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Rick Falkvinge: Why free speech is harmed by the ban on child porn (falkvinge.net)
344 points by pwg on Sept 9, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 319 comments

There's a lot of food for thought here, and important points. But in one area, the author completely glosses over a crucial distinction:

> why is it only documentation of sex crimes against minors that are being banned in this way? The lawmen are perfectly fine with a video documenting how a teenager is being stabbed with a screwdriver in both eyes, then murdered. ... why is the ban just related to anything sexual, and not to the bodily harm itself...?

There's a very important reason only documentation of sex crimes against minors is banned -- there isn't a big market for watching videos of murders. Virtually no one is going to go out and film themselves murdering people in order to satisfy a market for those videos.

But the reasoning goes that if child porn is legal, then this will actively encourage more child rape, etc., so that it can be filmed and distributed. Plus, even if we're really good against preventing the actual acts in the US, we're still creating markets for it in other countries, especially third-world ones. So children suffer.

But then there's another argument, that having child porn around is actually better than the alternative -- because potential molesters/rapists are able to satisfy their desire with existing videos. If they don't have the videos, then they go out and commit horrible acts. So, better to stick to the videos.

There are no easy answers.

Here's a proposal. Mere possession should be legal, as Falkvinge argues. What should be illegal is purchasing child porn.

You might reply that it might be difficult to prove that money changed hands, particularly in this brave new Bitcoin world. Fine. Let's say that possession of images that are known to have been sold to anyone at any time constitutes prima facie circumstantial evidence that the person possessing the images paid for them.

Another objection might be that this law might not suffice for catching cabals of child pornographers who create and share images, but without money changing hands. Fine -- let's generalize the criterion to include any exchange of value, including in-kind exchanges. So trading images without monetary payment would still be illegal. (Of course, creating the images would remain highly illegal.)

The outcome would be that the provenance of the image would matter. Possessing an image taken by oneself, or by a friend, possibly by the subject -- all these would be legal, so long as no other crime was committed in the creation of the image or in obtaining it. But downloading material that was being circulated on the Net would still be very dangerous -- the probability of picking up an image that someone had paid for (or bartered for) sometime would soon approach 100%.

Let's call such images "tainted images". The provision that possession of a tainted image constitutes prima facie (i.e., rebuttable) evidence is important. It means that if you visit a Web site that pops up images of child porn, you haven't thereby committed a crime, so long as forensic examination of your computer supports your contention that this was accidental and not part of a pattern of behavior (e.g. there are only a couple of such images and they're only in your browser cache). Well, IANAL and I probably don't know exactly how the law should be phrased, but I think it should be along these lines.

> let's generalize the criterion to include any exchange of value, including in-kind exchanges

> Possessing an image taken by oneself, or by a friend, possibly by the subject -- all these would be legal

If you're a prosecutor and you can't find anything in an average teenage text-exchange that constitues a quid-pro-quo ("I'll show you mine if you show me yours"), you simply aren't fit to do your job. And then we're back to square zero.

How about this: it's an indisputable fact that exchanging bits online (with the copyright holder's permission, of course) has no victims, don't make it illegal. Producing child pornography very much has victims, and should be illegal with the full force of the law. Managing money originating from illegal activities is also illegal, so paying for the production, or acting as any kind of middleman, would be too.

If you're a prosecutor and you can't find anything in an average teenage text-exchange that constitues a quid-pro-quo ("I'll show you mine if you show me yours"), you simply aren't fit to do your job.

Hmm, yeah, good point. Looks like there needs to be a specific exception for sending an image of oneself, or receiving an image directly from the subject of the image, or, in the case of an image with multiple subjects, sharing the image with the other subject(s).

I like this, actually. It would clarify that there is a huge difference between sending a photo of oneself to one's lover, and sending a photo of a victim to a fellow child pornographer. Also, I like that a photo with more than one person in it could not be shared with anyone who was not in the photo.

I recall a case where a girl sexted her boyfriend, and the boyfriend's kid brother found the images and circulated them on the Net. In this case the kid brother is the one who would wind up in trouble, and I think that's the right outcome. (I'm not saying he should be on the sex offender registry, but he did commit a serious crime and needs to be made aware of that.)

As for your proposal -- I think that was the status quo before any of these possession laws were passed. I think it was felt that that structure did not give law enforcement sufficient leverage. Criminalizing possession allows prosecutors to pressure consumers of child porn into naming their suppliers, so that investigations can find the people actually making the stuff. It also attempts to stem the flow of money to these people. I have considerable sympathy with these purposes; but I also agree with Falkvinge that criminalizing mere possession is intolerable on free speech grounds.

So I'm trying to find a solution that gives law enforcement at least some of the help they want (and that many people agree they should have) while not criminalizing mere possession.

"Here's a proposal. Mere possession should be legal, as Falkvinge argues. What should be illegal is purchasing child porn."

Really? Why focus on purchase, when sharing is just as bad as far as incentivizing people producing new material to satisfy demand?

People will scan and distribute books, or crack software and distribute it, purely for whuffie or reputation. They'll do the same with child porn.

Because, as TFA points out, it's very hard to distinguish the kinds of sharing. Sure, if you're seeding CP, that's clear cut, but sending erotic pictures to your girl/boyfriend is sharing too, and it's illegal if you're a minor.

Sexual relationships for minors is also illegal in most jurisdictions. Why do you need to allow minors to send erotic images of themselves when they're not allowed by law to engage in physical sexual activity?

Firstly, that's not exactly true. For example, the age of consent in 30 of the US states is 16 (as it is in many other countries), so many minors are in fact allowed to have sex (even with adults!) but still prohibited from sharing erotic pictures of themselves.

Secondly, that argument poses a false dilemma; the other option would be to change both laws.

Ah, your age of majority isn't 16?

Re the false dilemma claim, I didn't present it as an only option; changing both laws is, like you say, consistent and was in mind when I made the argument I did.

Whilst it would be consistent to change both laws that doesn't make it any the less inconsistent to specifically alter your laws to allow for relay of erotic images for those considered to be under the age of sexual maturity. Or do you disagree?

Ah, your age of majority isn't 16?

Only five countries in the world have the age of majority at 16. The vast majority set it at 18 or older. From a cursory look at the lists, most countries set their age of consent lower than their age of majority.

Whilst it would be consistent to change both laws that doesn't make it any the less inconsistent to specifically alter your laws to allow for relay of erotic images for those considered to be under the age of sexual maturity. Or do you disagree?

I think your framing of the question is misleading. Laws don't actually allow or disallow anything; they create incentives do perform certain behaviors. Since law or no law, kids will send pictures of themselves, I don't see exactly who are we helping by branding them as criminals.

Furthermore, I find the very idea of criminalizing such behavior to be obscene, and an insult to free speech.

>Laws don't actually allow or disallow anything; they create incentives do perform certain behaviors. //

That's just being linguistically obtuse. One can still do something that is not "allowed" by the law.

In your terms though the law is "disincentivizing" the relay of erotic images between minors. Why? Well I'd posit that maturer members of the community see that having naked sexually posed images of oneself available online is not especially helpful to the individual and may lead to negative attention, bullying, abuse and such. Making such actions illegal is saying that they are outside of the behaviour expected as morally normative.

>Since law or no law, kids will send pictures of themselves //

This is completely specious reasoning. Presumably then you're for anarchy as 'people break the law therefore it's wrong to have a law'. Great. But that doesn't speak to how to modify the law sensibly which is the locus of discussion.

>I find the very idea of criminalizing such behavior to be obscene //

This just seems like overly emotional speech; as if it's supposed to take the place of reasoned argument. Like "oh you find it obscene, now we must renormalise the societies laws to your personal preference".


>The vast majority set [the age of majority] at 18 or older. //

I was quite surprised to find this. It's seem really strange to me not to treat a person over 16 as an adult. In my country they can leave home, vote, get married, have consensual sex, go to war, drink alcohol (with conditions), get tried in court as an adult, make medical consent decisions ... just not be called an adult, weird.

>"having naked sexually posed images of oneself available online is not especially helpful to the individual and may lead to negative attention, bullying, abuse and such. Making such actions illegal is saying that they are outside of the behaviour expected as morally normative."

So, behaving in an abnormal fashion that others label immoral... resulting in people targeting that person with abusive bullying...

Would this also reply to things like coming out of the closet as a homosexual, being a vegetarian, a pacifist, a male cheerleader, etc?

After all, we can't have children being bullied for being different, so we should criminalize it, or barring that, criminalize expressing that difference.

> Since law or no law, kids will send pictures of themselves, I don't see exactly who are we helping by branding them as criminals.

Doesn't this line of logic extend to any law that gets broken on a regular basis, which includes rape, murder.. basically all laws?

I've no idea if the law is effective at putting kids off taking pictures of themselves, but the fact that it isn't 100% effective doesn't mean it is 0%.

That's kind of one of the three legs of the article, that it shouldn't be rape for two 17 year olds to have sex and similarly it should not be a sexual crime for them to send each other pictures of themselves. Both of these "crimes" are clearly not the targets of their respective laws, so why are we creating "sex offenders" out of these people?

Neither is it rape nor is it necessarily a sexual crime for them to exchange sexual images of themselves in many jurisdictions, most I'd warrant.

You need to specify the jurisdiction you're referring to.

> Sexual relationships for minors is also illegal in most jurisdictions. Why do you need to allow minors to send erotic images of themselves when they're not allowed by law to engage in physical sexual activity?

In Scotland, 16 year olds can legally get married (without their parents' consent), and thus have a state-approved sexual relationship. They can perfectly legally take photos of themselves having sex, but the moment they show these photos to anyone else, they are evil child pornographers who must be punished.

>Why focus on purchase, when sharing is just as bad as far as incentivizing people producing new material to satisfy demand?

Huh? Sharing increases supply and thus reduces demand. The more people are sharing existing child porn, the less profit there is to be made in producing new material.

"The more people are sharing existing child porn, the less profit there is to be made in producing new material."

a) the producers aren't necessarily driven by a profit motive

b) it's not like they spend a lot on sets and crew and equipment, so 'break-even' isn't even an issue. They'd be taking that trip to Thailand anyway.

c) Porn customers value novelty, so there's pretty much always demand for new material, whether or not there's a viable business model.

>a) the producers aren't necessarily driven by a profit motive

Sure, but I wasn't thinking just material profit; any kind of reputation or warm fuzzies or whatever they get from distributing would be diminished if there was a lot of it already out there.

>b) it's not like they spend a lot on sets and crew and equipment, so 'break-even' isn't even an issue. They'd be taking that trip to Thailand anyway.

Interesting thought. I have to admit I have basically no idea what motivates child porn producers/distributors, I just assume they must be gaining something from it. Otherwise, even assuming you did take the pictures/videos, why distribute them?

>c) Porn customers value novelty, so there's pretty much always demand for new material, whether or not there's a viable business model.

Not the impression I've got; I remember an interview with a "normal" porn producer where he said that 1) there is nothing new or original in (mainstream) porn; every single shot you can take has been done thousands of time before and 2) the widespread availability of free porn on the internet was driving a lot of porn producers out of business or at least into more specialized niches.

> ... increases supply and thus reduces demand.

Rarely. Usually, increasing supply reduces prices which increases demand. The economic term is elasticity.

