Unproven guilt

February 7, 2003

The argument that someone who downloads pornographic images from the internet without showing or distributing them to others bears responsibility for the child abuse involved in making the images is unconvincing (Why I, THES , January 24). There is a distinction between causing or partly causing something and being responsible or partly responsible for it. There is a related distinction between causality and culpability.

To destroy supply where a market exists can be to increase the price and stimulate production, according to elementary economics. Suppose that in destroying pornographic photographs, policemen stimulate their production. They would not be held responsible or culpable with regard to any child abuse.

Similarly, if looking at child pornography were to stimulate the taking of such photographs, the viewers would not necessarily be responsible for nor culpable of the abuse.

If we did not look at images of terrorist atrocities, such as the Twin Towers, would such atrocities be less common or spectacular? It can be argued that our interest fuels the terrorists' actions. Nonetheless, whatever our motives, as viewers we are neither responsible nor culpable for such acts.

Hugh V. McLachlan
Reader, School of Law and Social Sciences
Glasgow Caledonian University

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

James Fryer illustration (27 July 2017)

It is not Luddism to be cautious about destroying an academic publishing industry that has served us well, says Marilyn Deegan

Jeffrey Beall, associate professor and librarian at the University of Colorado Denver

Creator of controversial predatory journals blacklist says some peers are failing to warn of dangers of disreputable publishers

Hand squeezing stress ball
Working 55 hours per week, the loss of research periods, slashed pensions, increased bureaucracy, tiny budgets and declining standards have finally forced Michael Edwards out
Kayaker and jet skiiers

Nazima Kadir’s social circle reveals a range of alternative careers for would-be scholars, and often with better rewards than academia

hole in ground

‘Drastic action’ required to fix multibillion-pound shortfall in Universities Superannuation Scheme, expert warns