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Young People, Child Pornography, and Subcultural Norms on the Internet

DOI: 10.1002/asi.22816

Prichard, Jeremy et al. “Young People, Child Pornography, and Subcultural Norms on the Internet.” Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 64.5 (2013): 992–1000. Web.

p.992: Literature to date has treated as distinct two issues (a) the influence of pornography on young people and (b) the growth of Internet child pornography, also called child exploitation material (CEM). This article discusses how young people might interact with, and be affected by, CEM. The article first considers the effect of CEM on young victims abused to generate the material. It then explains the paucity of data regarding the prevalence with which young people view CEM online, inadvertently or deliberately. New analyses are presented from a 2010 study of search terms entered on an internationally popular peer-to-peer website, isoHunt. Over 91 days, 162 persistent search terms were recorded. Most of these related to file sharing of popular movies, music, and so forth. Thirty-six search terms were categorized as specific to a youth market and perhaps a child market. Additionally, 4 deviant, and persistent search terms were found, 3 relating to CEM and the fourth to bestiality. The article discusses whether the existence of CEM on a mainstream website, combined with online subcultural influences, may normalize the material for some youth and increase the risk of onset (first deliberate viewing). Among other things, the article proposes that future research examines the relationship between onset and sex offending by youth. -- Highlighted mar 23, 2014

p.992: Some commentators have suggested that the term child pornography be avoided in this field because of the inference that the material is an acceptable erotic subgenre of mainstream pornography (Beech, Elliot, Birgden, & Findlater, 2008). This article uses the term child exploitation material (CEM). -- Highlighted mar 23, 2014

p.993: For example, Allard (2008) reported that a European website that operated for 76 hours with 99 CEM images received over 12 million hits -- Highlighted mar 23, 2014

p.993: Hurley et al.’s (2012) 12-month study of P2P networks (Gnutella and eMule) observed over 2.5 million distinct peers, residing in over 100 countries, who traficked CEM. The researchers estimated that on Gnutella, on average 9,700 unique “files of interest” (CEM and associated material) appear each day (Hurley et al., 2012, p. 1). -- Highlighted mar 23, 2014

p.993: 2011 study recorded over 3 months the top 300 search terms of an international P2P network called isoHunt (Prichard, Watters, & Spiranovic, 2011). The bulk of the search terms related to movies, music, software, and so forth. But three CEM search terms consistently appeared. Pthc an acronym for pre-teen hardcore, ranked in the top 100 for a month; this search term was entered more frequently in that month than Harry Potter, Star Wars, Disney, or Big Bang Theory. -- Highlighted mar 23, 2014

p.994: Among other things, studies of adults suggest that onset also seems to be facilitated by (a) the anonymity afforded by the Internet (Merdian, Wilson, & Boer, 2009; O’Donnell & Milner, 2007), and (b) cognitive distortions about the children depicted in CEM (Merdian, Wilson, & Boer, 2009; Quayle & Taylor, 2002). Examples of the cognitive distortions include the belief that the children involved in CEM consent to and enjoy the sexual activity, or that while abusing children is wrong, there is no harm in viewing CEM. -- Highlighted mar 23, 2014

p.997: By contrast, isoHunt effectively treats CEM as any other type of “information.” IsoHunt is silent about the fact that members of its “community” search for CEM. Likewise, isoHunt is silent about the implication that if CEM searches appear in the top 1,000, then CEM too must be “popular in the BitTorrent and IRC scenes, if not the P2P world in general” (http://ca.isohunt.com/stats.php?mode=zg). Prima facie, CEM on isoHunt does not have the same deviant status as it does in the general community. -- Highlighted mar 23, 2014

p.997: As discussed earlier, a reported cognitive distortion among CEM users is that viewing CEM is harmless. Perhaps this paradigm is more persuasive once CEM is constructed as mere digital information, as a collection of zeros and ones. This construct arguably emphasises a disconnection between what happened (child sexual abuse) and data that were generated from that event (CEM). What happened may be viewed as unfortunate, criminal, or even repulsive. But the data are innocuous and ethically neutral, and hence acceptable for sexual entertainment. -- Highlighted mar 23, 2014

p.998: A significant proportion of online CEM offenders have engaged in sexual offences involving children (e.g., see Bourke & Hernandez, 2009). Research has also shown that the use of CEM is a stronger indicator of paedophilic interests than sexual assaults involving children (Seto, Cantor, & Blanchard, 2006). -- Highlighted mar 23, 2014

p.998: Alarming examples of adolescents luring other children into the production of CEM online after being coaxed themselves into self-producing for the purposes of financial profit have been cited in the literature (e.g., Leary, 2007). The empirical literature suggests that a range of risk factors are associated with adolescent sex offending, including sexual abuse history, exposure to violence, social isolation, early exposure to sex or pornography, anxiety, and low self-esteem (Seto & Lalumiere, 2010). Taken as a whole, the findings– that (a) early exposure to pornography is a risk factor for adolescent sex offending, and (b) deviant sexual interests are the strongest predictor of sexual recidivism in adolescent sex offenders–suggest that viewing CEM may play a role in adolescent sex offending. As with adult offenders, however, it is unclear for adolescent sex offenders whether viewing CEM precedes the onset of hands-on offending or vice versa. -- Highlighted mar 23, 2014

p.999: data obtained from Quant Cast suggest that an estimated 15% of isoHunt users are younger than 18 years of age. -- Highlighted mar 23, 2014

p.999: The article also explored the possibility of subcultural influences on isoHunt. It was proposed that the isoHunt community may itself operate as a subculture. A young person who identied with this subculture may be more influenced by the isoHunt norms regarding CEM. What are those norms? Perhaps chief among them is that CEM can be categorized merely as information; whether isoHunt users access CEM is their affair. -- Highlighted mar 23, 2014

p.999: to what extent do online communities shape youth norms regarding not only CEM but also other material including bestiality and rape fetish? -- Highlighted mar 23, 2014