Why not criminalise only selling? If you criminalise buying, less people will buy it, therefore the sellers will be less visible. And you do want to catch the sellers, not the buyers.

I'm pretty sure peer pressure alone can regulate against people looking at child porn, no need to involve the police in it.

I forget where I read it but it was something along the line that penalizing the buyers of prostitution has a larger impact than penalizing the prostitutes themselves. By killing demand you end up getting rid of the supply.

Here's a paper: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2057299&#...

Laws against drug possession are supposed to have a similar deterrent effect, but we know those don't work terribly well.

Shock video sites that feature murders, dismemberment and other forms of crime on video for voyeuristic pleasure are a pretty big business. Perhaps not as big as child pornography woud be/is, but big enough that your distinction is a bit questionable.

Further, videos of people getting murdered raise enough of an outcry that they get investigated/prosecuted much harder. Instances of child molestation are hidden, so there can only be public outcry in the abstract, leading to crazy laws that resemble witch hunts more than legal proceedings.

Not just shock videos, but propaganda videos of things like IED or sniper attacks in certain warzones as well. The ability to distribute those videos plays a non-trivial role in why those attacks are carried out. Blowing up a car or two for the sake of the act itself isn't worth much, but the propaganda value of those videos shouldn't be underestimated.

If I were inclined to think that banning those videos would actually do anything to prevent people who wanted to see them from seeing them (I do not), I would assert that banning those videos would disincentivize the acts.

I almost commented about this... but then I realize I had no evidence whatsoever for any of those claims.

Do you?


That is an extremely old Snopes page, written at the dawn of the internet, when pictures were captured on film or tape, not in bytes. I recall reading that very page back then. It does say 'last updated 2006', but the most recent reference in 1999, and only seems to talk about famed snuff films to that date.

To contrast, the main article gives a direct link to such a snuff film as snopes says doesn't exist. Shock sites also had things like the Taliban beheading videos. Snopes is clearly wrong on this one.

I'm not sure how much 'big business' shock sites would have though - I can't see them selling much in the way of subscriptions, only monetising through web ads.

> All the fretting about it aside, not so much as one snuff film has been found.


This was the first that come to mind for me, as well. Living in Canada, this was front-page news not long ago, and for several days until his arrest in Germany.

I'm not talking about snuff. I'm talking about reddit, 4chan and the like that regularly have videos of people dying or being murdered. They aren't snuff, as the murders were not motivated by having the video of it. I am just talking security cameras, bystanders, etc that are really popular. Im talking about news shows that have "shocking footage of a crime".

When it is children being raped, there is no equvalent, as that would be distributing child pornography.

As other people have pointed out, this isn't so much true as popular belief might suggest. There are people out there who enjoy watching death, but most of the content comes from pre-existing stuff (security cameras, and deaths that were filmed for reasons other than making a snuff video).

However, I think that the same thing would apply to child porn. If murder was a misdemeanor, and if it were easier to get away with, I'm sure there would be a lot more 'snuff' videos, or videos filmed with the sole purpose of filming someone being killed. Child rape and abuse would still be a highly offensive crime, and especially if a video became popular, it would attract legal attention. And child porn distributors don't want that. Instead, they would most likely do exactly what the snuff distributors do -> compile existing videos of child rape and nudity and porn and whatever twisted fetish.

But there's an even stronger upside. Now, the content is public! Currently, the best place for a pedophile to get child porn is Tor, where several guides and communities exist regarding the legal-consequence-free production of child porn. Why? Because child porn is so tightly regulated that the only way for some pedophiles to get what they want is to produce it themselves.

There was one study (http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2010-11/s-lcp113010.p...) that suggested that legalizing child porn in an area actually reduced rates of child sex abuse. Isn't that the end goal?

Child porn is like the video of the person getting stabbed in the eyes by a screw driver. It happened, and there are probably people in the world who derive pleasure from watching the video. Be we shouldn't censor it. That act is something that happened, and banning the video doesn't change the fact that some people do terrible things.

The ban on child pornography is primarily our society trying to make a problem disappear by trying to hide it from consciousness. Child pornography is particularly special because it combines three things that are particularly touchy in our society (at the very least, midwest US society). 1. Sexuality. As a culture, we don't like being open about sexuality. We are very much "sexuality is beautiful - in marriage. Otherwise keep it away from me. Also keep it away from yourself, because it's not good for you." 2. Children. Watching an 80 year old man get murdered is pretty bad. Watching a 25 year old young adult getting murdered is harder to watch, especially if he had a bright future. Watching a 10 year old boy get murdered is terrible. What could a 10 year old boy have done that was so unforgivable? Rape is no different. 3. A strong historical stigma. I mention child pornography and you don't even have to picture child pornography. You already have a reaction, something that either you've programmed into yourself or that has been programmed into you (probably more the latter though).

That makes child pornography particularly hard to confront and justify. "Free speech is good, and I'm all for free speech, but child pornography is soooo awful, and it already exists as an exception. Do we really need to legalize something as awful child pornography for the sake of free speech? Are there even examples of legitimate child pornography? And what will people think if I start supporting the legalization of child pornography?"

There's a lot of momentum against the legalization of child pornography. But there's a lot of difficult-to-face logic that supports the legalization of child pornography. And again, legalizing child pornography does NOT mean legalizing production, does NOT mean legalizing abuse, does NOT mean supporting the act. It just means supporting the documentation of the act.

If none of the most horrible crimes against humanity were legal to be documented, journalism would die. We would lose historical records of the Holocaust. (Mountains of bodies? Is there a legitimate reason to have pictures lying around of mountains of dead naked bodies? Of course there's a good reason to legalize the possession of the horrible images that came out of the Holocaust. And the same reason applies to child pornography.)

No they aren't.

Isn't the easy answer virtual child porn? I really see no reason why this is also illegal except it makes people feel icky.

This allows potential rapists to satisfy their desires without harming any actual children.

We should probably work on legalizing that, then. Right now we're putting people in jail for importing comic books.

Virtual Child Porn is not illegal(in America) but obscene material is. Obscenity charges are rare and would only apply to hardcore porn if someone ever is brought up on such charges. They are a hard sell so it's not really perused by law enforcement. There is nothing wrong with it. If VCP was to be made illegal, violent video games should be made illegal too. America should follow Finland's footsteps and not makes laws on anything that does not harm someone physically or psychologically.

Why do you try to fill people with a false sense of security Akemi? How do we know obscenity charges are rare? Why should we think it would only apply to 'hardcore' porn?


Perhaps you'd have people believe that Christopher Handley's circumstances are rare, but perhaps they're but a minority of what we manage to see publicized for what it is.

Obscenity laws are seriously problem, a cudgel that can be wielded ruthlessly, and people cow in fear to it as Handley did. It must be confronted.

Why should everyone be "satisfied"? What if a similar percentage of the population has a knack for fresh brains?

Maybe that is what all those zombie movies are about: crime prevention.

They should be satisfied if it comes at no harm to others and the alternative is harming others. Isn't that kind of a no-brainer?


Who is harmed by "virtual child porn"?

Not the virtual children, certainly.

Possibly the viewers, IF (research needed) giving them the ability to watch detailed scenarios of abuse -- possibly with willing "children" -- raises the possibility that they'll abuse a real child and ruin both the child's life and their own.

That's an important "if"; I don't know the answer, but I will at least say it's a bit sad we don't have more people calling for research on "what things actually prevent child molestation from happening" -- we just have people calling for harsher sentences, or broader laws, or more sex offender registries.

"giving them the ability to watch detailed scenarios of abuse"

You mean like what the police who investigate real tapes have?

This 'raises the possibility' thing is a bad slippery slope. Let's argue that playing GTA raises the possibility people will steal cars.

This ruins the lives of the car thieves and the people whose cars are stolen! We must avoid that possibility!

If we define harm as being to actual children (not religion/impure-thoughts kind of harm), then the only argument is that future children will be harmed, because the viewer of the porn will have his sexually deviant longings for children reinforced and then, one day, will rape/molest a real child.

Personally, I do not buy this argument at all. I think it is very likely that virtual child porn (comic, animation, CG) prevents molestation overall. Because honestly, what do men do when they watch porn? Mainly, jerk off. And then once that's done, the urge is substantially dissipated... and so the subject would be less likely to put themselves at risk committing a sex crime against an actual child (something I understand a lot of molesters also feel guilty about).

So my hunch is that virtual child porn is probably a net positive. But I doubt we will ever get good data about this, and anyway it is one of those issues where logic isn't so likely to prevail.

Except the concern isn't about satiating the pedophile's need; it's about the pedophile becoming desensitized and eventually normalized to the thought of having sex with a child. They experience "loli" or virtual children, and that would be the gateway to real ones.

If you're talking about a trained psychologist prescribing the material to a pedophile, that would be fine, but the vibe I'm getting from this discussion is a bunch of people think if you just open the loli flood-gates, all the pedophiles will stop raping children, and that just won't happen.

I guess by now we are so desensitised to murder and violence by watching action movies and playing video games that it became normal activity for us?

I'm not sure you can compare a sexual attraction with murder.

We can compare anything ;)

It has for some... It is pretty easy to find stories and interviews online where this is the case.

Not everyone is affected the same by the same stimuli, but some are affected deeply.

"for some" is a hedge because you know there isn't strong enough science to back up your claim, I think.

People have always hurt each other. Video games do not appear to have changed this.

One possibility I'd offer: comics can be used to teach empathy. Erotica can portray things in unrealistic senses, but creative writers can and have constructed elaborate plots that explore these unrealisms and their potential consequences.

Heck, look what School Days did for harem-style anime.

We wouldn't know what "virtual child porn" could/would be based on (real children depicted in virtual fantasies, pictures of real child abuse etc.). I know virtual child porn is often a reference to unrealistically drawn lolicon material. But what causes much more controversy is realistic material (3D, photorealistic).

The realistic, 3D stuff is a problem. A BIG problem. Not only because it could likely mean a real child was used in the creation but also because anybody who looks at THAT kind of shit is without a doubt, a pedophile.

I don't agree with the assertion. Looking at something does not automatically determine that the observer holds some kind of specific psychological condition.

Or are you saying that anyone who dares to click the screwdriver link is a sadist who gets off on people being blinded by metal implements?

People can simply look at things out of curiosity, to see what it is, see how they react to it, to fathom why whoever made it made it. Then to wonder how others react to it, and why they might seek it.

Having trounced your latter argument, let's get to the first: the problem with 'omg a real child might've been inspired this!' is that could apply to ANYTHING. As in, I can't read a novel where someone gets murdered, because maybe it's based on a real murder.

People can just as easily chibi-style 2D art of a rape as they can make a 3D simultation of it. I believe there are actually certain doujin manga whose plot revolve around that concept. Heck you could make a lego depiction of rape, better outlaw looking at controversial lego sculptures too.

I suppose that you don't believe in brainwashing either. You do not believe that something that we watch continually can change our thoughts or habits. The lines between fantasy and reality never blur for some people right? You don't believe that the human mind can be influenced to believe something that it never believed before or to stop believing something. Evil thoughts or ideas cannot be put into our head that were not there before right?

I don't know if you are just playing devil's advocate here or if you are really that ignorant to how what is fed into our minds shape who we are, our convictions, our desires, our conscience. How is shapes our perception of our reality(or lack thereof). How self diluted humans can easily be.

