The Russian Business Network was a cybercrime group based in Saint Petersburg which became known for their many illegitimate activities, one including the provision of child pornography. According to the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children, there were 1500 child pornography websites on the network.
Child pornography is defined as any form of content, whether it be photographs, computer-generated images or videos which depict a child in a sexual way. Such content was uploaded on the RBN network as RBN leader Flyman found pleasure from viewing such content. Therefore unlike the other illegitimate activities conducted where there was a financial aim, RNB initially hosted child pornography due to personal reasons.
However it was also later used as a trap to lure victims and steal credit card data. It eventually worked to their advantage, which was expected as child pornography is one of the fastest online growing businesses with an estimated annual revenue of $3 billion. Additionally, with such content published online, criminals are able to hide their identity and have a more global impact with access to greater number of victims. In this paper I will discuss the ethical issues raised in this case, referring to the main stakeholders involved and in particular focusing on the consequences the victimized children face.The first argument in question is freedom versus children’s rights. On one hand, viewers argue that due to Libertarianism, everyone is entitled to do what they want to do and have a choice in what they want to say.
In other words, from a libertarian perspective, viewers are allowed to watch child pornographic content. However, Child pornography is a form of sexual abuse. According to UNICEF’s Conventions of the Right of The Child, children have a right “to develop their full potential, free from hunger and want, neglect and abuse”. Additionally, if viewers have freedom of choice, why is child pornography an existing problem? The viewers’ argument is flawed, as does this mean that the children involved are willingly involved in the production of pornographic content? The cost of these sexual abusers satisfying their sexual fantasies and gratification is the deterioration of the children’s mental and psychological well-being. They may become emotionally unstable and suffer from depression, anxiety and low self-esteem. In the long term, treating these children like promiscuous objects in the production of pornographic content create traumatizing experiences and could cause them to not trust others, be able to have a healthy relationship or enjoy sexual activity that is with consent. From a medical point of view, they are more likely to have severe injuries, sexually transmitted diseases and miscarriages.
Secondly, there is the issue of profit versus privacy. Following the basic principles of supply and demand, if there is more demand for a good or service, the more profitable it is, which leads to more firms supplying that good or service. Therefore, child pornography viewers hold some responsibility, as because of their demand the pornographic business continues to grow.
It also leads to repercussions where it normalizes the sexual exploitation of children. As long as there are viewers, there is enough monetary incentive for more production of pornographic content. On the other hand, with the children recognizable on the internet, their privacy is violated. This is a concerning use as with the internet’s immense power of fast transmission and spread, it is impossible to delete all of the content. It can be considered as “revictimization” and torment the child’s life in the future, where the victims suffer from lack of control, humiliation and fear. The creators’ pursuit of profit and self interest clashes with the children’s permanent record of their images or videos on the internet.Although most discussion regarding child pornography focuses on the content creator, it is also important to think about what we can do for the children involved in such pornographic content. In order to take action, a variety of social measures should be effectively placed.
These can include internet services monitoring and blocking the searches or upload of such content in order to eliminate the number of child pornography sites. Enforcement of the current legislation which protects children is another method to serve justice to the children and families involved. However law implementation is not enough. Social measures holds equal importance, for example mental health and psychological programs that focus on the child’s road to recovery should be created to help mend their mindset towards rebuilding their life. Not only the children, but educated awareness and treatment provided to child pornography possessors should be provided. Institutional power and organisations like UNICEF which fight for children’s rights can effectively increase public awareness for this emerging issue.