Counter-Surveillance Strategies Adopted by Child Pornographers

Counter-Surveillance Strategies Adopted by Child Pornographers

Marie Eneman (University of Gothenburg, Sweden)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-575-9.ch011
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Abstract

On the one side, it could be argued that ICT provide a perceived anonymity for people downloading and distributing child abusive material, also labelled child pornography. While, on the other side the technology offers powerful surveillance mechanisms to monitor these activities and thus constitutes a powerful tool for law enforcement. This paper aims to explore how offenders manage the risk of surveillance when downloading, distributing and exchanging child abusive material. Critical research with a focus on panopticon is used as a theoretical framework. The data is drawn from interviews with offenders, convicted of child pornography. The findings show that the offenders have developed technological and social strategies to reduce the risk of surveillance and addresses the need of a new theoretical concept better adjusted to surveillance practices that allow the many to watch the many. The ultimate motivation for researching this topic is to contribute to the development of effective child protection strategies.
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Introduction

The widespread dissemination and use of information and communication technologies (ICT) (Knights & Murray, 1994) in combination with technological advances have facilitated for individuals with a sexual interest in children to produce, download, distribute and exchange child abusive material (Taylor & Quayle, 2003; Sheldon & Howitt, 2007; Gillspie, 2008). Another characteristic of the technology is that it easily can be used to create networks where people with a sexual interest in children can meet other like-minded individuals (Thomas & Loader, 2000). Research shows that these kind of networks are considered important by people with a sexual interest in children, since they offer the possibility to share and exchange child abusive material regardless of national boundaries (Taylor & Quayle, 2003; Eneman, 2008). Murray (2006) highlights the dualistic nature of ICT and uses the metaphor of a double-edged sword. One could argue that, on the one side, the technology provides ‘perceived anonymity’ (Sheldon & Howitt, 2007) or ‘apparent cover of anonymity’ (Gillespie, 2008), accessibility and affordability. Another feature of the technology is that it reduces the social exposure for people downloading and distributing child abusive material (Taylor & Quayle, 2003; Adam, 2005; Eneman, 2008). Whilst, on the other side the technology offers powerful surveillance mechanisms that can be used to monitor these activities and thus constitute a powerful tool for law enforcement in crime detection (Gillespie, 2008; Lyon, 2006; Thomas & Loader, 2000). Contemporary surveillance systems have become less obvious and overt, and more systematic and subtle in our everyday life (Lyon, 2001; Haggerty, 2006). Consequently, even that people are aware of the risk of being monitored when downloading and/or distributing child abusive material, they do not know exactly when they are subject of surveillance or how comprehensive others’ knowledge of them actually is (Lyon, 1994).

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