If you really are serious than let me just tell you that I am deeply sickened by you and anyone like you.

The question is why? "It's ok to picture murdering your entire family over dinner with a fork, as long as you don't really do it". Not, it's not ok. Why would you want to accept and encourage behavior that is not sane?

"Why would you want to accept and encourage behavior that is not sane?"

Because the evidence continues to stack up in staggering amounts that sexual preference is innate and out of our control. That attempting to suppress it without any outlet is a recipe for a miserable life, possibly leading to dangerous and violent outbursts for perceived injustice and oppression.

Whether you like it or not, people are into kinky stuff. When those people fantasize, write stories, draw pictures or dress up and role play, it should be allowed if it harms no-one in the process.

It does no good to pretend this is not the case. A friend of mine wrote some kinky erotic fiction, and got a positive response, including from women. Meanwhile, it was other women who sent him angry hate mail, saying no-one in their right mind would ever enjoy this. This is not new, the same has happened with literature such as Lolita.

We have to deal with humanity as it is, not how we would like it to be.

Do you have research to point to, wrt this?

Because the evidence continues to stack up in staggering amounts that sexual preference is innate and out of our control. That attempting to suppress it without any outlet is a recipe for a miserable life, possibly leading to dangerous and violent outbursts for perceived injustice and oppression.

There's a big jump from "sexual preference is innate" -- e.g., we can't use therapy to make gay boys straight (no, I'm not asking for references for that part!) to saying that preventing a child molester from viewing fake kiddie porn will make him violent (that's the part I strongly question...).

Yes, people are into kinky stuff, and I agree that someone sexually drawn to children can't just decide to flip an internal switch and be no longer drawn to them. But I'm keenly interested into what's the best way to work with a kink that's harmful to non-consensual others (like children).

There's little if any research available that sheds insight onto how best to handle it, AFAIK.

I do think I've read research that it's a bad idea to let people watch & roleplay detailed scenarios of whatever crime they risk committing, though -- it concretizes vague longings (however painful) into actual plans (that's a bad thing).

My personal best guess would be that we first need to recognize that pedophilic urges are like a condition that needs to be actively managed so that no one is ever harmed -- not hidden away until the sufferer loses control of themselves.

If pedophilic urges were more actively recognized & calmly discussed in society -- like urges to commit violence, which are more common but far more acceptable as well -- and people could seek help (cognitive behavioral therapy?) if they worried about losing control and doing harm, we might see actual harm to children vastly reduced.

Currently they absolutely can't seek help; they'll be turned into the police and all of their neighbors/family/coworkers will be questioned. So they're on their own.

I have an unpublished blog post on this that was spinning out of control, prompted by my childhood scoutmaster being charged with child molestation (many years later and unrelated to scouting activities, actually) and committing suicide -- one day I'll find a way to get it completed.

"that preventing a child molester from viewing fake kiddie porn will make him violent"

May I just be a dick and point out that you transparently assumed the hypothetical child molester is male here? And also, that I said "[suppression of] desire will lead to a miserable life" but that it "[may] possibly lead to violence".

I don't think the former point is in question, and the latter was clearly marked as speculative.

That said, it's clear from e.g. the 'elastic band around penis' study that homophobia and homosexual desire are correlated. Homophobia seems to be a response to a perceived threat seen to be made by the openly homosexual against the closeted person, either directly (by flirting with them), or indirectly (threatening the traditional institutions of society).

I don't think it's a stretch to say that this pattern of suppressed desire leading to extreme abuse—particularly when the temptation is perceived to be 'flaunted'—is predictable, and that expecting it to be limited to just homophobia is naive.

However, I indeed don't have a study handy, and I do applaud you for asking for the citation.

Ah, hey -- here's an article hitting many of my same points with some actual citations etc. going on (on Gawker of all places? It's fairly solid reporting, though): http://gawker.com/5941037/born-this-way-sympathy-and-science...

Shorter answer to this: That attempting to suppress it without any outlet is a recipe for a miserable life, possibly leading to dangerous and violent outbursts for perceived injustice and oppression.

We want pedophiles to have miserable lives, if that's the cost of preventing children from being molested. It sucks, but that's the shitty hand they've drawn in life (particularly sad because they probably were molested themselves as children...).

Whether porn makes their lives less or more miserable, I'm not sure, but the main question is how it affects the likelihood that they'll personally molest a child. This is not a question that's been answered yet, AFAIK.

"(particularly sad because they probably were molested themselves as children...)."

And now I have to be the one to ask you for a citation.

Either sexual preference is innate and that's the hand they've drawn in life, or it is the result of abuse and not their fault. But it can't be both.

Feel free to drop that bit entirely, and discuss my central points; it was a tangent.

I disagree with your claim, regardless. It is always both. Sexuality is influenced by lots of factors; the word "sexuality" itself refers to quite a lot of aspects of behavior and preferences, some of which are strongly influenced by things that happen before we are born, and many aspects of which are affected by things throughout our lives.

A woman who is strongly heterosexual, and at some point as an adult starts sexually abusing little boys, might find those relationships far more appealing than with adult men for reasons that include her own abuse as a child, the power balance, etc. etc.. Another woman with the same childhood abuse might have normal adult relationships. Nothing's JUST nature OR nurture; everything is affected by both.

But a clarifying link, if you're interested in correlations for child sex offenders who were abused themselves: http://www.aic.gov.au/publications/current%20series/tandi/42...

From that: "A study by Simons et al. (cited in Simons 2007) found that 30 percent of child sex offenders responded in the affirmative to the question ‘have you been sexually abused?’ Descriptions of the act of sexual abuse, however, produced prevalence rates of 58 percent (Simons 2007)."

(but read on if you're curious; it get muddier; I doubt I should just say most of them were abused as if that were a known fact)

Sure it can for different people. Some people's preferences are innate, others arise through life experiences.

That wasn't what the previous commenter was saying at all, they said both 'probably' happen at the same time. It's a classic example of a contradiction used to hide cognitive dissonance, and being used to reinforce each other when they should cancel out.

Women are empowered creatures who are just as capable as men, but also horribly oppressed and in need of special consideration.

Socialist ideology is dangerous and a threat to the stability of society, but also horribly naive and completely ineffective at achieving change.

These sort of things always belie a more fundamental truth underneath, which tends to be emotional and usually just as simple as "you make me feel uncomfortable".

I absolutely was saying both could be factors (see more above), though obviously some child abusers were not abused as children, and many, many children are abused (especially girls -- the figure is something horrific like 1 in 4 girls experience some form of sexual abuse) who do not grow up to be abusers.

That was a parenthetical tangent that was intended to humanize abusers, not stir up a new debate (i.e., "what are the causes of pedophilia"), which is far less important than "what's the best way to prevent child abuse".

As far as I care, the causes can remain obscure without affecting research into how people can manage pedophilic urges effectively so that children aren't hurt, ideally while still treating the people with the urges as human beings.

>Women are empowered creatures who are just as capable as men, but also horribly oppressed and in need of special consideration.

Great point, but I don't see the dissonance here - partially because I don't understand the phrase "empowered creatures." To say that women are just as capable as men, yet are horribly oppressed and in need for special consideration to offset that seems to lack any contradiction at all.

Empowered is the opposite of oppressed.

It currently is legal to depict murdering people with a fork. Falling3 did not say anything about virtual child porn not being disgusting. He just said it should be legal, just like depicting murder is.

Yes, it is ok.

If the only thing stopping me from doing horrible things was that I haven't yet imagined doing them, then I and everyone around me should be terrified of me. Fortunately, my self-control seems to be a little stronger than that. Though it is not helpful for everyone to be told by implication that they have permanently terrible self-control (or any similar implication). [1] Fortunately I seem pretty good at dealing with such implications, although I am less confident about other people.

(Some articles have repeatedly appeared on HN, to the effect that when gifted kids are taught that "gifted" is an unchangeable property of a person and has nothing to do with gaining skill by repeatedly playing with something, they tend to stop putting a serious effort into doing anything new and challenging--for fear they'll screw up and have to accept they're not "gifted"--and so they tend to stop or severely restrict their mental growth, becoming rather less "gifted". Now imagine how this applies to self-control.)

I just did picture murdering my family over dinner with a fork. I decided the idea holds no attraction to me, and is pretty stupid. I am not worried about deciding to do it in the foreseeable future. Feel free to explain how this situation is not ok.

(Nor do I think the idea will repeatedly come back to me in the future and I'll panic and try to think about anything but it, and only end up thinking more about it, until I lose sight of anything else and just do it because I don't know what else to try. --I have the impression, from some books I've read, that that's one way some initially sane people end up doing crazy things. In this scenario, the panic is obviously an exacerbating factor, and it stems from the belief that "I'm thinking about something horrible [or have been thinking about it for what seems a long time]" => "There's something wrong with me and I won't be able to stop".

My solution is contempt for that belief, and for other people who believe it. Like, possibly, you. (This should be combined with some sort of escape valve--if you conclude that everyone else sucks, you need some way to deal with that, and if you don't have such a way, then you may start panicking if you come close to thinking that everyone else sucks. I just assume that, no matter how high a percentage of other people appear to suck, there are people like me, and eventually we'll get together and make a good society). Meanwhile I have contempt for the horrible idea, because it is not special amongst the many other horrible ideas--let's imagine them!--and if I were vulnerable to doing them, then I'd probably have done one of them already, which I haven't. And in the unlikely event that I do keep thinking of it a lot, my working hypothesis will be that it's just self-caused by anxiety foisted on me by taking seriously, on some level, the words of people like you. ...I have read of a case where someone said that he did keep having murderous thoughts, and that this coincided with the development of a tumor in his brain; I guess it might be possible that the latter could cause the former somehow, though now that I know of this, I would still not panic, or if I did it'd be about cancer, not about the murderous thoughts. A brain tumor with such specialized effects seems very unlikely in any case.)

Anyway. This little exercise, picturing your scenario, reinforced my confidence in my sanity and my ability to decide not to do other horrible things. I'd say the experience was positive for me. So, why? There you have one answer: an exercise to prove one's sanity. (Again, I do not respect someone who would do horrible things and just doesn't because he hasn't thought of them yet. I would hope such a person would learn and grow stronger than that.)

And there are use cases for putting detailed, horrible, evil things into media productions--not breaking reader's immersion, teaching people about their vulnerabilities so they can protect themselves, and sheer enjoyment for other reasons I'm not sure of. I wrote up a couple of examples, but they made the comment too long, so here's just one, which I write about because it's fun:


In this clip from the anime series Death Note, the main character Light Yagami, who (unbeknownst to anyone else) is the evil killer Kira, confronts Naomi Misora, a former CIA agent and the fiancee of an FBI agent whom Kira recently killed. She has some very compromising information about Kira that she intends to bring to the police; Light wants to kill her to prevent this, and he needs to learn her real name to kill her.


Light lies to her, learns some personal details about her, compliments her, learns more details, learns that she trusts him (for the wrong reasons); exploits her trust and what she's told him to make her a (completely fake) offer he knows she'll really want; pretends to back off from it to avoid suspicion (while continuing to compliment her and extend the offer); and adds a comment ("But you're young and beautiful... don't risk your life for this") that sounds like more backpedaling, but which he knows will actually bring out her fierce loyalty to her fiance's memory and induce her to say yes. She accepts, and tells him her real name; he writes it in his Death Note (pretending it's a normal notebook) and kills her, making her jump in a river so it looks like suicide.

