"Child Pornography" (CP) is a broad term which refers to nude, sexual, or pornographic depictions of children, minors, or persons under the age of consent, usually within the context of prohibition. The definition varies across jurisdictions, often with regard to moral and cultural sensibilities such as perceptions of nudity or appropriate ages for sexual activity. There are also a number of specific crimes related to child pornography; for example - "making" images (contrary to most people's perceptions, this is simply the act of saving an image) and "distributing" them. In many cases the laws pertaining to different CP crimes use different labels and the term "Child Pornography" itself remains a colloquial, catch-all term.
Etiology of the victimhood paradigm
Following its identification in the 1970s, "CP" has quickly risen to occupy a strange place in the popular psyche. Subsequent to ever-increasing regulations and penalties, the act of viewing and collecting imagery classified as CP is often seen as significantly worse than having sexual relations with a minor, with penalties in the US commonly approaching 10 years or more. This is thought to be not only because of the false belief that CP is an industry (outside of law enforcement), but because use of "CP" constitutes ponderous self-acknowledgement of forbidden temptations, rather than the mere inability to resist such temptations. Following media misinformation starting in the late 70s and 80s, to most Americans the mere mention of "Child Porn" conjures up false images of "pedophilia on steroids" and the violent rape of prepubescent children and infants on film.
In the 00s and early 10s, it was common for Western regulators, law enforcement agents and social theorists to claim that each instance of viewing "Child Pornography" was a separate act of abuse against the "child" featured in the material, regardless of whether or not the "child" was aware of this. More recently, preventionists and prohibitionists such as Prostasia Foundation have even described this argument as an "understatement". Those in favor of liberalizing CP statutes may point to the aforementioned "voodoo abuse" trope as evidence that CP's prohibition relies upon a "metaphysical" argument. Such an argument of "revictimization" would of course be laughed at when applied to non-sexual victimization (road traffic accidents) or acts of state violence (nuclear warfare).
Dissent in the judiciary
In some cases, American judges have felt the need to apologize for unnecessary and draconian "mandatory minimum" sentences against men who pose no risk to society. Dissent against excessive sentences for CP remains widespread in the American judiciary, and is an often-cited criticism of Ketanji Brown Jackson, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.
Etymologically speaking, the term "pornographos" referred to depictions of harlots (prostitutes) in Ancient Greece. Labelling child images as pornography (calling them whores, essentially) contradicts the thought process that children cannot consent to sex. Prostitutes must by definition be consensually selling sex, otherwise it is rape and not prostitution. People who are sold as objects without their consent are called sex slaves, not prostitutes.
Nature and history of "CP"
Legal prohibition of child pornography in the United States and Western world emerged in the late 70s as a consequence of the then-current moral panic over child sexual abuse. In the United States, the Protection of Children Against Sexual Exploitation Act of 1977 banned for-profit production and distribution of child pornography at the federal level.
Some early legal battles over child pornography in the United States hinged on the concept of obscenity, a legal term used to denote pornography and other materials which can be prosecuted and regulated by the state. Paul Ferber, the owner of an adult bookstore in Manhattan, was prosecuted under a New York State obscenity law after selling an undercover policeman films depicting young boys masturbating. A state trial declared Ferber guilty of promoting indecent sexual performances but found that the films did not constitute obscenity. The conviction was unanimously overturned by The New York Court of Appeals, suggesting that child pornography that was not "obscene" was Constitutionally protected. However in the 1982 case New York v. Ferber the Supreme Court unanimously held that material depicting children engaged in sexual activity could be banned.
It was not until 1990, in the case Osborne v. Ohio, that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the mere possession of child pornography could be made illegal. In a 6-3 decision, the court held an interest in banning images used to "lure" or groom minors as among the reasons to prohibit the material. A dissenting opinion was written by progressive justice William Brennan; he was joined by liberals John Paul Stevens and Thurgood Marshall, the court's first black justice. Brennan's dissenting opinion argued, "When speech is eloquent and the ideas expressed lofty, it is easy to find restrictions on them invalid. But were the First Amendment limited to such discourse, our freedom would be sterile indeed. Mr. Osborne's pictures may be distasteful, but the Constitution guarantees both his right to possess them privately and his right to avoid punishment under an overbroad law."
