.
"What people do is, they go to our website where there's a report form," Irvine said. "Since we've been around since '96, we tend to be near the top of a Google search for 'report child porn.' What happens is, a lot of times, people get emailed and that's why you have so many duplicates: There will be, say, spam emails that go out, that we mention in the Report, and the people who get them won't know what to do, and they'll go to like Google and we show up like in the top couple of results."
"The way our report form works, the first thing it does when a report form is submitted, it checks to see if that server is active, so if our servers can't reach that server, then the report won't even make it into our database; they'll get a failure," Henning added. "And we review all reports received within a 24-hour turnaround time or less, so we try to make sure everything is reviewed and sent on within 24 hours of us receiving it."
The job of Henning and his associates is to check out each reported site and put it into one of several categories: "Red Flag"—confirmed child porn; non-child porn; "Child Modeling"—sites featuring clothed children; "Art"—legitimate artistic renderings of children; "Legal Adult"—sites containing legal adult entertainment material; "Prior Reports"—the aforementioned duplicate reports; and "Not CP"—sites that contain material that does not fit the definition of child pornography under current U.S. law.
Certainly, one of the most gratifying things for the adult entertainment industry about the ASACP report is that of all the URLs the organization receives to check out, none of the adult companies' websites "tested positive" for child porn.
"A recent DOJ report ["The National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction: A Report to Congress"] noted: 'Child pornography is unrelated to adult pornography; it clearly involves the criminal depiction and memorializing of the sexual assault of children and the criminal sharing, collecting, and marketing of the images'," the ASACP Report reads. "This finding is borne out by forensic analysis of CP images, as well as by ASACP Hotline data. Legal adult entertainment sites have been reported to the hotline, but only in error. By 2009, reporting of legal adult sites had dropped nearly to zero, signifying that such sites were no longer even being mistaken for CP."
"We've been saying that forever," Irvine underlined, "but having a formal report versus just a quote or a press release, it puts it into a different dynamic."
The organization also categorizes other reports as "Spam" unrelated to child porn; "Non-Website CP"—suspected child porn material not posted to websites but disseminated via peer-to-peer (P2P), BitTorrent, newsgroups, web communities' chat, message boards and/or instant messages, internet relay chat (IRC), chat rooms, etc.; "Bad URLS"—sites that were not active when reviewed; and "Not Recorded," when an error occurred as a report was being submitted or captured.
"Child porn sites, especially in the U.S., can be very short-lived," Henning stated. "A lot of this stuff is hosted on free hosting like Yahoo and that sort of thing, and they tend not to escape detection for very long. So usually, if it's blasted by a spam email or a commercial site, then we tend to get lots of reports of the same site, and it tends not to stay up for more than a couple of days to a week."
Sadly, according to the report, while the U.S. hosted 39.1 percent of the "global volume" of child porn sites and/or payment processors for commercial child porn during the period of the Report, that number grew to 49.4 percent in the year 2009—far more than any other country, including active CP-producing areas like eastern Europe—and unsurprisingly, California, with its mass of online communications companies, accounts for over two-thirds of the hosting and billing.
"As for half being in the US, that's where the highest concentration of servers are in the world," Henning explained. "The U.S. just happens to be one of the places they've hosted it, but there's many different ways to host it: Bot networks and free hosting, etc."
"Definitely eastern Europe would be the number one production area, simply because there's countries—Russia is one of them—that don't have even basic possession as an offense, so it's not a crime in Russia," Henning added. "The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, one of their efforts about a year ago, the international version of NCMEC, went to a few countries with sample legislation, Russia being one of them, and were unsuccessful there in getting them to adopt even basic anti-CP laws."
Among the organizations to which ASACP reports its child-porn-confirmed "Red Flag" sites are NCMEC, CyberTip.ca in Canada, Project Clean Feed in the UK and Interpol, and Henning also has some personal contacts in the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and among law enforcement officials in various states who will also receive the reports when appropriate.
Beyond the above, the ASACP Hotline Report contains a wealth of important information. For example, take the differences between commercial child porn (CCP) which is sold and non-commercial child porn (NCCP) which is offered for free or traded among pedophiles.
