A horrible crime was committed in Toronto over a year ago. It involved the kidnapping, sexual assault and murder of a little girl, only ten years old. Today, the killer had his day in court and pleaded guilty to all charges, closing the book on the case.
Some of the facts that came out about the crime are beyond frightening. The sheer randomness of the attack and the time it took for the entire crime leaves you with a feeling of total helplessness to prevent something similar. As a parent, it makes me want to tie the strings even tighter.
This particular guy, was a time bomb. By his own admission, this was a fantasy he had his entire life. This particular night, after viewing child porn on the Internet, he acted. He stepped out his door, saw this girl, grabbed her, dragged her into his house, raped her, and killed her in a period of twenty-five minutes! By the time her parents had begun to get concerned about her absence, she had already been dead for half an hour.
The role that child porn played in this crime will be the source of much discussion for years to come. Suffice it to say, it will likely, rightfully, lead to tougher penalties handed out to possessors, distributors and creators of child porn. Good!
But another, more disturbing issue has been raised. There is a call for penalties to be handed out to ISP's who distribute child porn. Now, any ISP that knowingly distributes such material, either directly or through knowledge of one of its clients, should be penalized. Penalized with all the force available to the law. But, the mere fact that their service was used is not a crime. If people use that service for illegal activities, and hide that fact from their ISP, the ISP cannot be held responsible.
I may be sensitive because this is my industry, but think of the similar case in non-Internet terms. Is the postal service responsible for the contents of its packages? Is the telephone company responsible for the content of the phone calls carried out on its lines? The postal service, being a government operation, actually has the right (I think) to open its packages. The phone company has to be ordered by a legal power.
An ISPs business is probably more closely related to a public storage facility. The storage facility's contract specifically tells you that you can't use their facilities for illegal purposes, but beyond that, they really can't do anything. If you store stolen goods there, they are not the ones who committed the crimes. In fact, I don't even believe that they can open the unit to look.
The Internet scares people. But it is not the problem. We need to focus on the real criminals. With child porn, we really need to go after the producers; they are hurting children. Go after the distributors - the ones who know they are distributing it. Go after the consumers - they fuel the demand. But you can't attack the medium. That would be like banning paper because it was used to publish illegal magazines.
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