I consider this pure evil--in particular, noticing her admirable qualities of trust and loyalty and determination, and making them work against her; and conducting the whole conversation with a straight face until he kills her. I also find it kind of beautiful. Meanwhile, I would be repulsed at the thought of me or someone else actually doing this sort of thing (I'll classify it as "observing and manipulating someone through conversation to get them to give you what you need, then seriously harming them") to someone I knew.

What is the value of my seeing things like this? Well, I don't expect to understand fundamental reasons why I like things, but I can make up guesses, and an obvious one here is: Knowing an archetype of pure evil, I can be better prepared to deal in real life with examples of impure evil that approach the archetype to varying degrees. (Also the pattern-matching part of my brain will be more likely to notice if I start doing things that approach evil. Also, it might help me understand other people's reactions if I unintentionally do things that look like evil. Though, for the record, looking like evil is not evil, and using force to stop or punish someone who merely looks like evil is unjustified.)


I'm glad Falkvinge is addressing this issue. It had to be done, sooner or later. And he makes a powerful case--especially section 2, I dunno about section 1. (I'm impressed... I know of the "humanitarian with the guillotine" pattern, where a naive, doesn't-examine-the-secondary-consequences-before-acting, but generally goodhearted politician makes a well-intentioned law that ends up hurting people more than it helps. I'm familiar with the mental tool of imagining that a law was made maliciously, to figure out what the bad consequences might be. But I keep being faced with the conclusion that it's more than a mental exercise: that all pieces of legislation were in fact originally put forth by people with anti-social intentions.)

[1] John Holt explains, with several examples, how some groups of people (but not others!) have come to think that children are reckless and uncoordinated and dangerous to themselves and others, and how their resulting treatment of children causes children to exhibit exactly those traits, in ways they do not when they are not so treated. http://pastebin.com/LkBd4VhN

I just did picture murdering my family over dinner with a fork. I decided the idea holds no attraction to me, and is pretty stupid. I am not worried about deciding to do it in the foreseeable future. Feel free to explain how this situation is not ok.

So are you saying that no one is ever harmed physically or emotionally when kidde porn is made? The opposite is actually true.

I'm glad Falkvinge is addressing this issue. It had to be done, sooner or later. And he makes a powerful case--especially section 2

2. The laws brand a whole generation as sex offenders. His argument is that teenagers who have consensual sex sometimes record it and they will be arrested as sex offenders and prosecuted. If this is the case they why has there not ever been a single case of this happening? He is again trying to invent an imaginary problem as an argument for legalizing kidde porn.

Yes, it happens fairly regularly. The concept of 'sexting' nude pictures of each other has become fairly ubiquitous in many places, and it happens semi regularly that a jilted ex will report to police about the existence of such photos, QED. It's happened in my state several times in the last year.

So are you saying that no one is ever harmed physically or emotionally when kidde porn is made? The opposite is actually true.

Not necessarily. Exactly what is kiddie porn? For starters, if someone uses a hidden camera to photograph or videotape a kid taking a bath, then that can't possibly cause any physical or emotional harm to the kid, because the camera does not physically act on the kid in any observable way, and the kid is not aware of it. Next, even if the kid is aware of the camera, she may not care and may forget about it. Going further, if the grown-up tells the kid to wear some "sexy" outfit and to pose in a certain way, the kid may be persuaded that it's just a silly little game. (Note that kids are already put through unpleasant or painful experiences against their will when, for example, told to sit still while the doctor swabs their arm and gives them a shot, or told to eat "healthy" foods they dislike. If you think any of the above causes serious emotional harm, then you should be gasping with rage when you see most doctors and parents.) This wide range of pictures would probably all be classified as child pornography.

Perhaps you'll say, "What I meant was brutally raping a child and videotaping that!" Well, unfortunately, that's not what the laws cover, and, unfortunately, the laws are what we're talking about. Whether a child was injured in the creation of the media is not mentioned in the laws governing child pornography.

Furthermore, even in the brutal-rape case, the child is not harmed when a third party makes copies of the video. Or even when the rapist makes copies of the video. ...I mean, jesus freaking christ, I agree with punishing the rapist, but the crime is not "possessing videotapes of a child", or even "videotaping a child", the crime is "brutally raping a child"! Grr, the mind-boggling wrongness of it all is making me mad.

Anyway. The poster I was responding to was objecting to virtual child porn--that which is created by an artist and involves no actual children. (So, actually, your objection is completely irrelevant, although it is relevant to the more general argument, so I responded to it anyway.) He seemed to be arguing that the act of watching (or looking at or otherwise consuming) child porn--unrelated to its production--to aid in the construction of a pedophile's fantasy scenario was a bad thing, because it's bad to fantasize about horrible insane things--and would probably say that, therefore, the possession of child pornography (virtual or otherwise) should be illegal, because people who consume it are dangers to society.

I emphatically objected to the "it's bad to fantasize about horrible insane things, and to create media that aid in such fantasy" on its own terms. I would also object to the "dangerous, therefore possession should be illegal" thing: I might observe that people who read the Communist Manifesto are more likely to commit acts of terrorism as a result, or that husbands who drink alcohol are more likely to beat their wives as a result, but I would oppose anyone who tried to ban any of the above.

If this is the case they why has there not ever been a single case of this happening?

I googled [teenagers sexting sex offender]. http://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=... I don't think any of the following explicitly say "recordings of consensual sex", naked or semi-naked pictures of one person by herself being much more common, but surely the former is at least as obscene as the latter, so I think these count. The top several results (excluding a pdf):

http://articles.cnn.com/2009-04-07/justice/sexting.busts_1_p... -> "Phillip Alpert found out the hard way. He had just turned 18 when he sent a naked photo of his 16-year-old girlfriend, a photo she had taken and sent him, to dozens of her friends and family after an argument. [...] Alpert was arrested and charged with sending child pornography, a felony to which he pleaded no contest but was later convicted. He was sentenced to five years probation and required by Florida law to register as a sex offender."

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/03/05/in-effort-to-curb... -> "Some states have classified teens as sex offenders and even charged them with child pornography, all in a well-intentioned effort to save kids from their own bad behavior."

http://www.thedailyaztec.com/2011/03/‘sexting’-gets-teens-on... -> I can't tell if its "17-year-old girl" is hypothetical or merely anonymous, but it says "you would never think for a second this naïve teenager and this heinous pedophile would ever have anything in common. However, as soon as the girl engaged in a process commonly known today as “sexting,” she risked facing catastrophic legal consequences similar to those of pedophiles and rapists. Two words: child pornography." And the headline is "'Sexting' gets teens on sex offender registry".

http://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/high-school-notes/2012... -> does not give a specific example, but "Should those teens oblige, both the sender and the receiver could face serious consequences. Those private photos could resurface online or even land the teens on a sex offender list."

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504083_162-20001082-504083.html -> headline ""Sexting" Teens Are Being Labeled Sex Offenders, Lawmakers Look to Change That", says "Nebraska, Utah and Vermont have already reduced penalties for teenagers who engage in sexting, and 14 other states are considering measures that would treat sexting minors differently from adult pornographers, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures."

"Furthermore, even in the brutal-rape case, the child is not harmed when a third party makes copies of the video."

What about the privacy rights of the victim? The argument could easily be made that a child can be traumatized all over again when finding out years later a recording of their abuse is spread far and wide on the internet and they have no chance of ever curtailing it. Whether it's feasible to prevent that (as with any other information) is another question, but copying images of child abuse doesn't seem that victimless a crime to me.

True. You just have to imagine yourself in that situation to see how unbearable it is. Even censor doesn't stop people from getting their hands on the material.


Quote : That leaves Kylie feeling ice cold every time she thinks about the "sick" people who take pleasure out of watching her "body being ravaged and raped." "Those images are out there forever," Kylie, now 19, said at her father's sentencing. "We can never erase what Ken has done."

The world is full of disgusting people that disturb us. Rape victims aren't exactly alone in that. If Kylie's more concerned about fappers than Ken raping her again, then I'm kinda confused.

We ban purchasing of ivory to avoid the poaching of elephants. SO yes, indirectly, the child-porn industry encourages, heck even pays for the brutal raping of children. Apologists cannot explain that away.

We ban purchasing of ivory to avoid the poaching of elephants.

I am opposed to that. I could supply libertarian moral arguments, which would probably not convince you; or I could supply arguments as to how that would cause the (black market) price of ivory to be really high, and would give poachers who are "feeling lucky" (willing to disobey the law and risk getting caught) even more incentive to poach the remaining elephants, which might convince you; I could draw analogies with the black markets for illegal drugs, and the story of alcohol prohibition in the United States[1], which might convince you; I could look for and might find academic studies of, like, ivory poaching rates before and after it was illegalized, concluding that the laws did cause an increase in poaching, which might convince you; and I could make a general comment that any moral system that concludes that possession of a thing deserves absolutely draconian punishments, but then, after observing some empirical arguments like the above, concludes that the thing should be legal, is a hopelessly broken moral system (which is why I arrived at my position), which probably wouldn't convince you but would make me feel better.

I could also point out that, in this particular case (I remember reading this argument somewhere), if unrestricted copying puts musicians and writers and movie makers and other producers out of business, then it should have the same effect on child pornographers, and so you should be advocating for the FBI to put child pornography on the Pirate Bay and to devote taxpayer dollars to seeding the torrents.

By the way, notice the structure of this debate. The parent post and the great-grandparent post did not attack my counter-arguments; each brought in a completely new line of attack. ("Consuming it is bad, possession should be illegal for the safety of society"; then "Producing it harms children, so the producers should be punished"; then "Encouraging the producers is bad, and possession tends to mean buying or otherwise encouraging, so possession should be made illegal so the producers make less money".) If I was arguing with one person, I'd have to conclude he was schizophrenic. I suppose it's possible for there to be three independent approaches to... not exactly the same conclusions... but this certainly isn't evidence that there is a definitely correct, defendable argument for why child pornography should be illegal.

[1] This is another case where I believe the "the original driving force behind all laws is anti-social intent" hypothesis holds up. I don't have specific sources in mind, but I believe moonshiners supported anti-alcohol laws to restrict their competition (they were prepared to break the law, their competition wasn't).

I had hoped to attack your counterargument that went as follows: Furthermore, even in the brutal-rape case, the child is not harmed when a third party makes copies of the video.

The harm is indirect, but caused by the market for said video.

Also, the owning of the object e.g. ivory is not illegal; the selling is illegal, right? So a little off the mark there.

Thank you for the civil reply.

The harm is indirect, but caused by the market for said video.

So... how about cases where someone just downloads a copy off the internet for free (and I mean absolutely free, not a quid-pro-quo exchange--a complete stranger downloads the video and has no further interactions with the provider)? Or when someone posts a copy for free download by complete strangers on the internet? That seems to bring no benefit whatsoever to the initial producer. (It's possible that the video or picture could come with "Made by <name>, send donations here" or something, but I'm sure that's not the case most of the time.) Would you be in favor of legalizing free online distribution of unattributed child pornography, then? If so, please recognize that this is at odds with existing laws (although your position would at least be self-consistent). If not, please explain yourself.

