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Land urges family vigilance to ‘dark underbelly of the Internet’

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–News that a Texas husband and wife were convicted in the largest child pornography business ever uncovered wasn’t surprising to Richard Land; his concern is that the news was shocking to most other Americans.

The international porn ring is still being broken up, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft reported after the Aug. 8 conviction.

Land, as president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, knows that the growth of the Internet has brought nearly as much bad as good. And the ready availability of online child pornography is a case in point, Land said. He cited a March 19, 2001, Newsweek report recounting that legal authorities had done a good job in busting up child pornography rings until the Internet provided a whole new and wide-open avenue for propagating the filth.

“Child pornography was pretty much eradicated in the 1980s,” said Kevin Delli-Colli in the Newsweek report. Delli-Colli is chief of the U.S. Customs Cyber-Smuggling Center. “With the advent of the Internet, it exploded.”

The Customs Service worked with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the FBI and the Dallas Police Department in conducting a two-year probe of the Fort Worth couple that resulted in their Aug. 8 conviction on trafficking child pornography. The pair was convicted last year for sexual exploitation of minors and distribution of child pornography.

When officials discovered the ring, it reportedly had between 250,000 and 300,000 subscribers and grossed as much as $1.4 million a month.

Land said while the Internet is a helpful and safe tool for information and entertainment for many, its advent also was “a bonanza for peddlers of filth and perversion.” Such sex sites are the “dark underbelly of the Internet” and are among its most visited sites, Land said.

“I can’t begin to imagine the countless number of young lives destroyed at the hands of these cyber-molesters,” Land said, noting the FBI opened 700 cases dealing with pedophilia in 1998, most for posting child pornography, but that by 2000 more than 2,800 such cases were opened.

“Internet pornography sales are expected to top $366 million this year,” Land said. Online sales totaled $140 million in 1997. “Not only is child pornography destructive to those abused or even murdered in its production, but research tells us its users are then motivated to prey on children around them,” he continued.

The typical pedophile is white, male and well educated, with no criminal background, Land said. He warned that those victimized by pedophiles normally already know their attacker.

Families need to be aware of the risks online as well, Land said. “Parents need to take an active role in monitoring their youngsters’ use of the Internet. Few parents would take their kids downtown and drop them off unescorted after dark, but that is in effect what we are doing when we allow our children to surf the net alone and unprotected.”

Land said the ERLC has developed a resource kit to aid church leaders in helping parents address the “scourge of pornography.” The Champion Action Kit on Sexual Purity is available from the ERLC at 1-800-475-9127 at a cost of $24.95.

“The most vile and offensive material imaginable is but a keystroke away from any of us,” he said. “It’s time we recognize the dangers and take measures to protect ourselves and our children.”

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  • Dwayne Hastings