Accidental Download Leading To Prison Sentence?

from the that's-a-problem dept

No one denies that child pornography is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. However, it often seems like the laws related to child pornography are targeted at the wrong thing. That's why we get laws requiring filters, rather than the shut down of whoever is producing the content, and laws against those who end up having any on their hard drive, even as that could make a felon out of someone just because they receive an email. Take, for example (as pointed out by Slashdot), this story of a man who was searching online for regular (legal) pornography, but accidentally downloaded some underage pictures -- which he immediately deleted. Though the FBI officials who eventually searched his hard drive admit that the images had been deleted and could not be accessed, he was still charged with child pornography and is pleading guilty to get a shorter sentence (3.5 years, 10 years probation, and a lifetime on the sex offenders list).

Though this article serves as a warning of why you shouldn't go looking for porn online -- it would seem that the stronger argument is why the laws on possession should change. In cases like this, where the guy was clearly not out there seeking out or collecting such content, it seems ridiculous that he should be charged and feel the need to plead guilty. Anti-child porn efforts should really focus on those who produces and distributes such content. As for those who collect it, I would assume that mental health help would be a more appropriate response than jail time. And, for those who accidentally come across it... it seems fairly ridiculous to charge them as well.

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  1. identicon
    Vincent Clement, 8 Dec 2009 @ 4:40am

    Don't forget that the people that support these laws always say "if you aren't doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about" or "this law will only be used to catch those interested in child porn".

    Well, here is a guy who will be in prison on the taxpayers dime and who will be on a sex offenders list for life for accidentally downloading files and then deleting them. Even the FBI couldn't find them at first and had to deep scan the hard drive. But hey don't worry about these laws.

    I found this tidbit in the article interesting:

    "The FBI could not comment on this specific case, but said if child pornography is ever downloaded accidentally, the user needs to call authorities immediately. They may confiscate your computer, but it's better than the alternative."

    Why would they confiscate your computer? And do you really trust the FBI to not make an example of you, even if you cooperate?

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