Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Photography on DC Metro raises troubling legal and privacy questions, and maybe c.p.


There is more controversy now about photography in public places, after WJLA-7 in Washington DC reported a story of people being secretly filmed on the Metro and then some mildly compromising images showing up on porn sites.

Since the photography happened in a public place, there is a real question as to whether this broke any laws. If some of the targets are minors (females in all cases), there might be a question about child pornography.
   
But there is more talk that laws regarding photography even in public need to be upgraded.  But n another case near the Lincoln Memorial, someone was convicted of a misdemeanor for “upskirting” photos, on Park Service property.  I’m not sure of the legal difference. 

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Another visit to SCOTUS replays the two battles there over COPA in the past.


When I went to the Supreme Court Monday through the “three minute line” (Monday on my main “Bill Boushka” blog, the Elonis case), I was reminded of the fact that I had attended two other times, once in March 1997 to hear arguments about the “Communications Decency Act”, the censorship portion of which would get overturned;  and on March 2, 2004, when SCOTUS hear oral arguments on COPS (the Child Online Protection Act) for a second time (the first time, in 2002, the "national standard" question, similar to obscenity, had been settled).  This time, the idea of a national standard had been accepted, and the Supreme Court was hearing whether to continue an injunction against enforcement from the Third Circuit (in 2003). The court found the questions of vagueness and “least restrictive means” compelling enough that it kept the injunction and ordered a trial on merits, which was held in Philadelphia in October 2006. Another "Smallville problem" was whether "minors" meant "all minors" or "some minors" -- most teenagers are not as cognitively mature as Clark Kent at 14 in the televisions series.  
    
In the three-minute line that day I had an interesting discussion with a high school civics teacher on “full faith and credit” and how that could affect gay marriage, in the early days of the gradual legalization of it.  I also had lunch with some Naval Academy midshipmen visiting the Court and discussed “don’t ask, don’t tell”.  One of the female midshipmen disputed the idea that an adult-id scheme would be unworkable, but feared it would allow the government – in their case the Navy – to monitor their online activity. 
  
History may have proved her right.  I also recall that on at least one occasion, when working as a substitute teacher, I briefed some social studies teachers on COPA during "planning period" and lunch at Haywood Secondary School near Alexandria, in early 2005.  

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

ISP's and service providers use the "harmful to minors" terminology in terms of service provisions


I’ve noticed the occurrence of the phrase “harmful to minors” in some “terms of service” or “acceptable use policies” of various ISPs and service providers, who have recently been updating these legal agreements with users for legal reasons. 

Generally, the user agrees not to post material “harmful to minors” or even allow it to be stored in the cloud.

Would the term be implemented as defined in COPA (which was itself finally overturned at trial in March 2007, as reported here)?  Even though COPA was struck down, it would be perfectly legal for a private service provider to use the term as it sees fit.  
    
Normally, that would refer to pornographic images or possibly writings. 

Service providers do not screen for material pro-actively, but might act upon a complaint.

They generally also stipulate that they have “zero tolerance” for child pornography and will report it to NCMEC.  As I’ve noted, technology that could scan cloud images for digital watermarks might come into use in the relatively near future.
  

Google also now warns users that c.p. is illegal (with what is technically an ad) when they use the search term, before display search results.  

Sunday, November 16, 2014

"Sexting" case in Virginia leads to bizarre defamation suit by police officer against teen's defense attorney


In a sexting case in Virginia, there has been a bizarre development where a police officer, David Abbott of the Manassas Police Department, has sued defense attorney Jessica Foster, representing a 17 year old male teen defendant, for comments made to the Washington Post, as reported by Tom Jackman here.  Station WJLA has a story on the matter here.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Sexting scandal in New Hampshire includes distribution of girls' photos, and damage to their online reputations


On CNN Tonight, on Veterans Day, Don Lemon interviewed three panelists on an escalation of the cell phone sexting “crisis”.  At a school in Exeter NH, some students were distributing photos of underage women that had been sent to them, taking the problem beyond the usual problem of simple “possession” of what is legally child pornography. The CNN story is here
    
The panelist included Mel Robbins, Gloria Allred, and Yaniv Schulman from “Catfish”.  The women face serious damage to their online reputations, as regard to future employment and university admittance opportunities.  