Also, the owning of the object e.g. ivory is not illegal; the selling is illegal, right? So a little off the mark there.

I see, you're right. But the effects--ruling out legal producers as competition, and raising the price on the black market--are still the same kind, just probably less pronounced and less likely to catch civilians in the crossfire. And, again, it seems to mean that your argument doesn't support the criminalization of possessing or freely distributing child porn. (Also, no objections to child porn whose production demonstrably caused no harm to the child? Perhaps you'd even assent to "the burden of proof is on the prosecutor to establish that a child was harmed", rather than "the burden of proof is on the producer to establish there was no harm".)

My position is consistent in this way: as a culture, we condemn child pornography. We go through some considerable theatre, arguably more or less effective, to quash it. The premise is, it causes harm to children to be involved in highly-charged emotional situations that are at the very least profoundly confusing to them, and at worst cause lasting damage. It has been deemed by legislation and executive order to be worth suppressing the trade, even if only to make it perfectly, publicly clear that it is considered abhorrent.

As for harmlessly filming a child remotely, I can think of no greater invasion of privacy. Children cannot conceivably be capable of being said to consent to such activity. The damage may actually be done years later when they inevitably discover the betrayal and indecency they were subjected to.

It may or may not be "ok", but it's certainly legal.

>But then there's another argument, that having child porn around is actually better than the alternative -- because potential molesters/rapists are able to satisfy their desire with existing videos.

In Japan, "lolicon" and "shotacon" (referring to (sometimes animated) pornography of underage (often pre-pubescent) females and males respectively) seem to be widely available, so that would be interesting to look into. I don't know if rates of child molestation are higher or lower, there.

Actually possession of child pornography isn't illegal here either, and for that specific reason IIRC. Buying/selling or attempting to distribute are crimes though– basically it's like weed in Massachusetts. That being said I don't know the statistics on underage molestation but I don't think it would provide a very helpful model for the US.

Oh, I didn't know that. That's very interesting.

That might explain why Japan has, apparently, something like 30% of the world's child porn website (vaguely remembered probably wrong statistic)

> There's a very important reason only documentation of sex crimes against minors is banned -- there isn't a big market for watching videos of murders.


Fox News, CNN, al-Jazeera, BBC, ...

The market for videos of murders (wartime or criminal) is IMMENSE.

And despite there being a huge market for depictions of murder thee has as far as I know never been anyone producing a snuff video for the money. People like Luka Magnotta either keep the videos for themselves or upload them for free.

A "market" doesn't necessarily involve monetary compensation. It can be a trivial as "likes", pageviews or peer recognition.

THere is a very real market, possibly bigger than the child porn market. That there are websites dedicated to gore videos is proof of this.

Indeed, I should have been more clear. What I meant that despite there being a huge market very few are encouraged to commit these crimes to satisfy the needs of the market.

The market is mostly based around crmies that would have been happened anyway. There are some exceptions like possibly Luka Magnotta who while he did not do it for the money might have done it for the attention. But people like him a rare.

Distributing videos of criminal acts for popularity does seem to be rare.

However distributing videos of acts of war (or terrorism, or freedom fighting, or whatever you want to call it) for popularity (propaganda) seems to be immensely popular. Youtube and especially LiveLeaks are full of these videos. Everything from IR videos from helicopter gunships blowing up people at night to telephoto video footage of snipers shooting people driving along roads.

In my mind the reason for this is often increasing government transparency and encouraging citizens to be more critical of the government by exposing them to the gruesome realities that most of us don't see often. I think that the hypothesis here is that violent acts or murders committed for the camera is fairly rare, which seems fairly likely based on my observations. I'm not sure though and would be interested to hear from someone with more information.

I think it works both ways. On one hand some videos definitely seem to be published with the intent of exposing the horror of war (Collateral Murder comes to mind), while on the other hand some just seem to be straight up snuff that glorifies the violence.

It is a tricky subject, there probably is not a single correct answer.

Okay, but then why criminalize shots for which it can be proven that no child were harmed along the way? Talking mostly about children filming themself and the like.

In the US (and Sweden) it's apparently illegal to possess /drawings/ of child porn. No child harm needed, only the potential for impure thoughts.

Fundamentalists of any kind trying to impose thought crime is the real problem here. Fix that, and the rest will follow.

The abused kid has a right to privacy...

A moral right. Legally, I don't know.

But it is morally wrong to override that right.

Even if it means saving more kids (and I don't believe it does).

Just... Find another solution.

But child porn is already relatively easily accessible for free via anonymous networks, maybe we could find stats whether this lead to increase or reduction of the volume that is circulating.

One thing that then legal ban does is it adds to the taboo factor that makes this stuff more desirable.

I think the bigger issue is that people still don't have frank discussions about sexual matters even in the west.

Falkvinge makes an excellent rebuttal to your point.

There IS a huge market for videos of violence. It's called the evening news, and they are all over that shit.

This links into his 'follow the money' theory. If people were doing this, you find out who is earning money from doing the abuse, and you jail them. Same with those who are funding it.

People who download music for free on pirating sites aren't supporting the music industry. So I don't see how people who simply receive the data (or even send it free) are supporting it.

Flooding the 'market' with free information saturates it to the point where people would not want to pay money for it. Or if they did, the amount they'd want to pay would be so low that it would decrease incentive for people to offend for purely monetary reasons.

People who would offend for non-monetary reasons would do so anyway, and legalizing the material would aid in tracking down the distribution network to patient 0.

  > there isn't a big market for watching videos of murders.
This market is already saturated. Just count how many murders you see on TV every day.

When I lived in Houston and was buying a house I used a website to look up sex offenders in the neighborhood.

I remember seeing one guy who was in the sex offender database because when he was 19, he had sex with a 17 year old. It made me feel a little uncomfortable. It struck me because I was in my mid 20s and I think we were around the same age at the time.

Something is amiss in a system that punishes him for life and places him alongside men in their 40s convicted for touching toddlers.

The same situation happened to a family member of mine. He was 19 and his girlfriend was 17. Her dad got mad at him one night, called the cops, and had him arrested for statutory rape. He is now a registered sex offender.

They went on dating and several years later got engaged. The relationship fell through, and they never did get married. But if they had, he would have been a registered sex offender for having sex with his wife. Granted, there's a timing issue, but it does show how tragically absurd some of these cases are.

I'm not sure about your locale, but I know in my state you can petition the courts to have yourself removed from the sex offenders registry. It's a case-by-case thing, but it gives some hope to people like your family member, people who got busted for public urination, and other people who probably shouldn't be grouped in the same category as pedophiles.

I'm sorry, but in the US public urination puts you on the sex offenders registry?

I don't know whether to laugh or cry at those urolagnic law writers.

Peeing in a park where there could has been children can put you on the list, with the rationale being that while urinating in public you're also potentially exposing yourself to children. It's definitely outrageous that it's on the same scale, but it's not like peeing on a dark alleyway at 3 am will do it.

I did some light research about the subject after I stopped laughing and crying.

It seems like it depends on the state, there are 13 states that have the "public urination leads to sex offense" regulation. Of those only 2 states have the "near a minor" clause. So 11 states can put you there for peeing in public, no strings attached. On those, you would be at the mercy of the police officers that catch you.

Also, I found out that the reason for the "public urination is a sex offense" is not urolagnia (at least it's not overt urolagnia), but a means to deter the flashers' defense "I was peeing, officer." Not sure it makes a lot of sense.

Disclaimer: As I said, this was light research on the topic, so there might be errors. Sources were mostly Straightdope forums and the Wikipedia, IIRC.

I tend to agree with getting put on some kind of shame list if you get caught urinating in public though. If you're regularly getting caught pissing in bushes you are obviously really bad at not having people see you pissing in bushes.

I'm not opposed to what you say, the big problem I expect you agree with is mixing (and thus equating) the "urinators" with the rapists.

While this helps, unfortunately there is a burgeoning business of websites that scrape offender lists and re-publish them, and will not remove your name unless you pay them money. There weas one a while back that would actually contact people on the list threatening to put up flyers in their neighborhood unless you paid. Note that this is regardless if your status on the official list has changed. There is no substitute for keeping people off these lists if they never should have been on them in the first place.

Overzealous prosecutors have also charged teens that "sext" other teens with possession of child pornography. (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28679588/ns/technology_and_scien...)

We've ended up in the odd place that a teen in possession of pictures of his or her own body is breaking an incredibly grim law.

Ironically in some jurisdictions prostitution is illegal but making porn is legal, so in a reverse of your comment, an illegal act can become legal by simply filming it.

I don't think it's that simple. IANAL but AFAIK it works like this.

Prostitution is illegal, therefor paying someone to have sex with you while filming it would also be illegal.

In porn, two people have sex consensual sex with each other for free. A third party pays the couple for the rights to record the event and commercially exploit the recording (that in theory might have happened anyway).

Actually, the argument is that prostitution is illegal because it's immoral, and porn though effectively the same thing is also immoral but protected under the first amendment. Hiring a prostitute and recording it is legal so long as you intend to distribute it.

How is that overzealous? That's exactly why the CP laws are crazy.

(Regarding the US) I had a friend who went streaking on campus and was picked up by police. He got off of the charges on a technicality but almost was convicted. Had he been, he would have had to register as a sex offender. Same goes for public urination. We have a pretty insane system.

I'm not sure the general public could ever follow a nuanced argument like this to understand it though. We usually legislate like fundamentalist mothers with an IQ of 80.

Indeed. In a functional society the district attorney would decline to prosecute as there is no benefit to society in going after a public urinator, streaker, or sexting teenage couple. But here in the US a politician has to be "tough on crime" or work for the "benefit of the children".

True, however, most prosecutors are trying to get high conviction rates, and don't care about the good to society.

Wouldn't that deter prosecutors from going after relatively minor crimes that are less likely to lead to a conviction?

Not really, a plea bargain resulting in any punishment at all counts as a conviction for the prosecutor. A case like CP or cocaine possession which are in most jurisdictions basically straight liability crimes are very nearly guaranteed convictions. Plus, it never looks bad for a prosecutor to have convicted a child pornographer when it comes time to run for re-election. And not prosecuting such a case would lead to ads run against you saying that you're soft on child rapists.

>I remember seeing one guy who was in the sex offender database because when he was 19, he had sex with a 17 year old.

The age of consent in Texas is 17 with a 3 year Romeo and Juliet exception.

Interesting that Texas, arguably one of the most rigidly Christian states in the country with evidence of moral legislation, is actually reasonable in this regard.

Rich makes a lot of assertions about fundamental Christians, but provides little evidence to back them up.

It has more to do with old farming lifestyles and young marriages. Colorado and I believe Kansas have the same clauses.

That's false. Statutory rape does not apply to married couples, and minors can get married with parental consent and / or a court order.

I'd also call bullshit on this anecdote and most of the ones in this thread: the most common age of consent in the US is 16, not 18 and specifically, in Texas, it's 17, meaning that there are two different ways that this particular story doesn't add up.

I could be mistaken, but I believe the Federal rule sets the age at 18 for defining child pornography, and I believe that rule preempts state rules.

So even if it's legal to have sex with a 16-year-old in Texas (under State law), it's illegal to produce, possess or distribute pictures of that child (under Federal law).

