"ARPANET," a computer program designed and implemented by the United States military in 1969, was the genesis of the Internet as we know it today. "ARPANET" was designed to enable computers operated by the military, defense contractors, and universities conducting defense-related research to communicate with one another even if portions of the communications process were damaged in a war.
The internet has developed at an accelerated rate and is currently uncontrollable. The number of "host" computers (those that store information and relay communications) increased from 300 in 1981 to approximately 9,400,000 in 1996. Currently there are over 200 million internet users throughout the worse. Though this technology has proven to be extremely beneficial to countless people and in many domains, there have been hidden costs associated with its advancement. These costs have, until recently, remained somewhat covert and have not drawn much attention; however, the long-term ramifications these costs may yield will have a profound effect upon our society.
The Internet has become a haven for every negative vice and has promoted the yearning for immediate gratification. Adults, as well as children and adolescents, can obtain any form or representation of pornography and erotica at any time. Moreover, they can obtain a host of other vices such as illegal prescription medicines, narcotics, weapons, social security numbers, credit card numbers and sex services within seconds.
Sophisticated sexual offenders have utilized the Internet to select, locate, and groom potential victims in the security of their own homes, at a cyber-cafe, or even at the local library. Whereas most child molesters victimized children they were acquainted with or related to in the past, they now have unlimited access to potential victims who are strangers. Finally, we must not lose focus of the potential for rapists to seek out vulnerable women who may use the Internet as a means of obtaining support, friendship, and companionship. Rapists can obtain all the information necessary to carry out their deviant plans.
Today, the information superhighway can be viewed as the "Autobahn" of the internet, with room for major improvement and safety provisions.
On a more covert and subtle level, the Internet has also contributed to the "depersonalization" process already in effect within our society. It is a mode of communication that cannot, to any significant degree, relate information on an emotional level. This dynamic enhances the depersonalization process and creates a dissonance between communication and normal human interaction. The Internet has also been successful in further objectifying relationships, women, and sex.
Sexual abuse and deviancy specialists need to become aware of these dangers associated with the Internet. Moreover, parents, teachers, police officers, and the judicious system must also be aware of these dangers and the warning signs of possible victimization. As you will see in this issue, legalities regarding the Internet have not been clearly established in our court system. Though the Internet has an enormous positive potential, it is our aim to increase the awareness of the numerous hazards associated with its development and progression.