Most people would intuitively assume that "CP" investigations focus on the "worst kind" of material and pay less attention to "borderline" collections. This is not true, however, with well known cases such as LS series, Webe Web, Azov and the formerly legal material from the 70s featuring "teen nude or semi-nude modeling" type material with provocatively posed adolescents, who have provided positive testimony following their experiences. "Low hanging fruit" is therefore the bread and butter of law enforcement agents when it comes to prosecuting CP. Another assumption is that CP is traded commercially in a "multi-billion dollar industry". Again, as our research articles detail, this is a long way from the truth, and even the "worst" sentences are handed out to non-commercial traders.
Self-made and "capped" material (mainly 2010>)
As mentioned in our research articles, most material in circulation nowadays is self-made (i.e. by teens themselves, with phones and webcams).
It is a widely known "problem" that teens and sometimes even preteen minors will strip and display of their own accord during livestreams on well-known sites such as Omegle and historically YouNow. Since these sites are very large and considered to be mainstream, a "safety in numbers" effect can be observed in which any illegal activity taking place goes under the radar. In some cases, enterprising youths will actively seek to monetize their content, as was the case with the now defunct KidsChat.
That material which does circulate via the dark web is occasionally "capped" (saved video footage) from the above type of site, with boys being particularly willing to strip and perform when they are lured with video of stripping and masturbating girls and women. Cappers of teenagers are very secretive about sharing their material, often taking measures to prevent it leaving the dark web. When cappers of boys have been approached for comment, they tend to defend this practise as the only available method of producing material in the present environment, adding that it rarely if ever circulates on the clear web.
Post-2000 international prosecutions (with country of origin)
LS Series (Ukraine)
From 2001 to 2004 approximately 1,500 girls aged eight to sixteen years old were said to have modeled for the agency. Youth erotica photos and videos were produced and distributed over the Internet to various countries. The alleged agency, known as Ukrainian Angels Studio, distributed commercial youth erotica on the web as LS Models, and had a number of different domains such as LS Island, LS Magazine, Lolitas on Holiday, LS Dreams and a series of sites under the LS Land moniker. During the time it operated LS Studios also run an online forum called LS-Forum where people could talk about the models and ask questions.
Typical LS material is too explicit to show here, even in its censored form, but is known to have amounted to naked or partially clothed girls, smiling coquettishly in front of naturalistic or plush interior backdrops, legs wide open. From its creation in 2001 up to July 2004, LS Studio produced hundreds of thousands of high quality images and videos of preteen and young teen girls, all shot by professional photographers in stage sets and custom clothes with make up artist at hand. The target appeared to be hebephiles, and no sexual touching was ever involved.
In July 2004 Ukrainian police, in collaboration with Interpol, raided this softcore agency, and its bank accounts were frozen and a Porsche car belonging to the main organiser and computer equipment were seized. After LS Studios was raided and the servers seized, organised underground groups rebranded the material under their own name. LS Series material has been found at illegal child erotica sites under many other different names.
Webe Web (America)
Webe Web Corporation, a Florida (USA) based child modelling company was raided in 2005 by the FBI and prosecuted under the allegation that they produced child pornography, although Webe Web never published a single video or picture of a naked underage girl and the Government itself admitted to "uncooperative witnesses" (see their video testimony). Out of over half a million photographs of non-nude child modelling, the prosecutor only picked up a few dozen of them for the trial. Even after the Court was informed that the parents all were aware of the photoshoots and present when they took place, it was also learned that Webe Web made over a million dollars in profit, not surprisingly six former Webe Web models asked for restitution money, some up to $150,000, six other models declined, and three other child models and their parents did not even want to speak with Government agencies investigating the hypothetical "child abuse". In light of the situation and risking a 30 year prison sentence the defendants thought it wiser to plead guilty in exchange for a lighter sentence. Jeffrey Robert Libman was sentenced to 108 months (9 years) imprisonment followed by supervised release for the remainder of his natural life, Libman was also ordered to pay $1,600.00 in special assessments, and agreed to forfeit all criminal proceeds to pay restitution. Jeff Pierson was sentenced to 67 months (approximately 6 years) imprisonment to be followed by 10 years of supervised release. Marc Evan Greenberg was sentenced to 33 months (approximately 3 years) imprisonment followed by 3 years of supervised release. Greenberg agreed to forfeit all criminal proceeds to pay restitution.
Azov Films (Canada and Eastern Europe)
- See also, BoyWiki's full list of articles detailing these events.