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Novelist John Grisham stirs controversy by arguing that "old men" who watch c.p. are not a danger to others


Legal thriller fiction author (and Mississippi attorney) John Grisham has a controversial piece ion The Telegraph, “Men who watch child porn are not all pedophiles”, link here. Indeed, consumers are probably easier to apprehend and prosecute than producers (although many are both), and this could get even easier if the government starts going after cloud storage.  Wikipedia claims that the government plants links to c.p. to catch people who will click on them;  there is a danger that someone could get it on a computer from a virus or malware (an idea covered here heavily in July 2013).  True, most men over 60 who look at this probably don’t touch minors themselves, and probably look for fantasy to cover their own physical decay (or “tissue death” as Dr. Phil calls it) that makes them feel ugly and ashamed – the obesity, the loss of muscle, the balding legs, the loss of libido.  Call it the Oscar Wilde syndrome. 
   
Think Progress responded with an angry reply here (propagated on Facebook).  I get the argument of “demand pull” although I’m not convinced it really works that way.  Oliver North used to say the same thing about cocaine on his radio show in the 1990s.  You could say even that adult porn victimizes women (and some men) and busts marriages – because of demand pull, although adults should defend themselves.  You can take this argument further and object to the idea that some people undermine the ability of others to share common responsibilities (like marriage).  Later Thursday, CNN reported an apology by Grisham (over the "uproar") here

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Could Snapchat produce a hidden c.p. risk?


The very existence of third-party apps to save “Snapchat” images. Live SaveSnap, napBpx and SanySpy, undermines the whole concept of Snapchat, security experts say in a story on CNN money today, link here.   And according to the story, “misftis” connected to “4chan” hacked into one of these services and stole 100,000 photos, some of which could contain child pornography or teen porn, the story also reports.   It would be an interesting legal question whether the existence of such an image on snapchat would constitute “possession” if it is supposed to disappear, or for that matter, production and distribution. 
  
I see little reason to have Snapchat myself.  If I want an interaction with someone, then I usually want it in person, or possibly Skype, even though I realize conceivably they could be recorded or wiretapped (like the movie “The Conversation”).  So can Snapchat.  I can imagine a situation where someone wants to do a negotiation only in a service like this, but it’s unlikely I would ever be interested.  Okay, what if I had no choice?  Play the “what if …” game.  

Friday, October 03, 2014

Could hyperlinks and comments present bloggers with a child pornography risk?


Do webmasters or bloggers have to become concerned about legal liability for incidental distribution of child pornography?
  
It would seem that it is possible.  If a blogger or web author gave a direct link to a site that he knew contained images or videos of child pornography (or at least to a specific URL) that would sound like it could be “distribution”.  (Not for indirect links from the site though, which the blogger would have no control over.)   If a blogger moderates comments and approves a comment containing child pornography, that would sound like legal distribution.
  
The latter sounds pretty unlikely in practice.  Most bloggers use services to eliminate spam comments, which would probably catch these.  And relatively few comments actually have embedded images or videos, although this is possible.   The main risk might come from a very long comment that slipped through the filters and that the blog owner didn’t read, and that actually contained an illegal image.
  
Where a more serious practical problem can occur would be with anti-social or destructive comments, like though encountering joining terror groups or even instructing into how to make crude weapons.  Although none of this would have fallen within the scope of COPA as originally defined, it certainly sounds “harmful to minors” in a practical sense.
   
All of this sounds like it could be of concern to forum moderators, though. 

