Gone are the days where child exploitation images and videos—also known as child porn—are only accessible to those who go looking for them intentionally, it seems.
A recent investigation by the anti-child porn organization Internet Watch Foundation reveals that there has been a sharp rise in criminals hiding child porn on apparently legal commercial adult pornography websites, as reported by The Guardian.
The report states that in the past year the number of such disguised websites, which provide a secret route to child sexual abuse content, had risen by 86%, said Fred Langford, the chief executive of the UK charity. The IWF uncovered 2,909 such websites in 2017, compared with 1,572 in 2016.
According to Langford, the technique of hiding illegal content involves using a shortened URL that directs the user through a back door to child abuse images and videos. It has become increasingly popular with criminals because some international police forces and internet watchdogs still did not know how to identify such sites or take them down.
Langford said the vast majority of disguised websites were deliberately operated by the website owner, with only a few cases of legitimate sites being hacked. He said there was a risk that people searching for adult pornography or other legal content could accidentally view child abuse images content on disguised sites.
“On occasion, we do see spam referrals on online forums,” said Langford. “It only takes one click for the curious and before you know it they’ve not only incriminated themselves but also viewed the illegal content. If the URL has found its way on to a police database you could end up in a tricky situation.”
The report found that 57% of victims were assessed to be aged 10 or younger, including 2% believed to be aged two or under. A third of the images were designated to be of the most serious category A, meaning they involved the rape or sexual torture of children.
Mainstream porn and child exploitation are interconnected
This may be surprising to a regular consumer of mainstream, adult porn. How could porn producers, or porn site owners allow this kind of illicit, unacceptable, and extreme content on their domains? But as stated in the reports, the majority of disguised child porn links were deliberately placed there with hacking responsible for a minority of the cases.
Considering all the other ways the commercialized adult entertainment industry is connected to the distribution and normalization of child exploitation content, this news isn’t exactly surprising for those who know the facts.
Let’s go back to 2002, when the porn industry lobbied to change the 1996 Child Pornography Prevention Act.
Dr. Gail Dines, professor and anti-porn activist, explained that the Free Speech Coalition (FSC)—who happens to be the porn industry’s chief lobby group—brought a case to the US Supreme Court to overturn the act, which prohibited any images that were or appeared to be of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct. The case was built around the phrase “appears to be” claiming “limitations on freedom of speech.” Long story short, the FSC won.
As a result of the victory, the porn industry was free to create computer-generated images of children in content, or alter the aesthetics of real performers who are of legal age, making them appear childlike. It is these images, Dines said, that have made “teen porn” not only legal, but the most popular genre in mainstream porn content.
What can we do about it?
We’ve been saying it for years, and this report proves it further: Adult entertainment and child exploitation are interlinked.
At the very least, porn normalizes fantasies with minors, and at most, porn fuels consumers’ appetites for more hardcore and illicit material, sometimes leading them right to child porn. This direct connection between adult porn sites and child exploitation is only further illustrated by adult sites hosting hidden links. How can society be accepting of this?
We believe people would ditch porn for good if they truly understood the harmful effects and knew the connections the industry has to sex trafficking, child exploitation, and adverse consumer effects. Take a stand against the industry and share this post—together, our voices are loud.