Azov Films, first known as MovieBizz and later renamed Baikal Films, was a company with business offices in Canada that operated for over ten years until May 2011. The company specialized in commercial coming of age and nudist films featuring young boys that were shot in Ukraine, Romania and Moldova. Azov nudist films showed naked preteen boys having fun at home, sauna or at the pool, with no sex involved. The company, 4PSP Inc., was first investigated by Canadian police in 2006, but nothing illegal was found.
Toronto Police Service raided the company business offices 1st of May 2011 arresting the owner Brian Way, they seized business records containing customer purchases dating back many years and passed it on to governments around like the world including Australia, Spain, Norway, Mexico and the United States. Those countries started to arrest anybody who had bought the films and charged them with child porn. During a Toronto Police Service press conference, the word naturist was hardly mentioned by the spokeswoman, using the term "child sex abuse" instead. In order to describe images of nude boys, a few press articles mentioned, in a now cliché manner, that the films contained "horrific sexual abuse" and "some of the most horrific images ever seen". Yet, the affidavits of the arrests, quote law enforcement inspector testimonies claiming that the videos show "lascivious exhibition of genitals" and "sexually explicit conduct", also claiming that only 160 videos out of the over 600 that Azov Films sold have been classified as "child pornography". Law enforcement affidavits mention that detectives used customer's email addresses to subpoena email providers and ISPs to confirm that the email used to make the order matched credit card details, law enforcement also used computer IP, date and time the purchase order took place, all of this data was extracted from Azov Films servers and the manager's laptop.
"Victim" testimony follows:
Cristi became a well-known draw on Azovfilms.com, receiving top billing and a steady following. “I have no anger” towards Roth, says Cristi, now 18. “It was not such a big deal as everyone made out.”
Formerly legal content, inc. hardcore (mainly 1970s)
- See also: List of MAP-related magazines.
Color Climax, a well known Danish porn company still in business, was one of the few studios openly advertising in the seventies that they produced child pornography videos (Wikipedia source), its "Lolita" video series featured young girls with men, women, or other children, some of the titles produced by Colour Climax included "Incest Family", "Pre-Teen Sex", "Sucking Daddy" and "Child Love". COQ International was another Danish company producing child pornography, they specialized in boys, one of their magazines, "Piccolo", contained a mix of hardcore and soft core child porn photographs, another magazine called "Boy", consisted of mere nudity, they also produced another magazine called "Uncle Joe". Other European productions were "Anna and her Father" and "Bambina Sex" (Danish). In the Netherlands a magazine with prepubescent girls called "Lolita" was published. Child porn magazines had very little text consisting of sexual caption on the photos, most pages were printed in black and white, but the frontpage was always in color. Up until recently, most of the hardcore youth erotica found on the Internet consisted of low-quality grainy photographs from scans of those magazines produced 40 years ago.
For a short time in the late 1970s Playboy Magazine published nude images of minor girls; French model Eva Ionesco appeared in the Italian edition of the magazine at age 11 in 1976 and again on the cover of the Spanish edition in 1978. Playboy published nude photographs of a 10-year-old Brooke Shields in the United States in a 1976 publication entitled Sugar 'n' Spice. Though courts have held that the images of Shields do not technically constitute pornography, they still demonstrate a brief period when the prevalence of pedohebephilic impulses among men was culturally acknowledged.
In a 2021 interview in The Guardian, Brooke Shields was asked if she felt harmed by her participation in sexually-oriented films and nude photo shoots as a young girl. She responded, "there's something incredibly seductive about youth... I think it just has different forms and it's how you survive it, and whether you choose to be victimized by it. It's not in my nature to be a victim."
Politically-correct alternatives and their limitations
Most people who become politically engaged on the topic of "Child Pornography", or prohibited images of minors in general, prefer to use alternative terminology. There is presently no agreement on what form this should take.
More recently, a politically correct term, CSAM (Child Sexual Abuse Material) has come into use, particularly by eliminationists such as INHOPE. However, since most such material is now produced by minors, this term and the idea that all such material can be eliminated, is inherently problematic and has implications for civil liberties. It should also be noted that most such minor pornographers are in fact teenagers and not prepubescent children, who feature in a tiny minority of such material despite being of greater importance to investigators. Some investigations would also appear to contest the idea that the rarer, adult produced "CSAM" meets widely accepted scientific definitions of "abuse". Instead, such material may only violate legal statutes passed many years after production.
