I want to address the idea that watching a record of child sex abuse is itself morally wrong because of the effect it has on the child in the images. We hear this not just from survivors' organizations -- these are from <US statutes>: "Child pornography is a permanent record of a child's abuse and the distribution of child pornography images revictimizes the child each time the image is viewed." and "Every instance of viewing images of child pornography represents a renewed violation of the privacy of the victims and a repetition of their abuse." I poked fun at the literal interpretation of this in <my last post> -- that there really is a literal path of harm from an act of viewing to the victim.
Harm from obtaining the material is slightly different. If a person bought the material and we could follow the money back to a producer of child pornography, we could argue that there is a financial incentive to produce more -- but this is hardly ever the case. Most people who possess CP don't even get past the first step since they didn't pay anything for it. If a person downloaded it for free, the only trace this leaves in the world is perhaps some increment in a counter of downloads -- entirely negligible. Only 1/4 of CP producers ever distribute what they produce.
But returning to viewing, where is the harm to be found? It is argued that victims suffer knowing that their images are on the web being viewed. Taking the broader view, the main harm comes from the person who perpetrated the abuse. Another major harm comes from the person who recorded it, and another from the person who first released it to an unrestricted set of people. There is no documented proof of the differential harm the victim suffers between knowing the material is still being viewed as opposed to being sure it has all been deleted. There have been no measurements of differential harm between knowing 100 people have viewed it and 1,000 -- let alone between 1,000 and 1,001. An economist might frame the cost of the next download as marginal harm -- and it is surely very small.
We can consider attributing a trace of harm to any person who views this video, since if no one viewed it, no one would download it, and in that case the victim would not think it was being widely shared. I think this is better viewed as a highly rarefied moral question rather than a question of measurable harm -- perhaps Kant's Categorical Imperative would apply. Consider some roughly comparable examples: Terrorism lives off of publicity, and anyone who does not boycott a news organization that reports terrorism is himself or herself reinforcing and creating a market for more terrorism. If rising sea levels cause devastation to poor people in low-lying areas, we can allocate personal responsibility to every single person on earth who caused carbon dioxide emissions beyond the bare minimum needed for survival. The suffering of animals in factory farming can be traced directly to everyone who is not vegan. In all of these cases, the harm is clearer and more direct than the viewing of CP, and it is a rare person indeed who take individual responsibility in these cases seriously. (We could even accuse vegans of having moral responsibility for animal suffering to the extent that they benefit from the labor of anyone who is not a vegan and derives some of his or her nourishment from animal products!)
Harm to victims from an individual act of watching CP is a flimsy fabrication, a bit of pretense to get around the common sense idea that what a person does that no one finds out about cannot cause harm. The driving force is the very loud voice of prejudice shouting that pedophilia is just plain wrong. One way we see this is that revulsion and penalties are nearly as severe for virtual CP, where there can be no harm to any individual. Another way we see it is how society treats the viewing of CP by law enforcement and members of the jury. Society may have sympathy that they must watch such things, but it doesn't think the victim suffers from watching when it's not being done by a pedophile.
As a footnote that might make a CP victim feel a little better, there is considerable range as to the attitude a pedophile might bring to an act of CP viewing. Conceivably, he is excited by the prospect that the girl or boy was being forced into something, but the unpopularity of CP showing this explicitly suggests it is very rare. More commonly, he might be excited by what is portrayed without thinking one way or the other about the victim's experience. Or he might be excited while at the same time feeling sorry for the victim. If it is extreme CP, he might watch it out of fascinated horror and rage at the producer but without any erotic associations.
The harm from CP lies with the perpetrator, the recorder, and the distributor. An inability to locate these people is no excuse for taking it out on one of thousands of viewers whose individual actions are undetectable.
It is quite a different matter for individuals to decide that for them personally, getting sexual pleasure out of someone else's suffering is wrong or unhealthy. A great many pedophiles feel this way -- both among those who never view CP and those who do so out of guilty weakness.
(<I dealt with this issue before> but felt that I had new things to say on the subject.)