Legal Issues

by Carlo Longino

Filed Under:
porn, sexting

When Does It Stop Being 'Sexting' And Start Being Something More Serious?

from the gray-areas dept

The debate about "sexting" rages on, both here at Techdirt and elsewhere. One of the major points of contention has been that child-pornography laws don't make any distinction about who creates child porn, meaning that kids who take nude photos of themselves and send them out can be viewed in the same way -- in the eyes of the law -- as child pornographers who abuse and exploit children for commercial gain or personal titillation. The catch is that "the eyes of the law" are really the eyes of human prosecutors, who hopefully should realize that charging kids with child-porn offenses is an overreaction. CNN's got a story touching on this issue, but they didn't find a particularly good example: instead of talking about kids who took pictures of themselves, they lead with the story of an 18-year-old guy who sent out a nude picture of his 16-year-old girlfriend to "dozens" of friends and family after they'd had a fight. The guy was subsequently prosecuted under child-porn laws and has had to register as a sex offender. While it's clear the guy wasn't a commercial porn producer, it's also clear that he went a lot further than teens who take photos of themselves, send them out, and then find themselves in hot water. His actions, while caused by a moment of stupidity, were intended to hurt his girlfriend -- much different than teens taking and sending photos of themselves as an expression of their sexuality. To compare the two seems pretty disingenuous, and it's hard to imagine the guy will attract a whole lot of sympathy, but the story does illustrate the very black-and-white world of child porn laws, and how they can be applied with little distinction (or perhaps common sense) by some prosecutors.

Meanwhile, over at the WSJ, the "Numbers Guy", Carl Bialik, has taken a look at the survey that has been widely cited in sexting stories, claiming that 20 percent of teens have taken and sent nude photos of themselves. Bialik points out that the survey was conducted online, calling into question just how representative of the wider teen population the sample was. To ask teens about their online behavior, but only ask teens who are online, seems suspect. But hey, the stat sells the story, right?

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  1. identicon
    lol, 9 Apr 2009 @ 5:04am

    The WSJ article displayed on the tab as "Sexting-an epidemic of fuzz..."

    It expands to "fuzzy thinking", but

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