Peculiarities of Cyberspace

Governance without government

All over the world people worry about the internet. Especially when cyberpornography is concerned there are calls on all sides for measures that should protect our children against the virtual obscenities that can be unlocked with only one mouse click. If illegal and potentially damaging content should be regulated on the internet the question is: how can this be done?

Although the internet is no ‘lawless place’ [Reidenberg 1996], it is a fundamental challenge for effective political leadership and governance. There are laws and rules, but the identities of the regulators and the instruments used to maintain the rules do not fit in the classical patterns of regulation. In modern societies social regulation has developed within the physical boundaries of time and space. The development of cyberspace has disconnected her inhabitants from local checks and from the physical boundaries of nationality, sovereignty and government. The idea of ‘governance without government’ is probably the best approach for the internet. But anyhow: if new mechanisms of international control and regulation have to be put into operation, the role of the nation-states is crucial in this process.

There are no univocal or simple solutions for the regulation of illegal and damaging material on the internet. Not only because the exact definition of violations (such as childporno) differs from country to country, but also because that which is considered to be damaging is highly dependent on cultural differences. In each country there are differnt (majority) opinions about the borderline between what is permissible and not permissible. Who wants to offer solutions in this field should look for a multiple solution. This multiple regulation is a mixture of national/international legislation, and self-imposed regulation by users and Internet Service Providers (ISP's).

“The answer to the challenge will be a combination of self-control of the service providers, new technical solutions such as rating systems and filtering software, awareness actions for parents and teachers, information on risks and possibilities to limit these risks and of international co-operation’ [EC, Communication Paper 1996].

We can distinguish two forms of regulation: (1) the regulation of potentially damaging content such as pornography on the internet, and (2) the regulation of the in every case illegal content such as childpornography. These are of course different themes and should not be mixed up. A regulating action, meant to protect a certain group of people such as children, should not degenerate into an unconditioned prohibition of the distribution of pornographic material via the internet, when this material is freely available to adults in other media.


The internet is not only externally regulated by rules of law imposed by governments, but also knows several forms of internal regulation. It is a matter of regulation or selfregulation when persons, groups or organizations operating on the internet impose norms and rules of conduct on themselves. This standardization of personal internet behaviour can be realized on several levels: (1) by the users themselves, (2) by groups or organizations that maintain websites, chatrooms, discussion forums and so on, (3) by internet providers who offer people access to the internet, and (4) by national and international organizations and networks that determine internet standards. So, in selfregulation the 'self' each time refers to different types of actors.

Selfregulation knows a number of actors. Besides, the standardization of internet behaviour can take several shapes: from formulating ethical codes of behaviour (netiquette), setting up explicit rules of behaviour, use of filter-software to bar undesired or criminal websites, to the removal of undesired material from servers that are under direct control.

Selfregulation by users: self-censorship
The first and most primary level of selfregulation is established by the individual users of the internet. Individual users can protect themselves against undesired pornographic or illegal childpornographic material by avoiding websites which publish this material or by excluding as much as possible with the help of filter-software. Individual users are citizens of the internetworld who operate according to rules of behaviour ('netiquette') they impose on themselves. They can close the access to certain parts of the internet on their own initiative, with the help of pornofilters. Individual internetusers who in some way or another have become addicted to the broad supply of cyberporno will have to find special help and specific therapy.

Parents First"Cyberporn should primarily be controlled by encouraging the development of technology which enables parents to control and limit children's access to objectionable content. The interactive nature of the computer communications makes this approach possible" [Mashima/Hirose 1996: From Dial-a-Porn to Cyberporn]

The primary responsibility for the protection of children who make use of the internet is in the hands of the parents. Many parents accept this responsibility by drawing up house rules or by being present when their children go online. However, research indicates that most parents do not control when their children are online and that children are good at getting round these house rules. Only a small percentage uses filter-software, products promising that children will not be confronted with undesired material. Selfregulation of private persons can be realized by self-censorship via filters.