The act could have happened months before hand, just after the guy turned 19 and the girl was still 16, or in a jurisdiction that ignores the Romeo and Juliet clause. Or the entire thing could have happened years before when he was 17 and she was 15, with the parents only finding out about it after she turned 16 and the investigation another year later turned up evidence to support that theory.

Also, the GP to this thread never stated that the guy would be a convicted statutory rapist for sleeping with his wife, but that he would have been a statutory rapist who's victim is the person who is now his wife.

There's plenty of ways this could have worked to the guy's disadvantage. There's really only one way it can be false.

Sorry I wasn't clear, I didn't mean to say this is used to cover young married couples, I meant to say that because these frontier states have histories of young marriages, that they have liberal laws in regards to age of consent.

The incident could have happened in another jurisdiction.

Maybe I misremembered the ages? They were very close because my shock at the time is etched in my brain. Could have been 18 - 16.

And I'm guessing this guy was convicted before Romeo & Juliet laws. Looks like Rick Perry also vetoed that law in 2011? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_consent_reform

Wikipedia is a little unclear on the issue.

I'm sorry, I don't live in the US so maybe I don't really understand, but why do these websites even exist.

If someone is a dangerous sex offender, he shouldn't even be in the streets. If not, then he committed the crime, did the time, why does he need to be punished for life?

If not, then he committed the crime, did the time, why does he need to be punished for life?

In fact, he didn't "do the time", because part of the punishiment is a life-long listing in the sex offender registries.

If you'd rather, you can think of it this way: sexual offenses in the US carry a mandatory life-sentence, with some of that sentence being time spent in jail.

Last I knew, it was justified under public safety. People who had already been sentenced and served their time in the past had been listed on newly-created sex offender lists. Court ruled that it wasn't a punishment, so it couldn't be considered ex post facto punishment. Wikipedia indicates the case that decided this was Smith v. Doe, 538 U.S. 84 (2003).

Wow, you do take public urination seriously :)

The Economist had an article about this a while back. Pretty eye opening when I first read it: http://www.economist.com/node/14164614

Excuse me, I don't mean to accuse or judge.

Why are you checking that database in the first place? In my world your access to this information is the reason for its right to exist in your social context. I doubt that it's possible to check these lists and criticize them at the same time. What lead you to check it out?

It is not strange for someone moving to an area to check out the sex offender registry here in the US, especially if someone has children. Anyone can check the registry out at anytime @ http://www.nsopw.gov as well as other websites. There are legitimately dangerous people on the sex offender registry. There are also people who are on there due to dubious reasons, e.g. being drunk and peeing in public or having sex with their girlfriend while under a certain age.

Okay, this 'not strange' is obviously something tied to local social norms and values, I guess.

I retract the implied contradiction between checking the list and complaining about the content. That said, it probably is impossible to understand the reasons for its existence or the need to check out a neighborhood like this without growing up in a culture like that.

How do you feel about skimming maps of criminal activity?

I have, in the past, used maps of homicides/burglaries/assault to help determine where in town I'm going to live.

That hardly seems strange in any way to me, and sexual predators is just another type of this kind of map.

There's a huge difference between looking at a map and seeing anonymous, aggregate stats on crimes and having a database of individuals who have committed those crimes.

For example, imagine Google Maps with overlays for different types of crime. Say I check the "Sexual Assault, Children" box and notice that the park two blocks west of the plasma bank has a much higher density of such crime than the park two blocks east. That's useful information, and you can inform your kids to be careful at the park or avoid it altogether.

What's not really useful is knowing that the dude five houses down from my potential new home purchase was convicted in 1995 for diddling his niece and for possession of kiddie porn in 2002, and was released in 2009 after 7 years in prison. It's pandering to the scare-news watching masses and causes undue harassment/problems of the man who has supposedly paid his price to society.

This society does not need a Scarlet Letter mentality.

Actually, if he's got three convictions under his belt, that is pretty useful information, but I agree, seems like double jeopardy to me.

> "I doubt that it's possible to check these lists and criticize them at the same time."

It's quite reasonable to find value in the lists of dangerous sex offenders, while criticizing the inclusion of people for trivial offenses.

How is someone to know how problematic the database is without looking at it first? His criticism would be much less warranted if he'd never look at the registry.

I've heard a similar story about a guy who was drunk and pissed in a playground in the middle of the night.

Texas changed that law last year. Now if one partner is under 17 and one over, but they are four years or less apart in age, and the younger partner is at least 15, then consensual sex between the two is legal.

People convicted under the old law can petition a court to be removed from the offender list.

> People convicted under the old law can petition a court to be removed from the offender list.

No, listing is permanent. The background check companies never remove anything from their databases. In fact having a court purge an old conviction may make your life worse, since there is no longer an official record of the insignificance of the crime, just a private database that says CRIMINAL, CRIMINAL!

It's not like his crime was hidden, you read it yourself. The only thing the 19 year old and a 40 year old who touches toddlers is that they both committed a sexual crime. Even though they are on complete opposite ends of the spectrum it's still true.

The gp poster is one of a very enlightened few. There was a person in a similar situation in my area for a while. Someone found him on the registry, and he was subsequently banned from several organizations he was previously considered a valuable member of. By this time he was in his late 20s and talking to some of the shriller voices against them, I realized they didn't understand the difference between something he did at 19 and something he wouldn't do at 28. They just assumed he was after their 13 year old daughters and nothing else. Ruined a lot of his ability to participate in society.

Similarly, there are many, many employers who will dismiss any chance for job based on mere presence on the list. No questions, no mitigating circumstance. This is a punishment that is life-long, goes far beyond the crime, and honestly, leaves little recourse for the offender to become a drain on society, or turn to further crimes just to get by. (blast me for being a stupid hippy liberal if you want, but explain how we expect someone to get a job if we deny them the ability to get a job without saying "just get a job").

No... one is abhorrent and takes a significant toll on someone too young to know what is even happening.

The other is sex between to consenting, able-minded people.

Conflating the two is dangerous, offensive, and just plain stupid.

I'm not sure I follow. It's also possible for someone to map everyone with felonies, is this inherently wrong? Someone with marijuana possession is certainly not the same as a serial killer but the website isn't making that conclusion.

If you disagree that having sex with a 16 year old as an 18 year old should be a sexual crime then perhaps you should fight the law itself.

I used to work at the abuse department for a large web host and domain registrar. We once received a complaint about an Egyptian forum that was supposedly hosting child pornography. The site was not hosted with us, but we were the domain registrar.

The complainant said that the forum had a secret board where users swapped child porn. They sent several links that did indeed show that child pornography was on the site and domain. However, since we only provided the domain registration, our response to the complainant was to contact the web host.

The complainant replied back with more links. That is when my boss became involved. She had very little experience with dealing with abuse issues, however, she was very vocal about the fact that our company was 'allowing' child pornography. She had us put the domain on "Client hold", which effectively disables the domain, removing the name servers from the registry. Afterwards, she scolded me and my two other colleagues for not taking the correct action (even though we were following our SOP based on our terms of service). Even the owners of the company heard about the situation and were glad that the site was shut down.

A week after, the complainant emailed us to thank us for taking down his competitors forum.

The main points of the article are well-summarized at the end, TL;DR:

"It’s not illegal to film a murder. It’s not illegal to possess a film of a murder. But it’s still illegal to murder people. And it’s illegal to initiate a murder for the purpose of filming it. If you have taken part in a murder and have film of it, the film may be usable as proof against you. I can’t see that Rick suggests anything different here – i.e., I see no suggestions that it should be OK to molest children for the purpose of filming it. That’s good."

I find these edge cases extremely implausible, and counter to the way crimes are investigated and prosecuted. "Possessing cocaine is illegal but IMAGINE IF SOMEONE THREW A COCAINE BRICK AT YOU AND YOU CAUGHT IT!!!"

There have been cases where drugs were mailed to an address and the person receiving the package, not knowing what was in it, was arrested. That is one reason why no one who has any sense will accept a package they were not expecting.

Really? I think you're being a bit hyperbolic here as my chances of getting a surprise gift are far better than the odds of me getting set up with cocaine.

I worked for the Department of Homeland security as a contractor in 2009 to develop software for exactly such a use case. The operation for such merchandise is to ship products to basically an arbitrary address (sometimes knowing that the actual resident is on vacation, I suppose), and then have someone on the delivery end intercept the package. In these cases, the only realistic option for officials is to intercept on or during delivery since the origin address is usually completely fabricated.

Part of my role was to assist in the warehousing system to intercept (during transfer to verify that the shipment is in fact illegal) anomalous mailings (much in the way credit card companies try to identify anomalous purchases as fraud). The illegal materials will be shipped in all sorts of interesting ways. For example, we had a package that appeared to come from Kellogg, but the merchandise was actually at the bottom of each of the (packed and closed) cereal boxes.

Unfortunately, DHS has quite a backlog, so there are currently entire warehouses in the US whose sole job is to secure drugs, guns, and other materials until officials can come inspect the packages. Of course, sometimes they are not intentional violations of the law (for instance, certain food and animal products can't be shipped to the US). But if you ever in such a warehouse, it is truly a sight to behold.

I'm not saying it doesn't happen. I'm saying that the risk-reward ratio is way too skewed for me to give it a second thought.

In this subthread we were evaluating the legal scenario where that those receiving cocaine in the mail, regardless of whether they had knowledge or intent of it, should be arrested.

Under this premise, cases of people who do not ever receive drugs in the mail is not relevant.

Statistically, one relevant question to ask is, of those who have cocaine bricks delivered to their front porch, what percentage were actually involved in receiving cocaine compared to those who were a drop point for a pickup involving two other unknown parties.

As Barik (a contractor with direct investigative knowledge) pointed out above, using strangers' homes as drop points for cocaine brick delivery is common in the US in the context of illegal drug deliveries by mail. It is entirely possible it accounts for the vast majority of cocaine brick by mail deliveries.

If this accounts for more than an inconsequential portion of cocaine brick mail deliveries, then it is utterly unjust and unreasonable to advocate or defend laws that criminalize mere possession and not knowledge of what you have, and/or intent.

Oh, absolutely. It is not something that a regular person would ever need to worry about, since statistically the odds of this ever happening to any one person are extremely low (and even if it did, the person may not even know it because of procedures such as the above). But it's important enough at a national level that security officials are interested in tackling the problem.

So yes, it's possible that drugs have been mailed to you without you knowing it. In rare circumstances (especially if you just moved into that address, for example), you might be arrested to figure out what's going on. But it becomes hyperbole to suggest that you will automatically be charged and put in jail because of a random drop shipment (though I'm sure some HN person will find a counterexample just for the sake of doing so).

So I won't automatically be charged and put in jail, but I might be arrested.

This is supposed to be reassuring?

> This is supposed to be reassuring?

I guess I'll worry about it when and if it happens to me. But no, it's certainly not something I think about on a day to day basis, just as I also don't worry that someone might steal my car in the middle of the night and commit a crime with it -- another scenario in which, yes, you may also be arrested or at the very least questioned.

I'm inclined to believe that such arrests are quite rare, but that's just speculation, and I'm open to evidence to the contrary.

