Prevalence of Child Pornography Crimes
Interviewer: In these 15 years, would you say that child pornography allegations are becoming a little bit more common these days?
Paul Cramm: Surprisingly, I see, if anything, a trend of fewer cases being filed and fewer charges. I think that when the Internet was less advanced and developed than it is now there were many more circumstances that would satisfy or come close to what I’ve previously described as the worst of the worst scenario.
I think that the vast majority of the cases charged involved well-identified, well-developed traffic to and from these open and notorious child pornography sites, and websites that were hosted outside of the United States. I think that as the Internet has exploded, all facets of information online have exploded, and so have adult websites. I’m referencing the lawful, First Amendment-protected sites that have adult material depicting lawful images of consensual adults. Those sites are everywhere.
I think that as those sites have proliferated, we see situations where the federal prosecutors are less aggressive in pursuing charges that may arise from what clearly appears to be innocent browsing conduct that either lands the web user on a questionable image, or lands the web user on a questionable site by hyperlink. I do see that the prosecutors are less aggressive in situations where there is a good bait defense.
It seems as though risk-taking behavior has gone down. I think that as these charges have become certainly more publicized, I do think that there has been a very strong deterrent factor. I think that fewer people are voluntarily going to what are known to be child pornography sites, and child pornography chat rooms, and user boards. I think people are a lot more hesitant to go there because they know that the penalty for that conduct is so extreme.
Interviewer: In your opinion, do you think that the media has fabricated hysteria about it?
Paul Cramm: That’s a really difficult question to answer. I think that what the media has done is, once again, focused on back patterns, cases involving such egregious conduct, and such egregious imagery that I think it causes the public to presume that all crime of that title or moniker fits the most extreme or egregious definition thereof. I think that what media has done is sort of created a landscape wherein people who are not really familiar or initiated will make a presumption that anyone accused of this must fall into that worst of the worst category.
I guess if you were to make a loose analogy to driving under the influence, they just keep showing fatal auto accidents arising from intoxication. People begin to lump someone who’s driving home at about 0.08 percent after the Christmas party into the same category as those who are driving the wrong way down the highway at three times the legal limit, and wiping out a minivan and a family of four. I think what’s happened with the child pornography is that a lot of people presume the worse when they hear just the title of the offense.
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