There are several digital chaperones for children: Cybersitter, NetNanny, NetWatch, SafeSurf,Solcon SurfControl, RSAC. These filters place themselves between the webbrowser of the computer and the internet connection. They prevent undesired content from coming through. There are three ways to decide whether a site has to be blocked.

  1. Software analysis
    The content of a website is quickly analysed by software; the presence of certain phrases or images can lead to it that the site is regarded as unwanted. Problem: melons are erroneously interpreted as (silicon)breasts or certain words (such as “adult.html”) are mistakenly identified as pornographic. Moreover, information and discussions on breast cancer and contraceptives are blocked by the inaccuracy of such filter programmes.
  2. Human analysis
    The sites are individually inspected by staff members and subsequently placed on a list with blocked sites. The weakness of this methodology is not only that it is very time-consuming, but especially that not all sites can be checked. Furthermore, it remains extremely difficult to make a list of culturally pluralist criteria that can be accepted internationally.
  3. Site labelling
    In this case use is made of a rating-system of a third party, for example the Internet Content Rating Association (ICRA). These third parties promise an 'objective' labelling of content. The weakness of this methodology is that site labelling is dependent on the honesty with which sites rate themselves.

The question is who accounts for the appreciation of sites. Is it a matter of 'first-party rating' by content providers: owners of websites rate their own pages? Or is it a matter of 'third-party rating' by special organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League, Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) or by companies such as CyberSitter or NetNanny?

Is there a pornofilter in the streets?

Why would parents put a pornofilter on the internet if their children are menaced by pornographic material in the streets, on TV and in the cinema as well? Moreover, by using a pornofilter parents and caretakers aren't discharged of their responsibility to place eroticism and porno in a proper framework, that is a framework with its own cultural and moral values. Parents raise their children in completely diverse ways. But all of them should realize that if children absolutely want to see 'nude girls' or 'sex' they will know how to find the intended sites, with tricks and a little help from their friends. 
Many youngsters have a lively trade of images, animations and films, without their parents knowing. Youngsters learn very quickly that many programmes and methods are already available that inactivate all known blocking-software. A by now familiar example is Peacefire, operating under the challenging phrase: "It's not a crime to be smarter than your parents".

Can a technological instrument be the replacement of the watchful eye of the parents? Is the present generation filtering software better than her predecessors? Some filters are way too simplistic and some are way too complex to be handled effectively. According to the consumer's report of Netsmart filterering or blocking software is no substitute for parental supervision, because most filters don't succeed in blocking more than just a part of the undesired sites. In a more recent survey of the Consumers' Organization Solcon turned out to be the best, with a score of nearly 90 percent.

What more can parents do to protect their children from undesired internet-documents and help them move safely on the internet? Parents who visit sites they don't want their children to see can destroy the files of the browser on the PC. They can check the most recent online activities of their children by inspecting the 'history' list and the bookmarks. Parents can place the computer in the living-room or in another open area of the house ('high-traffic places'), so that they can see what their child is doing on the internet. They can use child-friendly search machines (Yahooligans or AskJeeves for Kids). And finally, they can teach their children a number of rules, such as:

My Internet Rules

  1. Without my parents’ permission I will not provide personal information, such as my address, phone number, work address or business phone number of my parents, or the name and place of my school.
  2. I will immediately inform my parents if I find information that makes me feel weird, sad, or uncomfortable.
  3. I will never make an appointment with someone I met on the internet without asking my parents' permission first. If my parents consent I will see to it that it happens in a public place and that my father or mother will join me.
  4. I will never send someone a picture of myself or something else without asking my parents first.
  5. I will not react to messages which are malicious or which make me feel uncomfortable some way or another. If that happens anyway I will tell my parents immediately so that they can contact the online service.
  6. I will talk with my parents to draw up rules for the use of internet. We then decide on the time of day I can use the internet, how long I can use it, and which areas are good for me to visit.
  7. I will not download anything from someone I do not know.

