Today, on my In Bed audio show, I look at an exposé from reporter Debbie Nathan, who just got back from a research convention of The Academy of Forensic Sciences to discover what the geeks at the FBI have learned about the relationship, and potential, between "real" and "computer-generated" (CG) pornographic images.
The police's particular interest, in this case, is child abuse. Sexualized images of real children are illegal, but computer-generated images are not prosecuted in the U.S., as yet, because they don't show actual kids.
This debate has gotten hotter, because it's now difficult to tell what's real— computer-editing programs are facile enough to turn anyone, theoretically, into an amateur touch-up artist.
Many questions arise from the Feds' investigations. Do virtual pictures attract people with ill intent or actions toward children? Or is this a bizarre, if preferable, method of harm reduction?
Back in the 1990s, the government outlawed CG images of sexualized children.
But a few years later, ruling in a case called Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition, the Supreme Court said CG child porn is legal... the general consensus was that the technological state-of-the-art for CG human images wasn’t so good anyway.
If you concocted a CG image of a child having sex, the thinking went, it wouldn’t fool anyone, because it was too low-tech to seem real.
Within a couple of years, though, people caught with child porn images were going to court and claiming they didn’t have anything real, only CG — and that if the government thought otherwise, it would have to prove it.
The government developed several responses. One: find the actual child depicted in the pornography, and bring that real child into court, or bring in the cop who handled her case. This would show beyond a doubt that the defendant’s material was not CG.
Another strategy is to match the images in evidence to others previously collected by the feds, then show that the whole set dates to pre-Photoshop times, back when anything that looked like a photograph of a real kid really was real.
But what if child victims and old photo sets aren’t available? A third government technique is to tell courts that the average person (an FBI agent, a jury member) can still distinguish what’s real and what’s CG, just by looking with the naked eye.
Is this true? The government would like us to think so. But in point of fact, the boundary between real and CG is getting fuzzier by the year – and the feds are nervous.
Check out Debbie's site to see more incredibly realistic (G-rated! of course) CG images, and to read the rest of her story... it's a science fiction novel come to life:
"After [the experts'] presentations, it seemed clear that the technology exists to make real child porn look fake. And — much more significantly — to make CG porn which looks genuine enough to fool ordinary people.
An obvious question that comes to mind, then, is: how much of this sophisticated child CG is already on the Internet?
My sense from attending the workshops is: Probably hardly any.
But the scarcity has little to do with technology. The digital world is now rife with graphics professionals and hobbyists who spend lots of time creating reasonably real-looking virtual people as still images – adults and kids. CG adults (especially women) often look “sexy.” Sometimes they’re even having sex. But virtual kids are not portrayed sexually (though teen girls often look “come hither”). CG kids remain chaste, probably, because there’s no commercial market for child porn and thus no significant money to be made by doing virtual renditions of the stuff.
Hobbyists, of course, don’t need money to pursue their passions. But even they are probably reluctant to do CG child porn. It’s not like they can post it on graphic arts websites and get props from fellow artists.
Plus, virtual child porn is legal in the US, but it’s outlawed in many other countries. If an American’s CG smut got emailed overseas, he could get in big trouble.
Given the above, I bet most defendants and their attorneys who raise the CG defense are bullshitting. They’ve probably been caught with the real thing..."
Also on my show, today, I get the dirt on a couple of cranky citizens from the Greek Island of Lesbos who aren't happy sharing their name with lesbians.
A court date has been set to stop a Greek gay rights organization from calling themselves lesbians... it seems Jerry Falwell's spirit lives on, in every nook and corner.
Let us quote Sappho, the most famous Lesbian citizen of all, in both senses of the word:
I have not had one word from her
Frankly I wish I were dead
When she left, she wept
a great deal; she said to me, "This parting must be
endured, Sappho. I go unwillingly."
I said, "Go, and be happy
but remember (you know
well) whom you leave shackled by love
"If you forget me, think
of our gifts to Aphrodite
and all the loveliness that we shared
"all the violet tiaras,
braided rosebuds, dill and
crocus twined around your young neck
"myrrh poured on your head
and on soft mats girls with
all that they most wished for beside them
"while no voices chanted
choruses without ours,
no woodlot bloomed in spring without song..."
Frankly, I'd be honored to live in a place inspired by her work, and I'm sure many Lesbians and lesbians, are!
Last, in my audio show mailbag, a listener writes in who's having a hard time meeting girls in the cadre ranks of the anti-porn, anti-violence campaign he belongs to.... I've been this lad's shoes, myself!
Don't forget, you can send your confidential questions, feedback about the show, and requests for girly cards to firstname.lastname@example.org. (Episode 341, May 23, 2008)
Sappho Translation: Mary Barnard