This would have been a few-line comment on G+, but I’m noting some things that I’m not comfortable saying without sourcing, and google plus’ stupid one-link-per-post system makes it impossible to do that. This is all, at the very least, uncomfortable to think about.
I’ve been watching the reddit/kiddie porn kerfuffle today, and it is a nice framework to think about some recurring social issues. Just to put a summary and disclaimer up front exploiting children is unequivocally bad but that is never what the discussion ends up being about.
It makes a fabulous internet microcosm example of the usual course of pedophilia accusations: There are some distasteful (but, apparently, for the most part not illegal) things posted, someone notices, and it immediately turns into axe-grinding, bandwagoning, and trying to shut down an entire site because OMG think of the children irreparably harmed by possibly sexualized images of possibly minors. I’ll go ahead and note that there was some genuinely bad shit showing up, but the standard “take down anything that is illegal in the jurisdiction our servers are in” mechanism that has to be handled anywhere there is user submitted content should have been catching that – and justly needs to be fixed anywhere it wasn’t.
The fact that SomethingAwful is leading the charge, and is a for-pay internet community (notably, one that used to be a big hub of ‘net culture and …isn’t very relevant lately) even gets the ubiquitous “using accusations for ulterior purposes” aspect in.
The related discussions are rolling into the various corners of
Legalizing child pornography is linked to lower rates of child sex abuse and Australia banning pornography featuring small-breasted women as CP messes (both from 2010), and the whole “why the fuck is Toddlers in Tiaras OK” issue that remind us how stupid the whole area has become.
It also makes an interesting study about legality and the Internet. Pretty much every part of the Internet condones things that are regionally illegal, be it political speech, prohibited drugs, copyright infringement, various flavors of hate speech, or pornography. Different sections of our global society feel differently about all those things, and calls for selective condemnation tend to lack the self-awareness to note that the same moralizing applied to the parts they approve of would be reprehensible. To pick the easiest example: the United States cheering online political speech and social modernization/liberalization in the middle east during the “Arab Spring” while advancing Internet censorship in most other circles.
The fact that international law still can’t handle telecommunications too often makes concerns about legality of publicly visible content into a race to the most restrictive – or at least race to the biggest bully – situation. I have no idea what the solution to that is, but I’m becoming increasingly convinced that it will have to be a technical solution with resignment to a certain acceptable level of transgression by all parties.
Once again, I hate how Richard Stallman keeps being right (I’ve seen better versions of the point, but can’t find a link) about horrible things.