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Could people who viewed hacked iCloud "lewd" photos of under-18 celebrities be charged with possessing child pornography? A legal labyrinth may exist (the "mens rea" concept)


Vox offers an important analysis of whether someone who looked at hacked photos (in the Cloud hack incident, that seems to focus on the Apple iCloud) that were of someone under 18 and that were “lewd” in a legal sense, could be charged with possessing child pornography, link here. The article specifically raises the question with respect to McKayla Maroney. 

It’s also possible to ask whether Maroney could be charged with producing child pornography with the selfie.  This sounds very unlikely in practice, and she would have had to intend it to be posted or distributed. 
  
Vox mentions a Catholic University (Washington DC) paper on the legal aspects of the sexting problem, here

Vox mentions that normally someone has to know or reasonably suspect that an image is child pornography, although the wording of various state laws can be critical.  Vox mentions an affirmative defense doctrine called “mens rea”, Latin for mental state.  Vox warns that police could review search engine arguments from a person’s computer to try to determine if the person suspected or knew that the person was under 18.  It’s also a good question, what level of suspicion is reasonable? 
  
One question that comes to mind is an image(s) from a foreign country.  A few countries (Russia) have weak laws against child pornography, even if they pretend to be moralistic (as with Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law).   Non-western countries might have bad “reputations” which arguably should make consumers suspicious, especially countries with cultures antagonistic to the West.  Possibly hackers in such countries could try to leverage child pornography as a security threat.
  
Another and closely related problem could occur with sexually explicit foreign films, or images from the films, even from more “mainstream” countries, if the age of consent in those countries is less than 18.   In the US, film producers must, according to federal law, maintain records to show that actors who appear in explicit scenes are at least 18 when the images are created.  Most other western countries (Canada, Britain, etc) seem to have similar requirements.  Hopefully, reputable film companies would adhere to this practice wherever shots are done.  IMDB does not always tell visitors the age or birthdates of actors (more recently it has been leaving this information out on some lesser known actors).   Films often have plot lines where older but physiologically mature minors (maybe 17) have sex (let’s start with Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”, which English teachers have to disclaim for ninth graders).  This has always been viewed as legal as long as the actual actors are 18 at the time of shooting (in the US and most western countries).  The lack of public verification of age in some countries could raise new legal questions, though, even for consumers.
    
All of this raises the question as to whether the government would want to scan cloud backups, at least for digitally hashmarked images known to the NCMEC.
  
In any case, someone like Maroney is not a victim in the practical or moral sense envisioned by NCMEC.  These are mostly much younger people who get the attention of true “pedophiles” (pedophilia and ephebophilia – the Oscar Wilde syndrome – aren’t the same thing) or sex traffickers.  As Ashton Kutcher’s campaign says, “Real men don’t buy girls.”  (This problem really does seem to be overwhelmingly heterosexual.)   And there is no visible change in someone’s physiological maturity at 17 years, 364 days, and 18 years.  It’s a place where a legal line is drawn.



Update:  Sept.. 12 

The government can look at emails without a warrant if they are more than 180 days old (source).  There are calls in Congress to tighten the requirement for a warrant.  But, right now, theoretically, the police could scan cloud backups for c.p. images (by hashmark) that had been stored for more than 180 days, without a warrant.  I haven't heard of this actually being done.
 
Update: Oct. 4
 
Deleting an image from a computer often results in the Cloud Service deleting it from a backup.  But police could still try to look for older deleted images in a cloud, just as they can on a hard drive. But I haven't heard that this has actually happened. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Email companies match images (by digital hashtag) to known child pornography keys on databases; could this be done with Cloud storage?