Children's chatting requires special attention. For many teenagers chat is the main reason to go online. Children like to take up a fake identity: they enjoy adopting a wonderful 'persona' in a role-play. Chat is the part of cyberspace where children sooner run the risk of getting into trouble when they don't have some simple guidelines. Chat is a kind of electronic playground where anyone can be anyone, whether they are children or adults. In the playgrounds of the local world there is often some supervision and there children are usually not visited by strangers. In electronic playgrounds there are no places where children and parents can make use of all sensory impressions about people and situations as they would in a local playground. This requires some basic wisdom on the part of the chatters of all ages, and – when children are concerned – attentiveness on the part of the parents. It helps when responsible adults monitor the chatroom, but there is no replacement for parental attentiveness.

It occurs regularly that children are sexually abused by a paedophile they met in a chatbox. Who wants to prevent this kind of excesses should pay attention to the indications for 'unwanted contact'.

  • Someone keeps asking for more information, without giving much in return about himself.
  • The child receives a lot of messages from the same unfamiliar person.
  • Requests for photos, personal contact information (phone number, email, street or school address), or other personal questions.
  • Requests to meet each other at a certain place.
  • Many compliments or excessive interest in the child (taking advantage of the vulnerability of children who feel lonely or excluded).

When children are very secretive about the online activity or close the screen every time parents enter the room, it is a sign that there could be problems.

What can parents do to help their children to feel safe on the internet?

  1. It's not a crime to be smarter than your  parentsThey place the computer in a public part of the house, where they can see what their child is doing on the internet.
  2. They install software, with which the type of information their child gets via the internet can be filtered or restricted. Because filters cannot stop everything that is damaging, parents check the information their child receives themselves.
  3. They talk to their children about their use of the internet. How do you use it? Do you see to it that you get to know their online friends as well as their local friends? What are your favourite internet sites?

Pornofilters can also be misused. In an irritating campaign of CompuServe women are stimulated to curb their husband's surf-behaviour in a 'decent sense'. They even go as far as recommending the filter because it blocks sites with 'sex' and 'nudity'. In this way also websites with good, educational, instructional information and sexually transmittable diseases are put in the closet. This is how conservative 'moral crusaders of the information society' conceal their hidden agenda in filtering programmes.

Apart from selfregulation by individual users and by parents there is another level of selfregulation by users: selfregulation by organizations. Companies and institutions that offer their personnel access to the internet can take a series of selfregulating measures. Within the company or institution ethic codes of behaviour can be formulated and established, complaint committees can be set up that function as a incident and control room for undesired online sexual harassment. Also, general or specific filters can be placed which see to it that staff members don't get access to undesired or illegal material. In many schools and libraries filterprogrammes have been installed by now to block access to unwanted websites. The Evangelical Broadcasting Corporation, which wants to clear the web from porno, violence and racism, offers 'clean access' to the internet by means of FilterNet.

  • Useful Websites
  • Besafeonline
    Offers advice and information to parents about (un)safety of the internet.
  • Cybercoaching
    A course safe internetting for professional educators of children and youngsters. The course is offered by the De Kinderconsument (Children's Consumer Organization in the Netherlands).
  • Kinderconsument
    Apart from useful information and self-tests for children and youngsters the Children's Consumer organizes amongst others the computerfilter-test for and by youngsters.
  • Surf op Safe
    Information for consumer and small businesses on safe use of the internet. With useful tips for children, parents and teachers, backgrounds and links to other sites.
  • Stichting Veilig Online
    Offers tips for safe surfing for teachers, parents and children.
  • Veiligophetweb (Safeontheweb)
    Information on filtering, viruses, privacy, hackers and payments. An initiative of the Safe Internet Foundation (SIF), founded by the Internet Society Netherlands in 1999.

In the selfregulation of online groups, networks, organizations or communities the emphasis is on social control by means of ethical codes of behaviour (netiquette) and more or less strongly formalized codes of behaviour. Institutionalising filters by organizations meets with the same problems as were discussed before.