If I find myself in possession of a cocaine brick that I did not ask for, I will indeed worry. The point that the article made (as a tangent, admittedly) in regards to cocaine possession is that, should that situation arise, I can't take my cocaine to the police without risking arrest myself, and that's absurd.

When evaluating whether a law is just we shouldn't worry about whether we are likely to run afoul of it unjustly ourselves, but rather what percentage of the people who are prosecuted under it will be prosecuted unjustly. And in this case it seems possible that that percentage might be unacceptably high.

It may be rare but it happened to the mayor of a town in maryland.


Yea so? I'll see your anecdote with the dozen or so unexpected deliveries I've received in the past few months.

How do you reasonably protect yourself from an expected package that turns out to be contraband?

Anway, that was some horrific police work (and don't get me started on cops busting into a home and shooting pets). Your article speaks way more to the need for police accountability and the need to end our ridiculous war on plants than anything else.

>There have been cases [...] //

You know what's great about legal cases, particularly this sort, they are so well documented and mentioned in newspapers, etc..

Citations please.

Now there being cases where a crim' claimed that they didn't know the package was drugs, that I can imagine in a heart beat.

But if you look from another angle - why should cocaine possession be illegal at all?

Cocaine seems (to me) to be somewhat less severe drug than, say, alcohol.

Same applies to child porn. A lot of stuff qualifies as child porn recently, including stuff originally not meant to be any kind of porn neither produced with any harm to kids. Unless child porn prosecution proponents can limit themself with some strict definition of child porn (which they would not do), I say we lose by criminalizing possession of random pics that were considered OK thirty years before.

Most of the studies I've seen say that cocaine is roughly as dangerous to the user as cocaine, but that someone using alcohol is much more likely to end up harming others.

And I'm a member of the tautology club because I'm a member of the tautology club.

Drug prohibition is a different issue.

Yes, there are cases of things which are not child porn in spirit, however its important to remember that there are things that are actual child porn. There are pictures of young children and toddlers and babies being raped. We don't see them in the mass media, because they are disgusting, but they exist. Don't forget that creating this pictures is probably one of the most horrific and harmful crimes in modern society.

Okay, but how does it justify criminalizing 16 years old taking shots of themselves?

I don't think that should be illegal. The reason its illegal is stupid "think of the children" / "why are our kids having sex?" / 'sex is bad' voters.

However real child porn should be illegal.

That's what I said. "Unless child porn prosecution proponents can limit themself with some strict definition of child porn (which they would not do), I say we lose by criminalizing possession of random pics that were considered OK thirty years before." If the logical expression is true, real child porn can remain illegal. The problem is - the logical expression is false right now.

It may be a edge case, but we use edge cases to map the territory. To illustrate in the case of the cocaine throwing madman, the lesson is that there are ways to come into possession of cocaine which should not be prosecuted. If we therefore ban the possession of drugs in every case, then it is possibly that innocent people will be prosecuted.

I don't thing it's such an edge case. I'd be willing to bet that at least 90% of people on HN have witnessed child pornography at least once on the Internet. That's a lot of criminals. Spend a few minutes on 4chan's /b/ and you will probably see some.

But "witnessed" is not the same as "arrested for" or "prosecuted for".

But you could be. Universal crimes that are only prosecuted when the police want to get you are a large part of the problem. Everyone is guilty of something - see Three Felonies a Day.

It's good to have a jaywalking law on the books if someone runs into traffic and causes and accident.

In that case you are criminalizing something other than the thing you actually want to stop. It's not walking across the street that's the problem, it's running into traffic. In this relatively low stakes problem people still run into the problem of not knowing the unwritten law. For instance people from cities where jaywalking is never prosecuted go to somewhere where it is aggressively prosecuted and get shafted.

But it wouldn't be good to have the punishment for jaywalking be decades in jail.

If you "witnessed" it while browsing, you also downloaded it onto your computer.

What? When you say "child porn" do you mean a 17 year old in a bikini? Or a 3 year old being raped? There is a massive difference between the 2.

A 17 year old in a bikini isn't pornographic. I don't think anyone got arrested for that.

People in other parts of the world have been arrested for having stepped on marijuana particles: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1884201...

America's CP laws are quite similar to this. If you even have a 32x32 thumbnail cached in your browser history, whether or not you were even looking for it, you'll get arrested and imprisoned in most places. I think New York is the only state to have ruled this out and require you to knowingly save it.

And yes, people quite frequently have drugs planted on them or have a friend leave something behind without their knowledge and get charged with it.

I don't agree with all of his assertions nor all of his reasoning, primarily because I think he completely glosses over any reasonable opinion that is contrary to the viewpoint he wants to present (for example, the relationship between child pornography and child molestation[1]). I think completely glossing over these items is disingenuous and hurts his cause.

This is a difference in degree, only, though, because, even if everything else he said was wrong, this part was not:

Child pornography is horrible and awful from every angle and in every aspect. But it is not dangerous to the fabric of society. Censorship and electronic book burning, however, is.

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relationship_between_child_por...

In http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ashcroft_v._Free_Speech_Coaliti... Supreme Court wrote:

The Child Pornography Prevention Act also prohibits speech having serious redeeming value, proscribing the visual depiction of an idea -- that of teenagers engaging in sexual activity -- that is a fact of modern society and has been a theme in art and literature for centuries.

He seems to be writing primarily about Sweden.

I think the argument stands. I think even in Sweden, teenagers engaging in sexual activity is a fact of modern society and has been a theme in art and literature for centuries.

I guess I misinterpreted you- I thought you were saying the free-speech-favorable outcome of the case meant his concerns were moot.

As sudonim pointed out, there are some really gross abuses of the whole sex offender system. I've heard of a lot of people that are in there for terrible reasons.

I definitely agree with the author to some extent. We do seem to be inordinately concerned with child pornography. The term pedophile has moved from a psychological disorder to a synonym for child molester. I am fully against real child pornography but there is no good reason to treat the virtual version the same way. I think a good part of it stems from the false assumption that watching X pornography will cause the viewer to wish to engage in X. As usual, fear and ignorance are the favorite legal foundations.

He has his own counterargument in a note near the beginning:

   But possession of child pornography is a strict liability offense, like possession of cocaine, at least in the entire United States, as well as several other countries. Intent, mens rea, is irrelevant: if you have it, no matter why, you're guilty.
OK, so make mens rea a required element. It's a reasonable reform.

It's actually not a true strict liability offense, at least in the United States.

For example, 18 USC § 2252A(a)(2)(A) criminalizes "knowingly receiv[ing] or distribut[ing] any child pornography." § 2252A(a)(5) requires "knowingly possess[ing], or knowingly access[ing] with intent to view, any book, magazine, periodical, film, videotape, computer disk, or any other material that contains an image of child pornography."

http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/2252 http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/2252A

To be sure, "knowingly" is a lower mens rea standard than something like "willfully" or "intentionally" which require bad intent, but it is not strict liability.

Examples of strict liability crimes which have no mens rea requirement are statutory rape and drunk driving.

Thank you for this additional information about specifics of the United States. The described case with accidentally recording and realizing you accidentally recorded still makes you culpable under the "knowingly", though.

Cheers, Rick

I have a real problem with your argument here - as I suspect many lawyers would.

I'd go so far as to call your hypothetical example completely laughable. The idea that if I stumble across someone raping a child they would "point and laugh" is completely ridiculous. It's somewhat ironic that given one of the arguments for strict liability laws was "won't someone think of the children" you're basically making the same point.

I agree with many of your points - a 17 year old being sentenced for having sex with a 15 year old, for example, and it's possible to cite many, many cases where this sort of thing has occurred.

I doubt, however, you can cite a single case where somebody has been prosecuted for unknowingly recording child pornography. I think this very much weakens your argument, because you make it sound as if strict liability is a be-all end-all, when in fact there is precedent to override it (speaking in general terms - the exact precedent would vary from country to country).

Laws are typically not designed to cover future eventualities. It seems to me highly likely that the situation you describe is already easily avoided legally. After all, if a CCTV camera recorded a child rape in progress that would not be a criminal offence, since most countries provide exceptions for recording images for the purposes of preventing crime. It would be relatively straight forward to branch these laws out to devices like Google Goggles.

But you don't really consider these arguments, I suspect primarily because the image of a child rapist "getting away with it" is quite powerful, and you're designing your post to evoke heavily emotional responses. But it's very much a "won't you think of the children" argument, and that sours it for me.

Most of Traci Lords' pornographic videos were produced when she was under the age of 18. It is unclear exactly how many people knew this or facilitated it. The company that produced her videos was prosecuted and practically all of her films have been banned in the US.


I agree that the idea someone was to walk around a tree in a park and witness a rape in exactly that context is laughable, but the idea remains. If someone was recording their entire life from a first person perspective, and they did come into the situation to witness a violent crime be committed where possession of a recording of that crime is a crime in itself, what does the law say about the presumably innocent bystander?

CCTV cameras have the implied usage of security, that's why an alleyway camera's recording could be admitted as evidence against the suspect, but not the owner of the camera itself. Google Glass is a recreational device. Hardly anyone has one right now, but the idea sits with the idea that people will wear one for fun to capture fun events they participate in, which turns the argument around in the case of someone inadvertently recording an event that the mere possession of the recording is illegal. In a black and white situation, if someone had a recording of child pornography on their Google Glass device, the idea that the device is designed to record the events the wearer participates in for recreation or enjoyment already gives the notion that the wearer enjoyed recording the event. This argument is fragile in logic, but within the current state of the laws, it is sound. Lawyers will descend upon the owner of the Glass device and paint him or her as a pedophile who purposefully recorded the event for later enjoyment. It will be up to the person who recorded the event to defend themselves against false accusation and against a law that claims that, since he/she is in possession of the recording, they are guilty of possession already.

> Laws are typically not designed to cover future eventualities.

Have you read much about the PATRIOT act and how it's being applied to gather an analyse communication channels in order to thwart crimes and attacks before they happen? Because, it seems that many of the laws enacted over the past decade under the guise of National Security are designed to prevent crimes before they happen. Just as much as "think of the children", "national security" is just as much a hot-button topic designed to allow leeway into the legal process of finding and convicting "bad people" before they do bad. I'm far from an Alex Jones kind of guy, but there is plenty of evidence that the US government is actively surveilling it's populace for exactly the reason of preventing future eventualities.

Earlier this year a man in the UK was denied unsupervised visits with his own daughter after he admitted to downloading music, but receiving unwanted child pornography instead. No charges were filed, but it sure messed up his situation.


> I'd go so far as to call your hypothetical example completely laughable.

Laughable? It's already happening. I should be able to gather child pornography from across the Internet, match it to photos (school pictures, Facebook, etc.), and report the hits to the police.

But it's illegal. Like all crimes of moral purity, it is not about rescuing the victims or punishing the wicked. It is a PR stunt by and for the witch hunters.

I suspect one reason why thats illegal is because it would be an easy way for Aaron pedophile to use it as an excuse. More bad guys would use that excuse to avoid justice than good guys.

In other words, you believe that "justice" for distasteful pictures is equivalent to preventing forcible rape of children. And since we can so easily redirect the prevention budget to pictures ...

All rape, by definition, is forcible. Voluntary rape is an oxymoron.

