Why is child pornography illegal

Child Pornography on the Net - A New Dimension in Sexual Abuse

Sexual exploitation of children: reported cases are increasing

The "Working Group for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation" estimates sales of child pornography to be at least 12 billion US dollars annually. In 2019, 12,000 cases of child pornography were reported in Germany, according to the Federal Government's independent commissioner for issues relating to child sexual abuse, Johannes-Wilhelm Rörig. Compared to the previous year, this is an increase of 65 percent. According to estimates by the Federal Ministry of Justice, the dark field is about eight times as large.

Searching for child pornography is a criminal offense

In Germany, according to § 184b StGB, everything in connection with child pornography is punishable: every possession, distribution, the undertaking of acquiring it, including looking for it. But many perpetrators still feel absolutely safe in the anonymity of the endlessly wide Internet.

In January 2020, the Bundestag passed a whole legislative package. Among other things, it allows undercover investigators to upload photos themselves to relevant forums. These photos were created digitally, they do not show any real acts of abuse. In this way, the investigators can get in contact with the perpetrators, communicate and finally understand who is active on the Internet and how.

Attempting cyber rooming has been punishable since 2020

But how do the men - mostly male perpetrators - establish direct contact with children? A simple way is to write to them in the chat forums of online games, because nobody knows who is behind a profile name. This so-called “cybergrooming” is also a criminal offense in Germany. Even attempting cybergrooming has been a criminal offense since 2020.

In her seminars, Marita Dias Monteiro explains to 11 and 12-year-old schoolchildren about perpetrators whom they contact via online games and social networks. The high commissioner of the Rhein-Erft district warns against being too gullible. And she warns against revealing seemingly simple information about yourself such as age, place of residence or school.

No effective child and youth protection on the Internet yet

In Monteiro's seminars, the children also discuss specific attempts at advances by potential sexual offenders. For example: a child thinks they are chatting with another of their own age. Maybe this other profile is making fun of what it looks like in a bikini, sending a picture of themselves, and wanting one of the victim. This is just one of many strategies.

Educating children at an early age and helping parents to be vigilant - that is the goal of prevention seminars in schools. Because chats in messengers, apps and games are not moderated by the providers or their content is checked. Today there is no effective protection for children and young people on the Internet.

Germany is currently in the top ten for inquiries about child pornography

The perpetrators take advantage of the children's lack of protection. Sven Schneider from the State Criminal Police Office in North Rhine-Westphalia describes an example that the Dutch department of Terre des Hommes has come up with. She set up the profile of a ten-year-old girl from the Philippines on the Internet. This should turn into a campaign against child sex tourism.

Over 10,000 men contacted the ten-year-old's profile within ten weeks. A computer program kept giving these men answers, pointing out that the profile was about a child. Nonetheless, inquiries about nude photos continued, the IP addresses show the origin of the perpetrators, Germany is one of the top ten.

Most of the perpetrators have no pedophile orientation

What kind of perpetrators are they? Is it people who are looking for that special kick or are they sex addicts? In any case, it is not true that all of them are pedophiles, corrects the abuse officer Rörig. The majority of the perpetrators have no pedophile orientation. In ten to 20 percent of cases, women are involved as perpetrators or accomplices.

The investigative authorities cannot keep up with the persecution on the Internet. In the cases in Staufen, Lügde, Bergisch-Gladbach and Münster alone, investigators confiscated data carriers on a scale that they can hardly evaluate.

Young girls and women: around 60 percent are affected by violence on the Internet

Meanwhile, 59 percent of all 15 to 25-year-old girls and women worldwide state that they have been victims of verbal violence and sexual assault on the Internet. In Germany it is even 70 percent.

That is why the LKA North Rhine-Westphalia is taking a new path. The cases are no longer only viewed and evaluated by police officers, but by now 75 additional employees who have been recruited from the labor market and have received special training. Johannes-Wilhelm Rörig emphasizes that it was not higher penalties that turned out to be a deterrent for the perpetrators, but rather the likelihood of being discovered.

Obliging platform operators to monitor their content

If the IP addresses are allowed to be stored longer, the investigators would have more time to track down suspects. But the proposal is controversial, and privacy advocates are protesting against it. However, the police also track down criminals by taking over identities from accomplices.

In addition, the operators of platforms on the Internet such as Instagram, Kik, Facebook, TikTok and others would finally have to be obliged to scan their pages for relevant photos and videos and to report suspicious content.

Model for Germany: US registration office

There is already a reporting office for this in the USA, the “National Center for Missing and Exploited Children”, or NACMAC for short. This is also to be set up in Germany in mid-2021, within the framework of the Network Enforcement Act. However, where and under whose management it is still unclear.

Another new law could also be helpful: Paragraph 127 of the Criminal Code should be able to punish the operator of a platform through which, for example, child pornography is traded or exchanged.

The perpetrators and their helpers need to know that they will be discovered and punished. And that society does not tolerate their behavior.

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