Selfregulation by internet providers
The fourth level of selfregulation is the issueing of rules by the internet service providers (ISP's). Providers can for instance decide that on their servers pornographic material by definition has to be put behind an 'adult check' (age control), so that it is not or much more difficult accessible to children under 16. Also providers themselves can take measures against childpornographic material.

In May 1997 the Dutch Association of Internet Providers (NLIP) for this purpose —together with internet users, the Central Information and Investigation Service (CRI) and the ECPAT— started the Cybertipline Childporno (Meldpunt Kinderporno), which in the future will be expanded to other offences, such as Cybertipline Discrimination Internet (MDI). Together with police/justice and European and international institutions, the Dutch internetproviders exert themselves to remove illegal and according to the Dutch legislation and rules forbidden information as soon as possible from the internet. But the providers also make clear that they can't prevent that somewhere on the internet there is information that can be watched in The Netherlands too. Considering the international character of the internet and the constitutional prohibition of censorship ('freedom of speech'), this import of illegal material is very hard to combat.

In September 1996 the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) was set up in England. The IWF has an email, telephone and fax hot-line where users can report material related to childporno and other illegal or obscene material. The IWF informs all providers when she has localized undesired content.

CyberTiplines childporno

For effective action against childporno the various cybertiplines should cooperate more closely. This is already complicated on the European level due to the large differences in legislation of the member states and due to the diverse background of the cybertiplines. In order to improve the cooperation between the cybertiplines the European Committee has set up a special programme, Internet Hotline Providers in Europe (INHOPE). Inhope aims at a safe environment for internet users in which children are protected and the privacy and dignity of European citizens are respected. The programme is under supervision of Childnet International, a non-governmental organization fighting for the interests of children. Within the scope of the 'Action-plan for a safe Internet' the European Committee has provided money for Inhope.

It is incorrect to assume that providers alone can be held responsible for the content that is published on the internet by a third party. The real problem lies elsewhere: in the local and not in the virtual world, where childpornographic material is made. As long as such material is produced, there can never be a complete solution for her availability via the internet. The internet is simply a new and convenient medium for paedophiles who like to distribute such material.

Those who offer forbidden material via the internet commit a criminal fact. But also go-betweens or intermediaries can be held responsible for expression crimes (such as racism, childpornography) which are committed on the internet. Internet providers are intermediaries who, just like all other citizens, have their own “responsibility according to the law”[section 7, paragraph 1 Constitution]. When providers pay too little care to the publication or distribution of certain information, and know or can reasonably know that punishable material is concerned, they are possibly guilty of a distributional crime or complicity therein.

Selfregulation of pornobusiness
Many webpages with sexually explicit material protect themselves with passwords that require a credit card number. Adultcheck, for example, is one of the important American enterprises that regulate webpages with sexually explicit (read: erotic or pornographic) content. The system requires that both the consenting adults and the providers be registered by paying subscribers to get username and passwords. In this way the pornobusiness tries to regulate itself. This is to their own advantage, because they want to secure the substantial profit that is made in the pornobusiness every year. According to estimates pornography (including childpornography) is a business of 8 to 10 milliard dollar per year. It is also said that apart from drugs and gambling it is the best money spinner of organized crime.

Selfregulation of international organizations and networks
There are several international organizations and networks that exert themselves to combat sexual abuse of children (and thereof derived childpornography) and to protect children against damaging material. They inform and do research, they initiate actions and play watchdog. They form an international network of observation posts in order to regulate the internet effectively.

Paedophile Sextourism
In some parts of tourist industry (travel companies, tour operators, guides) a 'Code of Conduct' is developed, intended to counteract paedophile sex tourism. In the Swedish tourist industry proposals have been made to formulate ethical rules with regard to paedophile sex tourism, to train the staff (home and abroad) on the theme paedophile sex tourism, build in special clauses in contracts with hotels and other partners, and provide information to travellers.

