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Average sentences are getting longer for comparable child pornography offenses, indicating that Internet offenders will occupy custodial beds longer and will require longer terms of supervision if they become eligible for probation/parole (Wolak, Finkelhor, & Mitchell, 2009).
Given the nature of the Internet, this type of sexual offending is clearly an international problem, with political, legal, and geographic complexities.
The offenders in Seto, Reeves, and Jung (2010) gave other explanations for their child pornography offending, including indiscriminate sexual interests, an "addiction" to pornography, and curiosity (see also Merdian et al., 2013).
These explanations are based on self-report alone and should be interpreted cautiously because offenders may have offered alternative explanations (other than pedophilia) for their crimes in response to the stigma associated with the pedophilia label.
Many child pornography sites are based outside the United States (e.g., Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia), where laws differ substantially.
The International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children (2010) reviewed laws in 196 countries and found that almost half (89 countries) did not have specific child pornography laws.
Briggs, Simon, and Simonsen (2011) have suggested that there is a distinction between fantasy-driven and contact-driven solicitation offenders.
However, pedophilia is not the sole motivation for Internet offending involving children; that is, not all child pornography offenders show a sexual preference for children over adults.An important research question is the extent to which Internet sex offenders represent a new type of sex offender, or whether they reflect the transformation of conventional sexual offending through the adoption of new technologies (Seto & Hanson, 2011).Whatever the explanations for this increasing demand, it is clear that the number of potential Internet offending investigations already greatly exceeds law enforcement resources. Many law enforcement agencies are still dealing with a backlog of cases arising from Operation Avalanche (an investigation that began after the discovery of Landslide Productions in Texas and its large database of members purchasing access to child pornography Web sites) and other, more recent international police operations that have identified very large numbers of online offending suspects.Given the small sample size and exploratory nature of this study, more research is needed to determine if this distinction between solicitation offenders is valid and meaningful.For cases resulting in actual meetings between an adult and a minor, sexual contact typically occurred on multiple occasions (Wolak et al., 2008).
The scientific and practical challenge is determining how investigators can distinguish, with relatively limited initial evidence, which cases are more likely to involve production, solicitation of minors, and/or contact offending.