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Interdisciplinary Perspectives

Edited By Frank Jacob

Pornography can tell us many things about a society, when it is seriously considered as a topic for scientific research. The present volume offers interdisciplinary perspectives on the subject and shows how pornography can be studied and what we can learn from such studies, e.g., about the construction of gender roles and their representation in pornographic media. Specialists from different fields provide insight into their approach towards the scientific study of pornography and thereby highlight that serious research on pornographic content from different time periods offers valuable findings about older and modern societies alike.

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11. Child Pornography in the Digital Age: A Conceptual Muddle (Claire Benn)


Claire Benn

11. Child Pornography in the Digital Age

A Conceptual Muddle


New technologies present numerous ethical issues: from their design to their adoption to the unpredictability of the effect they have on society.1 Often previous laws and moral principles are completely adequate for dealing with these issues. For example, using a computer to steal money from someone else’s bank account is a simple case of theft. The use of a computer might change the difficultly of catching perpetrators or the amount that can be stolen, but nothing of conceptual or normative significance is changed. However, computer technologies can afford us opportunities and abilities we did not previously possess.2 Thus, as James Moor discusses, new technologies often give rise to “policy vacuums” because “either no policies for conduct in these situations exist or existing policies seem inadequate.”3 A central task of computer ethics is therefore to help “formulate and justify new policies (laws, rules, and customs) for acting in these new kinds of situations.”4

However, formulating new policies is not always a straightforward matter because along with a policy vacuum, there can also be “conceptual muddles.” These conceptual muddles arise because “the concepts that we bring to a situation involving policy vacuums may not provide a unique understanding of the situa←261 | 262→tion. The situation may have analogies with different and competing traditional situations.”5 Furthermore, these technological developments might change the very concepts themselves. It...

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