One of those international organizations is ECPAT [End Child Prostitution, Pornography and Trafficking]. This non-governmental institution organizes several actions and campaigns against sexual exploitation of children and against childpornography. The ECPAT concentrates her actions on combating childpornography on the internet, and on the protection of children online. Moreover, she campaigns against childprostitution in Asian tourism. A number of tourist and travel companies have shown as well that they are prepared to turn their backs to child-sextourism.

The Unesco, too, has taken actions against childpornography. In January 1999, under the auspices of the Unesco, a worldwide action group was set up that wants to advance safe navigation on the internet by children and youngsters and at the same time protect them against paedophilia-related crimes on the internet. They want to make the internet a safe place for children, without endangering the freedom of speech. The Declaration and Action Planemphasizes that protecting children on the internet is not a matter of censorship.

  • “Child protection on the Internet is not a matter of censorship. Creating a safe environment for children online must preserve and enhance fundamental liberties, such as freedom of expression, freedom of information and the right to privacy, while ensuring their right to protection from harmful and illegal material.”

That protection of children on the internet is necessary appears from a study of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). This study shows that one out of five children who use the internet was sexually approached (in many cases by other adolescents and teenagers), and that one out of four children was involuntarily exposed to pornography.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) develops technologies (specifications, guidelines, software and instruments) that have to see to it that the Web is able to develop its full potential as a forum for information, commerce, communication and mutual understanding. For the regulation of (child)pornography this organization isn’t very interesting. All the same the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) makes an important contribution to the levelling of barriers that block the entrance of the internet for the handicapped (the blind and partially sighted, the deaf and hard of hearing). "The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regeardless of disability is an essential aspect" [Tim Berner-Lee, W3C director and inventor of the WWW].

External regulation: laws and force

Fighting crimes and tackling criminals
The availability and distribution of childporno should be counteracted, on and outside the internet. Police and justice make no distinction between an offence committed in the Amsterdam Red Light District or on the international internet. The main concern of judicial and police authorities, however, is the prevention of child abuse – i.e. involving children in the production of pornography – and not the victimless discussions and fantasies of adults.

Childporno doesn't only exist of visual material of the 'crime scene' of sexual abuse and exploitation of children, but is also a potential instrument for future criminal abuse and exploitation of other children. In many countries childporno is regarded as 'immoral' and 'illegal'. The Dutch legislation is aimed at combating childporno on the internet and outside. Yet, many paedophiles operate on an international level. The producers and distributors of childporno should be the central target group, and not so much the possessors.

The government's action is directed towards both the production and distribution of childpornography on the internet (and elsewhere) and the distribution of sexually explicit material that is inappropriate for children. Such a regulating action, however, should not take the shape of an unconditional prohibition of the use of the internet to distribute erotic or pornographic material, when this is freely accessible for adults in other media.

International Conventions and Treaties
Internationally there is great consensus that childporno should be counteracted. But there is dissension about the way this should be done. In some countries there is hardly any legislation against abuse of children. This hampers international cooperation in both the research into childporno and collecting evidence against and extradition of childpornographers. Expert politicians agree that preparing effective laws and possibilities for law enforcement should be tackled internationally.

In the Convention on the Rights of the Child of the United Nations, effective from September 1990, the states commit themselves “to protect the child from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse” [section 34]. The states commit themselves to take measures to prevent the child from being induced or forced to take part in illegal sexual activities, that children are exploited in prostitution or other illegal sexual practices, or that children are exploited in pornographic representations and pornographic material. The convention has been ratified by nearly all countries, except for the USA and Somalia.

European Recommendations
In 1998 the Council of Ministers of the European Union drafted a recommendation for the protection of minors against damaging media content. The EU acts as the protector of minors and human dignity (they are called ‘European values’). The protection of these general interests should, according to the Council, be based on the fundamental principles of respect for the personal privacy and freedom of speech [section 8 and 10 of the European Convention for human rights and fundamental privileges; section F.2 of the Convention concerning the European Union].

