The Straits Times says

Clear and present danger of child porn

That Singapore accounts for a disproportionate number of Asia's webpages containing images of child sexual abuse will shock citizens who take pride in the country's stringent child-protection laws. Child porn websites, created and frequented by perverts, are a universal curse. For Singapore to host so many of them is particularly shameful. The problem with policing such content is that the webpage hosts may not be based here physically. It is easy for a person to buy domain space, hide behind a mask, and use a complex networking approach to hide his physical location. Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), which is dedicated to removing child sexual abuse images, has noted how devious operators are.

The IWF identified commercial child sexual abuse websites which display the criminal imagery only when accessed by a "digital pathway" of links from other websites. Legal content was displayed when the pathway was not followed or the website was accessed directly through a browser. This made it more difficult to find and investigate illegal imagery. The IWF developed a way of revealing that imagery, making its removal possible and opening the websites to investigation. Technology for good must strive against the technology of evil.

However, the challenges are immense. The foundation has revealed both the global dimensions and national concentrations of the scourge. Of more than 57,000 URLs last year related to child porn, an overwhelming 92 per cent were hosted in the Netherlands, the United States, Canada, France and Russia. Nevertheless, Singapore's unwanted place on the inglorious map of Internet child porn deserves to be erased, as decisively and swiftly as is possible. Internet service providers must observe their larger social responsibility by ensuring that their content and services comply with local regulations, including preventing user access to undesirable, harmful or obscene content. Since there are inventive pathways to the despicable destination of child porn, there must also be blocked gateways to it.

The stakes are high. Pornography insults and exploits the sexual integrity of humans, particularly when it involves vulnerable children whose violated innocence should indict the conscience of the adult world. Indeed, the unhealthy curiosity manifested in being attracted to child porn could indicate deviant sexual interests and fantasies, including latent paedophilic tendencies. Blocking access to child porn will not remove these disorders, but it will help to draw social boundaries more firmly against the encroachment of commercial porn into one of the most hallowed aspects of any society: the safety of its children from sexual harm. Singaporeans must act vigorously against sexual assaults, whether actual or virtual, by offering perverts no place to hide.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 14, 2017, with the headline 'Clear and present danger of child porn'. Print Edition | Subscribe