As defined in the Optional Protocol (art 2c) of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, 2000.
Child pornography through static images
It can include photographs, visual and audio representations and writing and can be distributed through magazines, books, drawings, movies, videotapes, mobile phones and computer disks or files. Generally speaking, there are two categories of pornography: that which is not sexually explicit but involves naked and seductive images of children, and that which presents explicit images of children engaged in sexual activity. New technologies and the growth of the internet have greatly facilitated the production of child pornography. Digital technology has allowed a simpler and cheaper manner of producing material, and the risk of detection is reduced since it is no longer necessary to use third parties to develop Images, thus safeguarding the anonymity of abusers. The characteristics of the internet encourage impunity in relation to these crimes. For instance, websites are constantly evolving and shifting. As the internet is not confined by boundaries, national legislation can easily be bypassed rendering detection and prosecution of offenders extremely difficult. As a result, many questions arise, especially regarding the location of the violation. Where does the criminal act take place: where the image is produced, where the image is stored, where the image is viewed?
Live streaming of child pornography
Some individuals also use the internet (particularly on chat sites) and ask young people online to perform strip teases and other pornographic acts in front of a camera streaming live images directly to the viewer. Even though this practice is not by itself a form of sexual exploitation for commercial purposes (as there is no monetary exchange), it can however become so when these videos are then available for purchase on the internet. This is also true regarding pornographic videos filmed between teenagers, sometimes as a game, sometimes in exchange for money or for a benefit in kind (smartphones, etc.). These images can also be sold thereafter, and circulate on the internet.
Virtual Child pornography
Virtual images of child pornography are images that have been distorted one way or another, so that the individual on the image is not a “real” child or teenager. It is the case of images portraying adult bodies onto which have been pasted children faces. Another example is animations created by using a computer program or cartoons, such as the Japanese comics “manga”. While some images depict children or teenagers engaging in sexual activities, others depict violent scenes of sexual abuse including gang rapes. Nevertheless, child pornography is not just about images of naked and abused children. Indeed, these images contribute to cultivate the sexual exploitation of children by standardizing ideas and promoting the desire to engage in sexual intercourse with children. In this way, images can prompt consumers to act upon their desires. According to Roland Coutanceau, psychiatrist and criminologist, the rate of acting-out their desires for individuals who consume such images still remains unknown. Worldwide, 10% of those who access and visit child pornographic websites, have already been prosecuted for sexual assault. In other words, 90% of them do not have a known history of sexual assault. However, a Canadian study has shown that 40% of individuals consuming child pornographic material have confessed to psychiatrists that they have already physically abused a child. One can deduce that, in France, among the 90% who have no criminal record, some may have already acted out an offence against a child…”
A new phenomenon: child grooming
Child grooming comprises actions deliberately undertaken with the aim of establishing an emotional connection with a child, to lower the child’s inhibitions in order to sexually abuse the child. Child grooming is a flourishing phenomenon online. Child grooming may be used to lure minors into trafficking of children such as child prostitution, or the production of child pornography. In 2011, according to EU kids online, 19% of 11-16 year olds in France have sent or published sexual messages online, while 3% have seen or received such messages. In January 2006, the NCTE (National Council of teachers of English) carried out a large-scale survey of children’s use of the Internet in order to identify their online risk behaviour. 848 students between the ages of 9 and 16 in over 21 schools across Ireland completed questionnaires containing over 100 questions on their use of the Internet. The findings from this survey are quite puzzling: 24% of the children who met in real life someone that they first met on the internet said that the person who introduced themselves to them on the Internet as a child, turned out to be an adult in real life. It seems clear that there are individuals who will use online services to make contact with children in order to exploit them.
The diverse realities of child pornography
The question of whether we should continue to use the term “child pornography” arises as it does not describe accurately the various realities which affect the problem. For instance, this is true of images that will not necessarily be classified as pornographic but that can be distributed or used for sexual purposes. Furthermore, the type of images portraying children which might attract sexual interest largely varies upon the person viewing such images. Finally, the term “pornography” can give the false impression that the child has accepted to participate in the creation and recording of such images. For all these reasons, several child protection organizations are now using terms “child sexual abuse materials” instead of “child pornography” even though the latter is still extensively used in most legal documents and legislation worldwide.
A few illustrative figures
According to Najat M’jid Maalla, Special Rapporteur of the UN Human Rights Council, on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography: “ the number of sites devoted to child pornography worldwide is growing (…) The number of predators connected to the Internet at any one time is estimated to be 750,000.” UNICEF estimates that there are more than 4 million websites portraying images of young minors, including some children who are less than two years old. According to the UN, It is estimated that 200 new images of sexual exploitation of children are put into circulation every day.  Tiffany Blandin, « Plus d’hommes qu’on ne croit sont attirés par les images d’enfants – Interview de Roland Coutanceau, psychiatre », Libération, 14 avril 2010