"The distinction is vital because different strategies are called for in combating each," the Report reads. "Websites are a common CCP venue because a fee can be charge to grant access to members. NCCP circulates through various channels, including Usenet newsgroup postings, peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing networks, social media, message forums and other online communities, and directly between mobile devices."
ASACP has also been able to quantify, to some extent, which age ranges form the subjects of the most child porn: 59 percent of the images on sites are children under 11 years of age, while children between 12 and 16 accounted for just 8 percent—although a full one-third of the sites investigated contained images of kids ranging from one to 17. Too, the Report noted, "Hotline investigators have also documented a qualitative shift, with images becoming more brutal and extreme. In these images, child victims often appear to have been subjected to physical as well as sexual violence."
In formulating the Report, ASACP got input from several experts, including family therapist Dr. Marty Klein (author of "America's War on Sex") as well as adult entertainment attorneys Greg Piccionelli and Lawrence Walters. The topic Walters was called upon to provide information was "sexting," which is also the subject of a law review article by Walters that will appear before the end of the year.
"Sexting is a related issue for ASACP," Walters noted. "It's not typically part of what they do, but why they're concerned about it is, it's part of the evolving Web 2.0 concern with child pornography. A substantial amount of today's child pornography is created by children, and that is a very unique and novel concern for governments, for website operators, et cetera, because we as a society don't really know how to deal with that; we've never had to deal with it. It's something that just has now been allowed by modern technology. It's a new phenomenon. So ASACP as an organization that's concerned about child pornography and utilizes the resources of the adult industry to combat it is necessarily concerned with this new source of child pornography. They're not looking to encourage prosecution of children under these—what we would view to be over-zealous child pornography laws as applied to children, but they are concerned about the new source of material, and when it makes it way onto a file-sharing server or into a pedophile's collection, it's really no different than material that has been created by pedophiles. You know, you can't tell the difference based on who clicked the picture. But it is a unique situation that ASACP wants to illustrate, to mention, to bring to the forefront and raise the discussion: How do we deal with this? What do we do about it now that it's reared its head, and society isn't going to be able to stamp it out by causing half of its kids to be labeled as sex offenders?"
Sexting is one of the few crimes—forced prostitution would be another—where the perpetrator is the same person as the victim.
"Teens are learning, though, that they probably ought not do that, given the exposure the issue has gotten in the last couple of years," Walters continued. "The word has gotten out that this is pretty dicey stuff if you start posting it publicly, so I suspect we're going to see a bit more care taken in who it's disseminated to, but kids think that they send things to their friends and it's not going to go any farther than that. That's not the reality we know; the stuff keeps getting circulated. But there are so many sides to the issue. I tend to think that by the time these kids are 30, 40 years old and they're professionals and politicians and dentists and whatever, they're all going to have had some crazy picture circulated of them when they were kids; it's not going to be that big a deal. The kind of stigma that we're worried about as parents, that it's going to impose on them for the rest of their lives, they're never going to get past it, I don't know; I don't think that's going to be the reality in 30 years. They'll all laugh about it; you know, "Let me show you mine; you show me yours.' It'll be no big deal."
Walters has created what he says is a model "sexting" ordinance, which he has set forth in the law review article.
Finally, the ASACP Hotline Report contains some suggestions for decreasing the availability of child porn, including following the "money trail" (which it notes that groups like the Financial Coalition Against Child Pornography are already doing); educating children, parents, teachers, child-care workers and others to recognize potential threats and abusive situations which may lead to child porn, especially in countries where no child porn laws exist; and effectively allocating resources to the fight.
"[F]elony prosecutions of minors [for sexting] under child pornography statutes aimed at pedophiles, often resulting in teens being labeled for life as registered sex offenders, is unwarranted," the Report says. "As with other risky and/or illegal behaviors like smoking, substance abuse and drunk driving, the key to protecting children (in this case, from themselves) is education and parental involvement. Otherwise society risks diverting already sparse enforcement resources, and diluting the effectiveness and relevance of sex offender registries. Likewise, attempts to fight child pornography by targeting the professional adult entertainment industry are, at best, unproductive distractions; at worst, a blatant waste of taxpayers' money."
That's only one of the brave statements made by ASACP in this important child-porn-fighting tool. Hopefully, it will be embraced and used by law enforcement and child advocacy groups for the purpose for which it is intended.