Associated Press
Monday, January 18, 1999

UNESCO sponsoring conference on pedophilia on the Internet

by Marilyn August

PARIS -- With child pornography increasingly accessible on the Internet, experts gathering at UNESCO for the first major international conference on the issue hope to hammer out concrete ways to combat it.

Starting today, 250 participants from 40 countries and representatives of 75 nongovernmental organizations will discuss ways to improve training for police officers, judges, and doctors handling cases of child sex abuse.

They will call for the creation of international hot lines and an aggressive campaign to educate children and their parents about the dangers of pedophilia on the Internet.

Experts will examine the socio-economic conditions that allow pedophilia and child prostitution to thrive worldwide, especially in developing nations, as well as the international legal framework necessary to combat it.

The online revolution has made it easier for pedophiles to access illicit materials, but it also has made it easier for police to track them down, experts say.

All Internet users leave a record of their visit on the host site and on their own computer. Experts say Internet access providers must be pressured to improve their screening of sites.

INTERPOL's Agnes Fournier-Saint Maur, who heads the international police organization's special commission on crimes against minors, said it was virtually impossible to determine the number of Internet sites providing materials for adults who prey on children or to know how many pedophiles access the Internet.

Fournier-Saint Maur said INTERPOL's figures are based on the material seized, which in the United States alone, included 500,000 online photos showing sexual acts involving minors.

The Internet facilitates the duplication and recycling of old materials, and warned that once a child's photo appears online, it is extremely difficult to remove it, she said at a news conference last week.

Daniel Kahn, a French lawyer and expert on Internet law, said many sites provide materials that are legal in the countries where they are created -- places that also often lack laws protecting children against kidnapping for sexual exploitation.

India, Nepal, and many developing nations, including sub-Saharan African countries, were cited as places where children increasingly are being exploited on screen. However, better cooperation has been noted between Western European nations and nations such as Thailand and The Philippines, which have notoriously lax policies.

Copyright © 1999 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.