Recently, several media outlets have reported that Google scans images in gmail attachments for child pornography.  It probably would do this with other products online, like Picasa albums, its social media and blogs.  The way this is done is to check any hash associated with the image with a hash code from a database on known images from the Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Alexandria, VA.  The UK telegraph has a story by Matthew Sparkes here
The Washington Post has a story on August 9 in print on the Switch Blog by Hayley Tsukayama, p. G4, not yet online.  Extreme Tech has an even more detailed story here by Sebastian Anthony here.   Extreme Tech uses the terminology “digital fingerprint”.  Microsoft also has a similar technology called Photo DNA which it donates to other service providers, and itr seems to be based on recognizing the same kinds of wartermarks or digital fingerprints.  In all cases, fingerprints (computed from the images) are compared to known databases, which would include NCMEC (“missing kids”) and possibly other industry databases that seem to be in development. 

Watermarks are associated with content labeling, which a British group, no longer active, called the ICRA (and later Family Online Safety) wanted to sell to content providers as a way of labeling content for age suitability.  This idea was pertinent during the days that COPA was being litigated.

There is no technology that can automatically determine “new” c/p. without matching to an image already classified as such by law enforcement or perhaps consumer complaints. Possibly, a consumer could publish or send an image that he or she thinks is legal and then gets reported and classified and watermarked anyway, and then the image is discovered later.  One problem for consumers  would be that the legal  definition of child pornography varies among different countries, even in the west.  Generally, in western countries, legitimate media companies follow a standard that actors in erotic  explicit images (“NC-17”) must be 18 or older, and federal law requires that they check actors n(for minimum age 18) for films made in the US (and Canada).  There could be more questions about standards for materials from Russia or some parts of Asia.

Security companies (like Sophos and Webroot) say they sometimes find images with matching fingerprints with their technology and will notify authorities, but do not pro-actively scan networks or client computers. Computer repair services seem to have a similar policy, and there have been a few cases where people were reported, and here there could be a problem of judgment as to what kind of image is illegal if it was detected by a human viewer. 

It would seem that cloud server storage could be scanned for hashmarked images, but I haven’t heard of this being done. That possibility could include Carbonite, or new cloud services from Micorsoft with Windows 8, as well as Apple’s iCloud.  The NSA would be capable of detecting images like this as part of terrorism detection, but would it notify police?

Extreme Tech points out that this whole process can raise troubling questions.  Could service providers scan for other illegal content, like copyright infringement? This process, after all, deals with content that may have been intended to be totally "private" and not posted on the web at all

Email providers would also be able to scan spam, but consumers who mark a suspect email as spam and don’t open it would not have any legal liability.  

Update: August 13

Tech Republic has a similar story on the matter by Scott Matteson, generally supportive of how Google handled this.  See the comments, also often supportive.  People have been arrested after film developers called police for manual films to be developed, and sometimes the standards are subjective and carpricious.  Is a baby nude picture taken by parents really child pornography?  I've seen a very few shots in smaller films (with parents present), in commercial distribution (such as a circumcision scene), that might fit someone's definition, although they obviously weren't taken with the intention of eroticism or with abuse of children.

Update: August 16

The Washington Post supports Google on this, saying it is complying with federal law, editorial. "Google's Careful Watch", here

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Teen who sexted ordered to stay off social media by judge, but given a chance for dismissal after one year


The 17 year old boy in Manassas VA whom prosecutors pursued aggressively in a sexting case was placed on probation for one year by a Prince William County judge, with the possibility of dismissal of the case after one year. This process is called "deferred adjudication".  It is a legal  procedure, at least in Virginia, that was used for a teacher in a matter ancillary to an incident that I was involved in a substitute teacher in 2005 (see main blog, July 27, 2007)/  

Taking a picture of one’s own parts does not pose the same hazard to others or public that usual production of child pornography would.

However, the teen must do community service and stay off social media completely for one year.  This could have a serious affect in other areas, like college in the future. 
  
The Washington Post has a story by Tom Jackman here.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Laws for juvenile or non-violent offenders really do need reform: a horrible case in Texas


Reason Magazine (libertarian oriented) has an article by Lenore Skenazy, arguing for reform of sex offender laws, here.  She cites a case in Texas,  A teenager was put on the registry for touching his sister inappropriately at age 12.  He was in youth detention for four years but permanently on the registry.  He was recently arrested and charged again for a separate sexual offense for not notifying authorities in time that he was going to move (change address).  

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Workplace polygraphs enter the "protect children" debate now


CNN, particularly on AC360, reported on arrests of workers who work in theme parks in Florida, including Disney and Universal (Harry Potter), caught in stings set up by police trying to make contact with minors (and sometimes transmitting child pornography).  For the most part, the illegal Internet activity did not happen with work computers or on park grounds.  The AC360 link is here.  What was novel was the idea that Florida state law (or perhaps federal law) should allow the administering of polygraph tests to those who would work with children.  Polygraphs are discredited because of lack of reliability – but there are tests like No Lie MRI.  But the federal government allows – sometimes requires – them for jobs accessing classified information. (This issue was last taken up on the IT jobs blog on June 7, 2009).  

Friday, July 11, 2014

Detectives in VA tried to force a sexting suspect to give "direct" evidence


A case in Manassas, VA (30 miles west of Washington DC on I-66) has illustrated how far the teen sexting problem has gone.  Police actually wanted to force the suspect to have an intimate photo of himself taken, as “evidence”, as explained in this news story by Tom Jackman Friday, July 11, 2014 on p B3 of the Metro Section of the Washington Post, here.  Detectives dropped the idea of pursuing the warrant, but might continue some kind of prosecution, 

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Horrifying child abuse case in GA complicated by dad's "sexting"


A grotesque case in Georgia, where a child was left to "roast" in the back seat of a locked car, has become complicated by the sexting issue.  Georgia police say that the defendant was "sexting" while the son was left in the back seat of his car.  The WJLA story is here. The defendant also reportedly did not want the responsibility for children seemed to want a "new life".

This the first time that I can recall where the "sexting" issue has been used by proscutors to strengthen a separate criminal charge.

CNN televised some of the preliminary hearings (or bail hearing) today, Friday.  Bail was denied in this murder case.   

Monday, June 23, 2014

Maryland mother sues convicted consumers of child pornography


ABC affiliate WJLA reports that a mother somewhere in Maryland is suing up to 100 “John Doe” defendants convicted of viewing pornographic images of her two young children being abused by their father.  The defendants were in Maryland, Virginia and Washington DC, story here.   On January 23, this column reported that the Supreme Court had taken up the issue as to whether “consumers” could be held liable for inducing demand for a product that victimizes children.  But only those convicted are defendants.  

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

"CreepyPasta Slenderman" character seems to inspire a copycat crime by two minor girls in Wisconsin; any legal questions?


There has occurred a troubling case in Wisconsin of minors emulating behavior that they found portrayed in the Internet. 
   
The website involved is “Creepypasta” (link http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/Creepypasta_Wiki ) which facilitates users posting shocking “horror” stories on the Web.  The links on the site give some rather strict rules about quality (proofreading), avoiding unfinished work, and spam, so it seems pretty legitimate, at least to a first-time visitor like me.
    
But Jason Hanna and Dana Ford of CNN report a case where two twelve year old girls who planned an attack on a fellow student in Waukesha, WI, and stabbed her nineteen times after luring her in a hide-seek game that seemed to be inspired by one of the stories on the site.  They seemed to be trying to please a fictional Internet character on the site named “SlenderMan”. 
  
   
The link for the story on CNN is here.
  
There would seem to be at least the possibility that websites that seem to “inspire” copycat crimes could come under criticism.  It’s not clear that there could be any downstream liability, but that should be looked into.
   
The girls have been charged as adults for attempted murder. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

COPA-like nature of Russian anti-gay law could make it dangerous for many western journalists and bloggers to set foot there


I haven’t heard a lot in recent years about state COPA-like “harmful to minors” laws, and I don’t know if the Virginia Supreme Court eventually struck down Virginia’s law, given the COPA trial decision in early 2007.

There is a possible trap in these laws.  In theory, if someone operated a website from one state where his action was legal, and visited another state, it sounds theoretically possible he could be apprehended.  Of course, the unconstitutionality of the law at the federal level makes such a prosecution extremely unlikely, and I don’t recall any that had happened before 2007. 

But there is another point of argument, that addresses traveling abroad.  If you operate a website that does something illegal according to the laws of the country you visit, and especially if it is not blocked by the country, it sounds like a risk that you could be arrested and detained while in that country, even if you didn’t mention the site while there or try to update it. 

So I have to assume right now that it would be very risky for me to visit Russia.  As recently as a year ago, I had contemplated the idea of visiting St. Petersburg, to see the Hermitage, at least.  It’s no surprise that much of Africa would be hostile, but the idea of a supposedly modernizing country becoming off limits is discouraging, because of its “COPA-like” law, as the anti-gay pornography law would be implemented.


I do wonder what would happen of openly gay journalists visit Russia, or other countries with even worse laws, and if media companies now have to think about this issue (whether a journalist has supported gay rights online) before assigning them to cover a story in Russia.  Again, it’s the similarity (in terms of ambiguity and structure) to COPA that is striking. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Sexting ring in central Virginia raises question of teen awareness

Over 100 teenagers have been implicated in a “sexting ring” in central Virginia, in Louisa county, which happened to be the site of the 2011 earthquake.
    
Authorities said that at least three or four teens would be charged.    WJLA has the news story from the AP on April 8, here. Teens seem unaware that they actually are possessing and transmitting child pornography, as the law views it.

Louisa County, around Mineral, is a quiet rural area and the home of several “intentional communities”.  It is between Culpeper, Charlottesville and Richmond, and a nuclear power plant is nearby.   
  

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Electronic Frontier Foundation educates the public on overzealous implementation of CIPA

Electronic Frontier Foundation is sponsoring a “404 Day” to educate the public on excessive filtering in public libraries under the “Children’s Internet Protection Act” or CIPA.  The link for the story is here.  The “404” error code means that an Internet URL was not found.  (In the mainframe days, a “505” meant no connection to the workplace network!) The "harmful to minors" concept known from COPA figures into the law. 
  
Public libraries tend to be aggressive with censorship because they fear losing federal funds. 
  
Actor, voice singer and short film producer Reid Ewing has a satirical 2012 video called “It’s Free” which, in part, makes fun of the way libraries monitor their content, in terms of books actually presented to children.  This was covered on my main “BillBoushka” blog Feb. 23, 2013.  But the video comports well with EFF’s concerns.  

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Snapchat could exacerbate sexting, cyberbullying problems

Snapchat, reported to be used by 80% of teens in some communities, can increase the risks that theens will try cyberbullying and “sexting”, because of the impression that their messages disappear.
  
Actually, it’s possible for screens to be saved in some cases, and a third party could use another camera up close to record the images. 
  
Digital Trends reports on the potential risk here, story by Jam Kotenko.
  
Sophos (a security partner for Webroot) has this article on the problem, (website url) link.

But Noel Baker of the Irish Examiner may have the most detailed story, (website url) here

I would be uncomfortable about sending messages of which I have no record.  I don’t see how this could ever fly in the workplace, to be sure.
   
Picture:  Because of tracking, the Weather Channel shows me an ad for my own new book! 

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Facebook has trouble filtering inappropriate ads for minors, leading to dangerous "rating" of profile pictures

The Wall Street Journal has a disturbing story Feb. 28: “Nude Webcams and Diet Drugs: The Facebook Ads Teens Aren’t Supposed to See”, by Jeff Elder, in print, also online (paywall) and this video, which appears to be free:

  
It has been very difficult for Facebook to filter ads that would not be appropriate for minors, partly because of the complexity of the way some of the apps work.  The issues remind one of the debate over filtering at the COPA trial in 2006, but with much more complexity. 
  
Some apps would send a teen’s picture to other users, often grown men.  And some ads resulted in adult men rating teenagers (usually young women, but males were possible too) for attractiveness, a situation that Elder points out should not be going on.  (Remember, in the opening sequence of the movie “The Social Network”, the app developed by the fictionalized Mark Zuckerberg invited college students to rate paired co-eds as to who was the “hottest”.  Minors should not be the subjects of such contests. 
  

Reiterate: the more teens can accomplish in “the real world”, the better off they are.  That requires parents, schools, churches or worship places, cooperative businesses, perhaps scouting, and so on.  That gets a little harder these days where people have become more insular and where there are home security concerns that makes outreach harder.  Oh, yes, the Girl Scout Cookie selling was very conspicuous in the bitter cold at the Ballston Metro yesterday.    
   
I don't have a real feel for how well other ad-serving platforms can protect minors for inappropriate products.  I do sometimes see these on my own blogs.  That issue needs more attention, to be sure.  I have not so far screened who the advterisers are, but I wonder if I have a duty to do so, given this WSJ story and its future implications.  It is possible for me to monitor this.  

Monday, February 24, 2014

Consumers may get some indirect protection by US, western country law requiring age verification of actors in adult media

It may be a little hard to find with Google searches, but the United States does have a federal law, USC 2257, requiring producers of "adult media" to verify ages of performers, maintain records of this verification, and not employ anyone under 18 in explicit scenes.  Cornell University has a link to the applicable law, here.

It would seem that one practical effect of such a law is to protect consumers from inadvertent possession of child pornography, when buying or renting DVD's or video streaming from legitimate companies, at least for media produced in the United States,  Generally, all main western democracies (the UK, Canada, Australia, France, etc) have similar laws.  But off the cuff, there might seem to be a "risk" with material coming from (or originally produced in) non-western countries, or possibly Russia or some of the former Soviet republics or satellites, even if later distributed through American media companies.  It's not clear that ages of actors would have been verified during production in less westernized countries.  
 
Ironically, for all the furror of Russia's anti-gay propaganda law (said to mirror COPA in the theory behind it) and all of Putin's talk about protecting children, Russia doesn't criminalize mere posession of child pornography.  But an American who possesses it in a country where it is legal could still be prosecuted under US law when he returns.   

Thursday, February 20, 2014

USA Today reports that over 50000 men in the US view and trade child pornography

A story by Kevin Johnson in USA Today on Feb. 20 (front page in print) reports that about 50,000 men trade in illegal child-porn image, mostly through peer-to-peer and off of "ckandestine" websites, usually offrhore, with encrupted IP' addresses.  The link for the story is here.

The story included a map of the US pruporting to show the relative prevalnce of these users across the country, concentrated in any populated areas.

Since 2002, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has used technology to wartermark images of known victims and help law enforcement identify users online.  

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Implicit content problem: another redux

To build on some analysis of the “implicit content” problem made here Nov. 6, 2011 and March 5, 2013, and in Chapter 3 of my “DADT III” book, upcoming:
  
Generally, I’ve said that the legal line is crossed only when the “perpetrator” makes an overture to a specific person he believes to be a minor (whether a real one or possible decoy).  But of course, it would be illegal in most states to post an ad for such an encounter, as on Craigslist, or simply directly ask for people to contact you.  This could be true of any illegal activity (involving drugs, weapons, etc).
  
A statement that admits one could be vulnerable to temptation should not itself cross a legal line. If for no other reason, our whole western culture (at least from the New Testament on) is heavily influenced by the Temptation of Christ story.  Actually anyone could experience temptation.  In theological terms, that is part of the reason for the need for Grace.
  