In the Recommendation a distinction is made between illegal content that invades the human dignity and content that is legal, but may damage minors in their physical, mental or moral development. According to the Council both problems require a different approach.

The Council advocates a reinforcement of national measures by communal coordination and exchange of good practices, while taking into account the “diversity of the cultures” and “national and local sensitivities”. They incite the business community to bring about a national and communal regulation-framework by cooperation between the business community and other parties involved. It is expected that this doesn't only lead to faster finding practical solutions for illegal and damaging content on the internet, but also that the flexibility is retained which is necessary to keep up with the rapid development of audiovisual and information-services. Finally the Council stresses the need for the start of departments for complaints and for transnational cooperation between the institutions that deal with the complaints.

Two years later the European Committee evaluated the implementation of the recommendations in the member states. Although encouraging results were achieved, the ministers also conclude that the users were insufficiently involved in determining, executing and evaluating national measures and initiatives [the relevant texts on European rules in the field of audiovisual media have been brought together].

Dutch legislation

Since November 1997 the judicial authorities has been actively searching for childporno on the internet. The developments on the internet are being watched and information is exchanged with foreign police authorities. For the Dutch legislator it is expressly “not the intention to protect a third party from examination of sexually stimulating visual material or to express certain moral views” [Aanwijzing Kinderporno]. On the basis of section 240b of the Criminal Code criminal prosecution can be executed in case of suspicion of childporno with the intention of protecting children against sexual abuse. “Sexual abuse of children and recording this abuse in images are serious threats for the mental and physical well-being of children” [Minister of Justice W. Sorgdrager, Note accompanying section 240b of 20.2.1995].

Law on Childpornography
Section 240b Criminal Code

  1. With an imprisonment not exceeding four years or a fine of the fifth category is punished he who distributes, openly exhibits, makes, imports, transports, exports or stocks an image —or a data carrier containing an image— of a sexual act, involving someone who apparently has not reached the age of eighteen yet.
  2. With an imprisonment not exceeding six years or a fine of the fifth category is punished he who makes a profession or habit of committing one of the crimes, described in the first paragraph.

According to the old law penal childpornography exists of an image of a sexual act, involving children up to the age of sixteen. Since the change of law in 2002 this has been changed into 18 years of age. The sexual act is related to the character and the context of the images.

Childporno consists of a series of connected and mutually benefiting criminal facts: sexual abuse of children, the production of thereon-based childpornography and the publication and trading of it. Obviously, the 'original' indecency offence, the actual sexual abuse of children, has to be suppressed vigorously. Taking action against the source of childpornography is not always possible, especially when it is produced outside the Netherlands. Effective combat of the production of childpornography goes hand in hand with effective criminal action against its production. Keeping childpornography in store (using it for private goals or for commercial exploitation) is also punishable now. “Having childpornography in stock builds directly or by means of distribution on and profits from indecency offences committed towards children” [Explanatory Memorandum].

Not punishable are images of fully or partly naked children. The picture of a youngster in a completely or partly naked state is usually an image of a non-sexual act, although such an image can have a sexually stimulating effect on some lovers of this type of images. Neither was punishable the production, distribution or possession of visual material in the production of which a real child not was involved, but in which a real sexual act is imitated ('fictitious childporno'). Criminal prosecution was until recently not desirable here, because no real person is involved. Modern computer-techniques enable the production of images that reproduce images that can hardly be distinguished from real ones. It was only a matter of childpornography when it pictured a sexual act in which a child is involved.