The UK's Internet Watch Foundation uses "Child Sexual Abuse Imagery", implying (as with the similar "CSAM") that self-capture of nudity and masturbation is a form of self "abuse" by a "child" unto him or herself (see prohibited images of children).
"Youth Erotica" (libertarian)
A more accurate term for the genre would be "Youth Erotica" (or Child Erotica for prepubescent material), although libertarian terms have not seen widespread use due to the legal schemes in most western countries (see Child Pornography Laws, or Wikipedia's piece on the legality of CP).
The "child erotica" variant has seen some use in US law for reasons other than its accuracy. "Child Erotica" images of clothed children are deemed to be inappropriate if they arouse "lewd, prurient or sensual" desires, and have thus introduced a lower bar than CP laws.
Law enforcement as promoters
Much of the panic surrounding CP spans from the efforts of target-chasing law enforcement agents, who are known to confect nonexistent examples of CP (a typical method is labeling an entire collection "CP" if it contains but a few suspect titles) and even actively peddle it through the dark web.
Hyping non-existent "CP"
There have been many examples of mislabeling "child pornography" to create sensational "scoops" for the media. In 2021, California's Central Valley Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force claimed that Michael Martin was found in posession of "more than 1,000 DVDs containing videos of children being raped" [our emphasis], adding "detectives consider this to be one of the largest collections of child pornography they have ever come across in an investigation". In the first story, a photograph of what appears to be numerous rip-off DVDs and a small number of commercial (i.e. legal) titles was published. The reason for censoring the titles of those commercial DVDs was at the time unclear. Suspicions about the veracity of these claims were later confirmed in 2022 after Martin's sentencing, when more detailed photographs of the collection were published, revealing well-known commercial "twink" gay porn labels such as Eastboys and Sex Slaves of Sodom, which even has its own IMDB page. The reason for censoring the initial image was therefore likely to be the potential embarrassment caused to law enforcement upon identification of banal pornography. Despite Martin's lawyer confirming that the CP element of the collection related to a small removable hard drive, trafficking-conspiracy influencer An Open Secret went on to use the images of perfectly legal material to repeat the original claims in a Twitter thread that went on to be shared over 5,000 times.
Law enforcement departments are considered to be one of the primary distributors of "CP". Indeed, as early as 1990 at a southern California police seminar, the LAPD's R. P. "Toby" Tyler proudly announced as much. The government had shellacked the competition, he said; now law enforcement agencies were the sole reproducers and distributors of child pornography.
In the famous, and more recent instance of "Childs Play", Australian police took over a million-user CP forum for 11 months in 2016-2017. During this period, the number of posts containing one or more CP images were said to have effectively trebled, from 4500 to over 12,000, many of which were posted by LEOs themselves. The parent of one girl even went so far as to insist that the police officers who circulated images of her daughter should have paid her:
My daughter should not be used as a bait. If they are using her images, then she should be paid or compensated for their use. It is not right for the police to promote these images, says the mother.
A threat to civil liberties?
Corporations and governments have abused CP to increase surveillance and crack down on encryption. Apple, for example, once planned to search every image on their devices without the consent of the owners, only backing down after mass uproar. In 2022, the UK government launched the No Place to Hide campaign, abusing figures and yet largely failing in an attempt to provoke public outrage against the use of encryption.
American lawmakers have also attempted to use "CP" as an excuse push over-broad and unconstitutional laws against LGBTQ+ books in school libraries and mainstream pornographic websites, especially those that allow user-generated content. Such laws would usher in potentially limitless surveillance of porn consumption, using "any means deemed necessary" at the time, to verify users' age for entirely unscientific reasons. At the same time, websites with exponentially larger CP "problems" such as Twitter, Facebook/Meta and other mainstream social media would be virtually untouched. In one early-20s example, a political organization (NCOSE) campaigning for such reforms could only find 14 such examples of (suspected) CP on the "adult" websites it was targeting, despite the total number of reports running to 29.3 million throughout all media.
Criminalization of CP/Youth Erotica took place mainly in the post-70s era, sometimes gradually. Subsequent attempts at liberalization have been few and far between.
In 2007, a bill modifying Hungary's penal code was proposed, which would legalize the production and posession of erotica involving 14 to 17-year-olds. The Justice Ministry said the draft proposal, presented by Hungarian Justice Minister Jozsef Petretei, was in line with European Union norms which give members states the right to regulate the issue at national level.
- For a comprehensive list of articles, see Category:Child_Pornography.
