Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the majority opinion for the Supreme Court in which they upheld the law aimed at preventing child pornography. Scalia called internet child porn a “threat.” He’s right. As a frequent speaker on teen ethics and computer crimes, it is clear that the internet is becoming a distribution haven for child porn and more importantly it is a playground for child predators.
A federal law, the “Protect” Act enacted in 2003 made it a crime not only to produce and possess child porn, but also to “pander” material, conveying the belief that material contains minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. The pandering provision covers anyone who “advertises, promotes, presents, distributes, or solicits” this material.
According to CNN in a recent report: As part of a 2004 sting operation, an undercover Secret Service agent (using the screen name “Lisa–n–Miami”) communicated with Williams in an Internet chat room. Williams allegedly wrote, “Dad of toddler has ‘good’ pics of her an (sic) me for swap of your toddler pics, or live cam.” He posted nonpornographic photos of a young girl and claimed he had “hc,” or hard-core, kiddie pictures, prosecutors contend.
The man then allegedly posted photos of youngsters involved in “sexually explicit conduct,” according to court records. Twenty-two other child porn images were found on his home computer.
A federal appeals court upheld a possession conviction against Williams, but threw out the separate soliciting charge, which carried a five-year mandatory minimum sentence. A three-judge panel concluded the provision was “substantially overbroad and vague,” and that “non-commercial, non-inciteful promotion of illegal child pornography, even if repugnant, is protected free speech.” In other words, the judges said merely talking about child porn is not necessarily criminal.
Today’s ruling by the high Court upheld the law by ruling that a provision dealing with “pandering” illicit material does not violate constitutional protections on free speech. The ruling was 7 to 2.
Scalia stated, “Child pornography harms and debases the most defenseless of our citizens. This court held unconstitutional Congress’ previous attempt to meet this new threat, and Congress responded with a carefully crafted attempt to eliminate the First Amendment problems we [earlier] identified.”
There has been some concern that some people might be targeted unfairly when engaged in lawful, artistic or editorial free speech. Example were used among them were mainstream movies such as “Lolita,” “Traffic,” and “Titanic,” all of which depicted scenarios in which underage girls were engaging in simulated sex.
According to the AP – Justice David Souter, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, dissented. Souter said promotion of images that are not real children engaging in pornography still could be the basis for prosecution under the law. Possession of those images, on the other hand, may not be prosecuted, Souter said.
“I believe that maintaining the First Amendment protection of expression we have previously held to cover fake child pornography requires a limit to the law’s criminalization of pandering proposals,” Souter said.
The reality is child porn is too easy to get and in so many ways our children aren’t protected. Odd, but the profile of a person convicted of child porn is – ANYONE. Most recently a Plano, Texas minister who was arrested in an internet sex sting operation has resigned his position as a pastor at a Dallas-area megachurch. Joe Barron was charged with solicitation of a minor. The solicitation was via the internet.
As a white collar crime speaker, unlike traditional forms of white collar crime, convictions related to Child Porn seem to carry far greater sentences and long term consequences. One of the most significant things that parents can do is become educated. Child porn is more accessible via the internet and that – THE INTERNET – is where parents need education. Social networking sites such as MySpace, Facebook and others are not dangerous on the whole, but Child Predators can use those mediums as a way to deceive and commit their crimes. I teach seminars and workshops on cyber-crime and what every parent should know to protect their children.
If you or your organization is interested in my newest program – PROTECTING OUR KIDS: What Every Parent Should Know About Computer Crimes – contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.