In January 2001 the Minister of Justice Korthals proposed a change in the Criminal Code, by which childporno from now on is also punishable when the pornographic character of the image has been obtained by digital montage, without the child having been actually abused. With the proposition to punish 'virtual' or 'fictitious' childpornography as well, the Minister joins the European convention against cybercrime of the European Council. The text declares itself against 'morphed' (produced from images) childpornography. In July 2002 the Dutch Upper Chamber agreed with a large majority with this change, as the Lower Chamber did earlier. In April of that same year the Supreme Court of the USA wiped the floor with a similar legal provision. According to the Court this prohibition of fictitious childporno was not up to the mark of the constitutional protection of freedom of speech. The Court was not impressed by the argument that virtual childporno could be used to tempt real children or encourage paedophiles to abuse children.

Surveillance on the internet
Many people think themselves safe on the internet and believe they can hide themselves completely anonymously behind their computers. They don't realize how many traces they leave behind and don't take trouble to protect their surf and download behaviour. With striking success and in a very short time internetteams of the police have searched for childporno on the internet. In August and September 1998 The National Police Force started her virtual surveillances in one hundred selected newsgroups on the internet, which were suspected to distribute childporno. All messages and images that were sent in the newsgroups were filed in computers, inspected and registered. 2,556 Different pictures with childporno were found. In this way four distributors living in the Netherlands were traced. It shows that distributors of childporno are more easily traceable than they think.

Maintaining law and order in the WildWestWebIn July 1998 a childpornographic network was rounded up in the Netherlands which abused young toddlers and distributed images of this on the internet. In the house of a suspect from Zandvoort, —the German Gerry Ulrich who was killed in Italy and who was already convicted in June 1997 for committing a sexual offence with a 14 year-old boy— thousands of extremely shocking pictures were found. Some of the abused children were toddlers of twelve to fifteen months old. Even experienced specialists were shocked by the atrocities displayed. The child and youth psychologist W. Wolters has been keeping up with childporno for twenty-five years. This was the most gruesome material he had ever seen.
  • “In the childporno that I know there often is something of a game in it, something like temptation. Sometimes something like tenderness. It is abuse, but sometimes there are caresses, or a joke. The violence in these images is inconceivable, the filth without any feeling, very hard” [NRC, 21.7.98 - Dutch newspaper].
The question is whether the Netherlands, by its civil-liberal and —from an international point of view— even libertarian moral policy, has created a breeding-ground for childporno. The foreign press was rather unanimous on this point: the Netherlands was and is an important production and distribution country of childporno. 
The Zandvoort case has not only revealed that it is possible to collect and sell childpornographic images for years on end, without being punished.
  • “The Zandvoort childporno case has for the very first time made it very clear to many people what the properties are of the worldwide computernetwork Internet. Even after the confiscation of the computers and disc by the police the pornographic material remained (and remains) available via the internet. Internet is the medium with literally unlimited possibilities – everything obtainable of texts, pictures or sound in this world, can be endlessly reproduced and sent. Attempts of legislators, judges or users to draw up rules are quickly outmoded in the digital practice” [NRC, 1 August 1998].
Not until afterwards did it become clear that the Zandvoort childporno network was the work of just one dangerous amateur. There appeared to be no evidence of the existence of an international organization of producers of childpornography [statement of the Haarlem head officer of justice H. van Brummen on 26.4.99]. His network of paedophiles was a simple exchange mart. Ulrich copied his pictures from the internet, sold them out of range of the internet via his bulletin-board Apollo, and his customers put the pictures on the internet again. For police and justice especially the distribution of childporno via internet is a persistent and problem and difficult to fight.

In the past years the Dutch police have put the combat of childpornography higher on their priority list. Each force has at least an expert Youth and ??? that is occupied with this. The collaboration with external parties such as the Public Prosecutor and assistance has been extended. The information exchange has been improved by the construction of three databases. The national database of the National Police Force functions as a library and contains tens of thousands of pictures. The KIDS-system developed by the police Amsterdam-Amstelland functions as a criminal investigation department. The CICLAS-system of the central criminal investigation department of the National Police Force functions as a registration system and contains information on murder and indecency cases. Although the linking of these databases has not yet been realized, relevant information is exchanged in several ways.