To avoid confusion of this topic, we constructed a series of articles that relate to this issue:
- Child Pornography Laws - Links to present laws.
- Indecent images of children - UK Laws.
- Research: Child Pornography
- Child Pornography (Wikipedia) - Archive of an old Wikipedia article (Censored article, as of 2008).
- List of MAP-related magazines - Some reference to nudist/erotica titles and banned mail-order video services.
In addition to this, all of the following may or may not be considered child porn:
- Boy Photography
- Girl Photography
- Non-photographic erotica involving minors, including literature and cartoons.
Our research article on CP also contains numerous articles on this topic, including official manipulation of statistics.
- Omegle - One mainstream video chat site said to be a hub of Youth Erotica.
- Hyping up the numbers - Examples of how statistics are manipulated.
- The Cook Report, 1987. Cook confronts "child-pornographers" - Roger Cook investigates the low-level production of CP, at the end of the 80s, when the crackdown was beginning.
- Wortley, Richard; Stephen Smallbone. "Child Pornography on the Internet". Problem-Oriented Guides for Police. No. 41: 17. "The children portrayed in child pornography are first victimized when their abuse is perpetrated and recorded. They are further victimized each time that record is accessed."
- Sheldon, Kerry; Dennis Howitt (2007). Sex Offenders and the Internet. John Wiley and Sons. p. 9. ISBN 978-0-470-02800-1. "... supplying the material to meet this demand results in the further abuse of children Pictures, films and videos function as a permanent record of the original sexual abuse. Consequently, memories of the trauma and abuse are maintained as long as the record exists."
- Prostasia Foundation on Harms of "CSAM"
- Human Stupidity: Voodoo Abuse
- Judge Weinstein: NY Times
- Gayle Rubin - see towards end of video
- Sen. Hawley questions Judge Jackson’s discretion, judgment
- Wikipedia - Child Pornography
- Wikipedia - New York v. Ferber
- Wikipedia - Osborne v. Ohio
- Allen Man Caught With 58 Terabytes Of Child Porn Sentenced To 35 Years
- KidsChat archive
- Wikipedia: LS Series
- Anarchopedia: LS Series
- Webe Web video testimony example 1 - backup, example 2 - backup
- LiGiHeaven: Webe Web
- Wikipedia: Webe Web
- Child porn bust: Anatomy of an international child pornography investigation
- BoyChat Thread
- 348 people arrested in child-porn case connected to Canadian firm
- Richard Keller Affidavit
- Gerard Silva Affidavit
- Gerald Denault Affidavit
- Phillip Woolery Criminal Complaint
- Nicholas Sysock Criminal Complaint
- Josh Ensley Criminal Complaint
- Ryan Bieler Criminal Complaint
- Child porn bust: How one man seduced an entire village
- Eva Ionesco’s “Playboy” Magazine Photos: Their Youngest and Most Controversial Model
- Was Brooke Shields Photographed for ‘Playboy’ at Age 10?
- Resurfaced 1978 Article Sexualizing Brooke Shields, 12, Sparks Outrage
- IWF 2021 Annual Report
- After The Fall: Mentioned Youth Erotica within this context in 2015
- Central California Man Arrested In Case Of Huge Child Porn Cache
- Less than a year in jail for Fresno man who had child pornography videos
- MSN - More detailed photos
- Sex Slaves of Sodom - IMDB
- An Open Secret Twitter thread (before amassing 5000+ shares)
- Seminar at University of Southern California, according to James Kincaid.
- VG - Investigation into a CP Investigation
- EFF - Playpen case
- Vice - Playpen case
- Prostasia on Apple
- Rolling Stone - UK No Place To Hide campaign
- The @ukhomeoffice-funded #NoPlaceToHide campaign claims that “14 million reports” of child abuse may be “lost” if @Messenger implements #endtoendencryption. Here’s a horrible thought … (By Dropsafe)
- Why we need #EndToEndEncryption and why it’s essential for our safety, our children’s safety, and for everyone’s future #noplacetohide (By Dropsafe)
- LGBTQ Nation: Proposed library ban on LGBTQ Books
- PROTECT Act - Overbroad
- NBC News: Twitter under Elon Musk is still a hive of CP
- NCMEC CyberTipLine Data 2022
- YNOT: NCOSE/Facebook
- USA Today: Hungary may legalize porn involving 14- to 17-year-olds for home use
- Omegle: Children expose themselves on video chat site