Danish Police Charge Over 1,000 People With Sharing Underage Couple's Sexting Video And Images

from the some-kind-of-progress dept

Techdirt posts about sexting have a depressingly similar story line: young people send explicit photos of themselves to their partners, and one or both of them end up charged with distributing or possessing child pornography. Even more ridiculously, the authorities typically justify branding young people who do this as sex offenders on the grounds that it “protects” the same individuals whose lives they are ruining. Judging by a story in The Local, reporting on a press release that first appeared on the MyNewsDesk site (original in Danish), the police in Denmark seem to be taking a more rational approach. Rather than charging the two young people involved for sexting, they are charging 1,004 people who shared the video and images afterwards, some several hundred times:

The video was primarily sent to and shared between young people, the police said in a major announcement on Monday morning.

Individuals under police suspicion in the case may have broken Danish child pornography laws, police wrote.

The material contains sexual images involving persons under the age of 15 years at the time of recording, the Danish National Police (Rigspolitiet) confirmed in a press statement.

The case came to light after Facebook received reports of sexual video material involving young people under 18 being shared on its Messenger platform last year, and alerted the US authorities as a result. They, in their turn, passed the information on to Europol, the European police agency, who forwarded it to the authorities in Denmark. The Local quotes a Danish police officer pointing out the long-term effects of being convicted of breaking the country’s child pornography laws:

“If you receive a criminal conviction as a minor it can stay on your record for it least ten years. That means you cannot get a job in a daycare or as a football coach. If American authorities are informed, it can also cause difficulties with travelling to the USA. So this is serious and has serious consequences far into the future.”

It could be argued that child pornography laws are not the right way to deal with this kind of sharing by third parties. And it is not clear how the explicit material came to be spread around so widely — to what extent, for example, one or both of the people involved in the sexting started sharing it elsewhere themselves. But it is surely some kind of progress that the police are concentrating on that wider diffusion, which involved hundreds of people, rather than on the initial sexting by two young people, as so many previous cases have done.

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Comments on “Danish Police Charge Over 1,000 People With Sharing Underage Couple's Sexting Video And Images”

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HTB says:

Regarding the specific law

Heya, Danish citizen here. In case anyone is interested about the political response to this: a large group of MP’s have expressed interest in a law that specificially targets unconsensual sharing of images instead of using the child pornography provision. The reasoning is that anyone convicted under the child pornography provision is blacklisted from having any kind of job that involves children, and most of the people in this case arguably aren’t actual child molesters. Whether or not you agree with that reasoning (I’m personally ambivalent as I think the current provision is a better deterrent and a seperate law might make it more difficult to prosecute intentional sharing of child pornography) it’s just some added context for discussion.

Additional reading (in Danish):

Lord Lidl of Cheem (profile) says:

I think the focus should be on the first person who shared it to an unintended recipient of the person who originally created it. If two people want to share intimates that should be their business – if one of them then passes it on beyond then it becomes a problem, by focussing on this specific act we could bring a little common sense to these kinds of situations.

Bruce C. says:

Re: Re: How?

In theory, lack of consent by one or both of the parties involved in the original act. (The initial send could have been by a 3rd party illegally accessing the video on the device or on the net).

This doesn’t rule out the possibility that the original participants were confused by Facebook’s privacy settings and unintentionally shared something with multiple people that they intended to only share with their partner.

So like any other criminal case, judgment relies on the those affected telling the telling the whole truth.

HTB says:

Re: Who is being charged

The “age of criminality” (i.e. the age in which you get charged in a regular court as opposed to sent to social services) in Denmark is 15 years old, and considering the age groups known for this practice of unconsensual sharing most of the defendants are probably 15-20 years old. We don’t know much about the demographics yet since the cases are still in the interview phase. But a hypothetical 13 year-old wouldn’t legally be able to be charged and convicted as I understand it, though they might be sent to social services.

Bergman (profile) says:

Re: Re: Who is being charged

Being sent to social services could be viewed as good or bad.

On the one hand, they’re not facing a criminal trial and the possibility to adult prison and a criminal record.

But on the other hand, depending on how judicial those social services are, it’s possible a kid might not be able to provide a defense before what the kid would view as punishment is imposed.

Jinxed (profile) says:

The better solution would be to fix the definition of “child pornography”.

This may not be a popularly accepted opinion, but I don’t believe a nude body constitutes child pornography. To punish someone for child pornography just because they aren’t of legal age is appalling.

Danish authorities are using a little more common sense, but they’re still falling into the same trap as every other nation: trying to treat the teenager as both an adult (to punish) and a “child” (to protect).

When prosecution has to thumb through various laws to figure out the proper actions to take, it’s probably a good time to realize new laws need to be written to encompass the demographic between child and adult.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It’s not so much demographic, but the idea of the role involved needs to be updated to meet modern reality. In physical terms, the roles of subject, photographer, printer and distributor are generally distinct with their own assumptions about what knowledge/consent is known/agreed. In the modern world, those roles can all be undertaken by the same person at the same time with the push of a single button. A system that states that the producer/distributor has to be punished and the subject cannot possibly consent falls apart when those are the same person.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

This may not be a popularly accepted opinion, but I don’t
> believe a nude body constitutes child pornography.

It actually isn’t. That’s why all those ‘nudist’ and ‘naturist’ sites can legally exist. They often show kids nude in the context of being part of that community and lifestyle. The Supreme Court ruled years ago that images of ‘mere nudity’ of a minor with no explicit or implicit sexual component to the image is not child pornography.

David says:

Uh what?

It could be argued that child pornography laws are not the right way to deal with this kind of sharing by third parties.

Uh, that’s what child pornography laws are for. The creation of such stuff is covered and penalized by child protection laws.

Child pornography laws are exactly intended to penalize the dissemination of explicit material created with a focus on acts involving minors, separated from the actual circumstances of creation.

Whether those laws are a good idea in the first place is a different question, but this most certainly falls within their core rationale and intent rather than being an unfortunate side effect.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Uh what?

“The creation of such stuff is covered and penalized by child protection laws.”

Which is why it’s such a problem that such laws are increasingly used to attack, not protect, children.

“separated from the actual circumstances of creation”

…which is a problem when the actual circumstance was “the person in the photo took a picture of themselves”. There’s a world of difference between that and the type of images that would have been prosecuted a couple of decades ago.

The laws generally do make some kind of sense under certain circumstances, but in a world where someone can take a photo of themselves and distribute it worldwide with the press of a single button, the laws need to be more carefully worded and prosecuted. Otherwise, you just end up victimising the very same children the laws are supposed to be protecting.

Anonymous Coward says:

"It could be argued that child pornography laws are not the right way to deal with this kind of sharing by third parties."

I doubt that Techdirt minions wish it to be dealt with at all!

Minion wrote that it’s a “depressingly similar story line” — why is that so? Because a line is drawn and some basic standards are being maintained? Do you think “sexting” by teens is GOOD? — Society is already collapsing, we’re pretty near a workable minimum on decency, and the minion is only “depressed” whenever laws are enforced.

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