Digital pedopornography—images of children engaging in explicit, sexual activities with adults or with other children—is one of the most nefarious categories of imagery on the Internet. We saw in Chapter 5 that a global consensus has emerged to criminalize this kind of legally, morally, and ethically questionable depiction of child sexual abuse that is as old as the Internet itself. In 1992, the US Congress enacted the Scientific and Advanced Technology Act, which opened up government-controlled networks and infrastructures in order to “spur competition in network services” (Scientific and Advanced Technology Act, 1992). This was the beginning of the online information and communication technology revolution that profoundly changed the world in fewer than 25 years. One of the first industries to make its presence felt and colonize the vast, virtual reaches of cyberspace was that of sexual capitalism, whose stock-in-trade was sex-themed visual imagery (pornography) that catered to all tastes. The “products” of sexual capitalism included pedopornography, material that was illegal in real space but had been digitized and transferred to cyberspace, which was essentially a lawless domain at that time. In effect, the fledgling network of computer networks—the Internet—became the perfect platform for pedophiles to dissimulate, store, and disseminate images of child pornography for pleasure and profit.
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