‘Physically Distant, Digitally Close’: Mobile Tech and the Rise in Child Porn

Print More
smartphone

https://shopcatalog.com/

Photo by Stock Catalog via Flickr.

Even though child pornography cases make up only a small percentage of the overall federal caseload, the expansion of digital and mobile technology has contributed to a staggering increase in offenses, says the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC).

A report released this week updating previous research into the prevalence and offenses of child pornography in the country shows a 422 percent increase in the number of child pornography production offenders sentenced over a 15-year period.

That is a significant increase over previous years. The number of offenders rose just 98 percent between 2005 to 2019.

“Child pornography production offenses cause substantial and indelible harm to victims,” the researchers wrote.  “A growing proportion of production offenders exploit victims remotely through the use of internet and mobile devices.”

This newest research notes how the producing offender typically gains the trust of the victim, and then violates that trust with sexual contact during the production of the child pornography.

The latest researchers analyzed three key factors when looking at the 512 offenders registered in 2019  and their crimes: the proximity between offender and victim, the participation level and method of communication used, as well as the propensity of engagement and possible distribution of explicit material.

Analyzing these factors, the researchers note that the expansion of mobile technology has “created greater opportunity” for the production of child pornography

Physically Distant, Digitally Close

When first looking at the relationships between victim and the abuser in the federal child pornography production cases, the researchers said the victim often trusted the offender.

Moreover, the offender typically had physical access to the child during the production of the child pornography.

Of the 512 child pornography production offenders sentenced in fiscal year 2019, 69.3 percent were “related to or otherwise maintained a position of trust over the minor victim, whether through familial relationships or by virtue of the offender’s role as a teacher or coach, for example,” the report details.

However, being physically present is no longer a requirement for perpetrators.

“Due to technological advancements and the changing nature of production offenses, an increasing proportion of production offenders exploited victims remotely through use of the internet or mobile devices,” the researchers note.

They continued, “For example, over one-third (35.4 percent) of production offenders sentenced in fiscal year 2019 were internet strangers who met their victims through an online platform, more than double the proportion of offenders sentenced in fiscal year 2010 who met their victims online (14.3 percent).”

Moreover, the researchers also found that nearly two-thirds (61.7 percent) of remote child pornography victims were teenagers, who were more likely to have access to the internet, cell phones, or social media.

These teenage victims were also more likely to communicate with the production offenders remotely compared to younger victims who would communicate in person with the offenders.

The Sentencing Commission researchers found that the online methods of communication used by the 512 offenders were via text/email (26.6 percent of the time), social media platform (24.8 percent of the time), live streaming (10 percent of the time), and phone call, video game, and website communication (6.8 percent of the time).

See Also: Experts say OnlyFans is a ‘Gateway Activity’ to Exploitation

Key Findings

In terms of sentencing, the vast majority of 512 fiscal year 2019 child pornography production offenders (80.9 percent) were sentenced for an offense that involved sexual contact with a minor, according to the report.

The researchers also note that 56.6 percent of production offenders for the same time period victimized a single child. However, it’s worth noting that 41.0 percent of cases involved more than one minor victim — ranging from two children to 440 victims.

Overall, child pornography production offenders generally received lengthy sentences.

In fiscal year 2019, the researchers found that offenders received 23 years on average, ranging from one year to life in prison. To add to that, over 78.0 percent of perpetrators were convicted under a statute carrying at least a 15-year mandatory minimum penalty for their crimes.

Despite the 23-year sentencing average, the Sentencing Commission researchers found that the average sentence imposed was longer for offenders who victimized infants or toddlers, were parents of the victims, engaged in the documented offense, or incapacitated victims.

“Child pornography production offenses are serious crimes that memorialize the sexual abuse and exploitation of children,” the Sentencing Commission researchers concluded.

“Offenders who produce child pornography use a wide variety of technology and coercive tactics to manipulate children for the purpose of committing these serious offenses.”

Additional Reading: Google-Flagged Child Porn Case Highlights Privacy Issues

The full report can be accessed here.

Andrea Cipriano is a TCR staff writer.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *