The New York Times carried a fascinating piece at the weekend exploring the challenge that ‘sexting’ is increasingly posing for US states. Sexting, is where a nude (pornographic) picture of oneself might be sent to someone else over a mobile network. Accoridng to the NY Times, some states have amended their statutes on child pornography, obscenity or Internet crimes. Many allow juvenile offenders to be charged with a misdemeanor or a lesser offense, so they can qualify for diversion programs and have their records expunged. A few states have tried to define a sexting offense. The NY Times also did some interviews with teenagers which you can read here.
It’s a nightmare for English lawmakers too, challenging our simplistic notions of who is and who isn’t a paedophile. It’s perfectly legal for a 16 year old to consent to sexual activity under English law, but if they take a pornographic photograph of themselves, that amounts to child pornography – and such images can easily be circulated beyond their originally intended audience.
Although this story focuses upon ‘sexting’, it’s worth also bearing in mind the growing role that Twitter can potentially have for the distribution of these images – encouraging as it does rapidly evolving networks. I don’t have the solution but I do know it means the legal notion of what a paedophile is, and what wider society understands by that term, is increasingly disconnected.