The surveillance on the internet reacts to signals of childpornography. Distributors and producers of childprono are identified and virtual childporno networks are mapped with the help of information of the checkpoints and tiplines. Also tapping of and infiltrating in these networks belongs to the action repertoire.

In the Dutch legislation the production, distribution and possession of childporno is prohibited. Recently, in a number of countries the discussion has started as to the question whether surfing to childpornographic material should be forbidden as well. Canada will probably be the first country in the world where such a prohibition will be carried through. In 2002 the federal government of Ottawa prohibited surfing to childporno on the internet. Civil rights organizations —such as the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA)— fear that this will lead to the infringement of the freedom of speech. It cannot be denied that the freedom of the individual is restricted by such a new law. As always the freedom of one person limits almost by definition the freedom of another. The question remains how the rights of civilians are balanced in comparison with the rights of children. There are sound conventional and moral arguments in this case to let the children's rights prevail.

Information Resources

  1. CyberSex & CyberPorn - SocioSite
    Online resources on cybersex and cyberpornography.

  2. Social-pyschological resources- SocioSite

  3. Akdeniz, Yaman
  4. Benschop, Albert
  5. Bertelsmann
    Selbstregulierung von Internet-Inhalten
    The Bertellsman Association developend a system for self regulation with codes of conduct for the internet industry. It includes a rating and filtering system, internet hotlines and proposals for the prosecution of illegal content. The central message is that there must be created a filtering system for 'problematic content' that combines the right of freedom of information with the justified worries of parents and teachers that children shouldn't be exposed to any content.

  6. Bilstand, Blake T.
  7. Carlsson, Ulla [1999]
    Child Pornography on the Internet - Research and Information
    In: New from ICCVOS, 3(1): 4-5.

  8. Childnet International
    An international organization devoted to making the internet a safe place for children.

  9. Fournier de Saint Mauer, Agnès [1999]
    Sexual Abuse of Children on the Internet: A New Challenge for INTERPOL.
    Paper for the Expert Meeting at UNESCO on 18-19 January 1999. Specialized Crime Unit, Interpol General Secretariat.

  10. Hunt, A. / Wickham, G. [1994]
    Foucault and Law: Towards a Sociology of Law as Governance.
    Pluto Press.

  11. Hunt, Lynn [1996]
    The Invention of Pornography. Obscenity and the Origins of Modernity 1500-1800.
    Zone Books.

  12. Landis, David [1994]
    Sex, Laws & Cyberspace; Regulating Porn: Does it Compute?
    USA TODAY, Aug. 9, 1994.

  13. NRC
    Dossier Kinderporno

  14. NRC
    Dossier Filteren

  15. O'Connell, Rachel [1999] (University College, Cork, Ierland)
    Paedophile Networking and the Internet Newsgroups 
    In: New from ICCVOS, 3(1), 1999, pp. 6-7.

  16. Peacefire
    An anti-filtering youth organization offering extensive information on blocking methods of several programmes and methods to evade filtersoftware.

  17. PICS™
    The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) shows which means can be used to select and block material on the internet. The PICS specification enables labels (metadata) to be associated with internet content. It was designed to help parents and teachers control what children access on the inter net. But it also facilitates other uses for labels, including code signing and privacy.

  18. Reidenberg, Joel R. [1996]
    Governing Networks and Cyberspace Rule-Making.
    Emory Law Journal 45.

  19. UNESCO [1999]
    Children and Violence on the Screen
    Report from the Expert Meeting at UNESCO on Sexual Abuse of Children, Child Pornography and Paedophilia on the Internet. 18-19 januari, 1999.

  20. Wallace, J. / Mangan, M. [1996]
    Sex, Laws, and Cyberspace.
    New York: Henry, Holt, and Company.

  21. Williams, Nigel [1998]
    Content Rating and Blocking - Protecting Children and Maintaining Cultural Districtiveness
    In: New from ICCVOS, 2/1998, pp. 6-7.
    Williams is chief executive and founder of Childnet International.