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Terminology and Acronyms

This section aims to highlight the importance of the terminology used to describe the sexual exploitation of children online. It also contains the list of acronyms used throughout the database.

The term “child pornography” has been used in the database only to reflect the text of the relevant international, regional and national legal instruments. ECPAT International strongly advocates for the replacement of the term “child pornography” with the definitions listed below, extracted from the “Terminology Guidelines for the protection of children from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse”, also known as the “Luxembourg Guidelines”. The Luxembourg Guidelines are the result of  an initiative aiming at harmonising terms and definitions related to child protection, undertaken by the Interagency Working Group on Sexual Exploitation of Children composed of the UN Special Representative to the Secretary General on Violence against Children, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, ECPAT International and 13 other international organisations and agencies active in the field of children’s rights.

Terminologies

“Child” in the context of child pornography offences
In line with the majority of international legal instruments and with international practice, the Luxembourg Guidelines advise that the term “child” be understood as including any person who is under the age of 18 years. For more information on the Luxembourg Guidelines, please visit the following link: http://luxembourgguidelines.org/english-version/
“Child pornography”/“child sexual abuse material”/“child sexual exploitation material”
The term “child pornography” is found in the relevant international legal instruments, although the definition provided under the different conventions is not unique. This has contributed to the use of the term also in domestic legislation. Thus, “child pornography” remains important for the definition of a crime in many countries. Nevertheless, there is a growing tendency among both law enforcement bodies and child protection agencies to question the appropriateness of this term, and to suggest alternative terminology.

The term “child pornography” is still used when addressing legal issues and contexts, in particular when reference is made to international and domestic legal treaties that explicitly include this term. However, this term should be avoided to the extent possible, in particular when referring to non-legal contexts. In such contexts, “child sexual abuse material” or “child sexual exploitation material” should be the terms of choice.

The term “child sexual abuse material” can be used as an alternative to “child pornography” for material depicting acts of sexual abuse and/or focusing on the genitalia of the child. The term “child sexual exploitation material” can be used in a broader sense to encompass all other sexualised material depicting children.

Colloquial terms to refer to child pornography (e.g. “child porn”, “kiddy porn”, “paedo-porn”) should be avoided altogether.
“Computer/digitally generated child sexual abuse material”
The term “computer (or digitally) generated child sexual abuse material” encompasses all forms of material representing children involved in sexual activities and/or in a sexualised manner, with the particularity that the production of the material does not involve actual contact abuse of real children but is artificially created to appear as if real children were depicted. It includes what is sometimes referred to as “virtual child pornography” as well as “pseudo photographs”. Although most artificially created child sexual abuse material is computer-generated, it is important not to exclude the possibility that such material can be, for instance, drawn by hand. Computer-generated child sexual abuse material is not illegal everywhere, although it can have a harmful effect on children.

The term “virtual” frequently used in this context should not be confused with “existing online”, because, although it does indeed exist online, it refers to images that have been created with the purpose of conveying the impression that they depict children. There is nothing “virtual” or unreal in the sexualisation of children, and these terms risk undermining the harm that children can suffer from these types of practices or the effect material such as this can have on the cognitive distortions of offenders or potential offenders. Therefore, terms such as “computer-generated child sexual abuse material” appear better suited to this phenomenon.
“Sexualised images of children”/“child erotica”
While the determination of a certain image as pornographic or not does not depend on a subjective element, the publication or distribution of an image can be done with or without the purpose of sexual gratification and, consequently, be illegal or legal. Distinguishing between the different uses of a picture, and focusing on the (illegal) use of a child’s picture for purposes of sexual gratification, could be a means to determine if the depicted child is the victim of an offence.

Just as the term “child pornography” has been considered inappropriate because pornography is a term used for adults engaging in consensual sexual acts distributed (often legally) to the general public for their sexual pleasure, it must be questioned whether “erotica” is a term appropriate in association with children. In accordance with major dictionaries, “erotica” refers to books, pictures and other material intended to make somebody feel sexual desire or that produce sexual desire and pleasure. On this basis, where there is a clear sexualisation of the child in the images, it is recommended to use the term CSEM.

Acronyms

ICTs
Information and Communication Technologies
CC or PC
Criminal Code or Penal Code
ISP
Internet Service Provider
CSEM
Child Sexual Exploitation Material