Then the issue seems to come down to what I’ve called, on my main blog, “The Privilege of Being Listened To” – being heard (and fully) before one further agrees to tale any responsibility for supporting others and providing for them – which usually supplies a purpose, like the need to sell and make money from what one has published.  Even in the context of the way COPA was litigated, that sounds particularly ironic.  



It seems noteworthy that Russia's "anti-gay propaganda law" is predicated on an "implicit content" idea:  that abstract or gratuitous speech will lure minors away from "normal" life activity (that is, into "nontraditional sexual relations" -- anything other than sex in marriage where procreation can occur) simply because "real lfie" is inherently more difficult or challenging for some people (men).  

Friday, January 24, 2014

Google Book Search and Amazon "look inside the book" could have become relevant to COPA a few years ago


In editing the galley proofs for my “Do Ask, Do Tell III” book, I noticed an anomaly in the arguments that had been used to both defend and overturn COPA a few years ago.
   
That concerns the fact that many newly published books go into Google Book Search (link), which has itself been controversial from a copyright perspective in some circles.  
    
This would hold for most self-published books produced through print-on-demand since about 2003. 
    
Therefore, the argument that a particular passage or image might be “harmful to minors” and must not be available online in an “everyone” searchable mode but could be acceptable if in print only could not hold. 
In some cases, it’s possible for authors to refuse to let their books be indexed (as a few have done). 

Amazon’s sneak preview “look inside the book” could have run into similar issues.  

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Supreme Court weighs damages to victims of child pornography when they sue people who possess images (only after conviction?)

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments Wednesday on the case of Parloline v. Amy Unknown, and U.S., 12-8561, concerning a woman, Amy, who won a civil restitution suit from one defendant, Doyle Randall Paroline, for possessing images of her being abused by an uncle, as part a much larger collection of child pornography. The Associated Press story by Susan Walsh was run in the Washington Post today, link here.

There would be a logical question as to whether Congress, in passing the 1994 liability law, had intended to distribute total award among all defendants associated with a victim.  The problem is that often just one possessor is apprehended and held responsible for the entire cost.  Theoretically, the defendant could have to pay every victim in his collection if all of them sued.

The case should be considered in light of the possibility that child pornography cases in the future could pop up because of wardriving,  or malware.  That possibility was discussed here July 20, 2013 and July 23, 2013 on the Internet Safety blog.  A prosecution might not result in a conviction because of the standard of proof in a criminal case, but a civil case could possibly hole someone whose computer had gotten the illegal images of the victim through malware responsible, according to lower standards of evidence and theories of diligence that could be expected of computer owners.  It does not seem as though this possibility was raised in the oral questions, and it needs to be considered.

See a related story here Dec. 3, 2013. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Canada now has a case of "sexting" by teens similar to many in the U.S.

The legal issues around teenage "sexting" on cell phones has appeared in Canada, as a teenage girl was convicted of possessing and distributing child pornography after she sexted certain pictures of a boyfriend's former girlfriend whom she saw as a rival.  In other words, she behaved like Theresa in "Days of our Lives". A publication called "The Province" in British Columbia has the details here.
 
But there is controversy in Canada, just as in the US, as to whether child pornography chargers are really appropriate in the case, despite the letter of the law, which seems similar to US law.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Katie Couric: "Knockout Game" YouTube videos shows how many minors on Internet lack "cognitive moral compass"

Today, Friday, January 10, 2014, Katie Couric, on her syndicated show, covered the “The Knockout Game” (link) and guests made the point that teens who engage in it will do anything for quick attention on the Internet (especially YouTube) and simply do not have the normal cognitive ability to embrace an adult moral compass – to see how it is wrong.
   
This comports with broader problems on the way minors use the Internet – cyberbullying, not realizing the downstream consequences of online reputation. 
   
This does beg a philosophical question that was indirectly visited a few years ago with COPA, that adults who use the web for what seems like “legitimate” unregulated or non-selective self-promotion depend on a medium whose openness invites abuse by the immature.