Some conservative pundits like mentioned "forcible rape" as a way to try to make many things that are rape legal (like raping ones wife ("she consented when we for married"), raping someone who has consumed alcohol ("she was obviously out for sex, so gave consent that way") etc.). Please don't suggest this is a moral way to talk.

Are you really stupid enough to think that this would reduce forcible rape? Do you know what a booming industry this would become in some smaller countries? These people do not have Facebook or yearbooks. They do not even have access to computers.

Please explain to me how legalizing kidde porn would reduce the amount of kidde porn?

If that became a problem, the U.S. could simply eliminate copyright protection for child pornography. Thai producers could not turn a profit when faced with Mountain View pirates.

Im pretty sure possession of child porn is illegal. You don't need to mess with copyright protection at all. And widespread piracy doesn't stop the commercial enterprises, after all, Hollywood is the most pirated and massively profitable

There is virtually no piracy of Hollywood movies, at least in the U.S., thanks to their strenuous enforcement of copyright. If piracy were rampant, you could buy the latest blockbuster for $0.50 at Wal-Mart on opening day. (Hint: the actual price is jacked up one or two orders of magnitude by the MPAA's jack booted thugs.)

IANAL, but I highly doubt it. I think the ordinary meaning of "knowingly" means you knew what you were about to do before you did it.

I can't believe there are very many courts who would convict under the circumstances of your example. OTOH, there might be a few, and if the law is not intended to be enforced exactly as written, that is certainly an excellent argument for changing it.

In US Law, you can make an "affirmative defense" [0] if you discover that you possess a small amount of child porn, and either immediately destroy it or immediately turn it over to law enforcement [1]. By doing so, you demonstrate that you did not intend to procure or possess said material, and are therefore not culpable [2].

[0] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Affirmative_defense - admitting to the fact while introducing a factor which justifies it

[1] for example, http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/2252A section (d)

[2] I am not a lawyer. This is not legal advice.

No, it does not. You have to intend to film child pornography to satisfy the mens rea element. Filming something accidentally, by definition, will not satisfy mens rea.

I was under the impression that there were some provisions intended to protect those who stumble across CP. As I recall, you have to either destroy it immediately or show it only to the cops (and not to anyone else) and you obviously can't just keep accessing then deleting the same material.

That would solve half the problems overnight.

Presented as a reductio at the end of the article:

  It’s not illegal to film a murder.
  It’s not illegal to possess a film of a murder.
But one has to wonder: What if it were? What if YouTube had a button for "Report Illegal" that forwarded the video to law enforcement, hid it, and cleared it from your cache? What if people who watched video evidence of a crime and didn't report it to the authorities were treated as just a little bit complicit? What if the media were prevented from broadcasting potentially titillating evidence of crime to the public, but had to leave its analysis up to the professionals?

Can we say categorically that that would be bad for our society?

Do you realize you've just suggested banning 90% of all tv shows, films, books, plays?

Most movies in history would be illegal, because most of them depict murders. Note that it being an /actual/ murder or abused child is not a requirement.

There is a difference between an actual murder and a depiction of a murder. In the former, someone actually dies. In the latter, an actor falls over.

The actual crime is very much an element to the illegality of a snuff film. Snuff films are illegal precisely because someone actually dies. Child porn is illegal because a kid actually gets raped.

There are a few rare situations involving "fake" child porn. Should these be illegal? The Supreme Court has said that virtual child pornography might not be illegal but that either way such content was justification for holding a person in a mental institution as a danger to others. There is an extremely high (as in, greater than 80%) correlation between willing viewership of child pornography and attempts to abuse/molest/rape a child or acquire actual chil porn. With pedophiles, child porn isn't just an abstract media form like a TV show; it's like going to a Ku Klux Klan rally with a snuff film showing a black man get lynched and exhorting the crowd to do the same.

There is an extremely high (as in, greater than 80%) correlation between willing viewership of child pornography and attempts to abuse/molest/rape a child or acquire actual chil porn.

Nice example of the murder-and-jaywalking argument that the article mentioned.

Yes, of course there is a high correlation between watching and buying CP.

But I'd like to know where you get your numbers between watching and attempting. I've heard otherwise.

> There is an extremely high (as in, greater than 80%) correlation between willing viewership of child pornography and attempts to abuse/molest/rape a child or acquire actual chil porn.

Calling utterly ludicrous shenanigans on that one.

Really? There's a correlation between viewing child porn and molesting a child? Could that be any more obvious?

There's probably an excellent correlation between viewing porn involve heterosexual adults and people who engage in heterosexual sex.

Heterosexual sex isn't illegal, considered vile by society, mark you on online registries, prevent you from living in many places[1] or require preying and possibly kidnapping to accomplish. There are many reasons why a pedophile would watch CP but not actually attempt anything.

I'm sure there is a correlation, but I'd want evidence that it is high.

[1]: https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=104150...

Maybe because there are people who buy child porn and encourage its production (law of supply and demand).

just my 2 cents

>There is an extremely high (as in, greater than 80%) correlation between willing viewership of child pornography and attempts to abuse/molest/rape a child

Just like there is an extremely high (as in, greater than 80%) correlation between willing viewership of normal pornography and attempts to abuse/molest/rape women.

That would make a large part of our current culture illegal (assuming fictional murders are counted)

Presumably the standard would be, as with pornography, that the media in question must have some literary or cultural value apart from its illegal content.

> But one has to wonder: What if it were? What if YouTube had a button for "Report Illegal" that forwarded the video to law enforcement, hid it, and cleared it from your cache?

Then you'd probably get police forces overwhelmed with bogus complaints.

An example of this is the Finish child pornography filter. If you look at the list of blocked sites you will note that most of the sites are regular porn sites (mostly gay porn), and some are not porn at all. Some people seem to be abusing the filter to block what they personally find to be disgusting with little or no investigation from the Finish police. If these porn sites really hosted child pronography should the Finish police not just inform the authorities of the country where the site is hosted?

Wikipedia article about the website of the guy who started research into the child pron filter: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lapsiporno.info

His website was later blocked by the filter despite the filter only being intended to be used against foreign websites.

Maybe. They seem to handle copyrighted content pretty well.

Right. It's insanely hard to find copyrighted material posted without the author's consent on any of those sites, and I never hear stories about legitimate content being removed due to fraudulent complaints.

Content providers don't blindly forward anonymous accusations to the police forces, do they?

Yes. Like the author points out. In the case of child pornography, simply having it is illegal regardless of reason, which makes people who come across such content, destroying their evidence.

This would only put more people in jail, the killer (maybe), and the people watching it (maybe). I'd rather it just be the killer. And the molester in the case of the article.

The author's case in claiming that is hilariously weak. He presents a ludicrously tromped-up stranger-rape scenario where the rapist gets off scott-free because of child porn laws. But wait, he says this isn't some "far-fetched science fiction scenario". He's about to tell us about a case where something very like this happened or almost happened!

This is exactly what will happen as our mobile phones take the next step, which has already started, and we will be there in less than ten years.

Oh. There isn't actually any evidence of anything like that ever happening or almost happening, it's just what he imagines might happen when technology gets a little more advanced. You know, I think that's actually the definition of a "far-fetched science fiction scenario".

While this clearly seems far fetched, it is the actual state of law today.

If fifteen years ago you had told me that these laws would be used to prosecute teenagers who take pictures of themselves, or of teenagers who have consensual sex with each other, I would have thought it absurd. No prosecutor could be that insane, right? And yet here we are.

When I was 16 (23 years ago), I dated an 18 year old. It's shocking to think that she could have been thrown in jail. This state of things is unnaceptable.

It's pretty easy to Google for specific cases of young adults, some less than 22 years old being prosecuted for having younger (16,17 years old) girl/boyfriends. What about teenagers sending naked pictures to their girl/boyfriends through their mobile phones? Not a problem you say? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJBIvBfk26o.

So that video mentions the 15 year old girl who sent the photos, facing federal prosecution as an adult for child pornography charges, and then mentions that the people who've received the photos possibly facing charges as well. Sounds like the author of the article was spot on.

I'd like your opinion on the link I just sent please. The authors point was about the laws being outdated and people being more afraid of dealing with the issue than facing it appropriately for victims. He wrote a good article in relation to that.

If you'll read my comment again, you may notice I'm talking about the specific claim that child pornography laws enable child rape. That is a claim I feel is without basis in fact.

The issue you're talking about is one I agree with, as I've noted elsewhere[0].

[0] http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4496072

Gotta love the irony in being charged as an adult for making child pornography of yourself.

The article raises a lot of valid points. Not all imagery of non-adults having sex are made under non-consensual circumstances, or consumed as means of sexual pleasure. The law doesnt take this under account.

Big tech and media organisations (eg Google or any image or video hosting service provider), process and filter a huge amount of illegal child porn everyday. They even have employees doing this, watching and censoring child porn that is. Isnt watching it, even in order to censor it, according to such laws, illegal? Also while the material remains in the servers, isnt the company liable for possession ?

In Greece for example, the law is rather simple and doesnt cover such cases.

This essay is a great example of sapping an argument of its power through dilution. At various points he argues all of the following:

1) the law is too broad (innocent teenagers)

2) the law is not broad enough (should cover murder too)

3) the wrong judicial standard is applied (strict liability)

4) abridging free speech is fundamentally destructive

These are four totally distinct elements of our legal structure, each with vastly different potential solutions. They are bound only by the fact that they are critiques of the current legal system.

To try and take in all four at once leads to a combinatorial explosion of possible solutions.

If he believes no. 4 then nos. 1-3 are immaterial. And even if he sells you on 1-3, none of those are good arguments for abolishing the law. In the end, the essay loses its power because he is not presenting a coherent critique.

And, if one of the arguments is weak or preposterous, your opponent can tear that one apart and ignore the merits of the position. It is a persuasive pet peeve of mine.

There are also various countries who have different laws on this kind of thing. It reminds me of an album cover by the Scorpians back in 1976, the original cover is on the Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virgin_Killer (great album btw) but it was banned in the USA.

In other words, anyone from the USA who clicks that wikipedia page may be committing a federal offence of possessing child porn on their computers (because media is downloaded into the cache from the site.) - crazy right?

I don't agree that the only way to address these edge cases is to entirely repeal the laws rather than reform them. Technology changes, society changes, and the law adjusts. Sure I can imagine myself as an activist working against imprisonment of consensual (but teenage) couples as he describes, but never for outright acceptance of all child porn content.

I personally feel the parent of my comment is the most balanced view on the page currently.

For all I am liberal, or at least centre left, and a free speech advocate, I cannot see any benefit to the existance of child porn.

I would however like to see a reclassification (reduced scope) of what is and is not child pornography, and also introduce a requirement to prove willingness on the possessors part.

I can happily skip the strict black and white view of the world promoted in some of the top comments in this case. I am completely at ease with the idea of promoting free speech whilst going against free speech in the event of something which is harmful (I am referring to real child pornography not what the law currently classifies) and with no merit, not even the wildest interpretations of educational or artistic merit can redeem the need for child pornography to exist.

> the law adjusts

Not according to at least two of the US Supreme Court Justices. The US Constitution is not a "living document" to them, not interpretable according to the norms of the time.

I'm may be going out on a limb here, but the last time I read the US Constitution, I don't recall it saying anything for or against child pornography, so I don't think it'll be necessary to re-interpret the Constitution to update child porn laws.

I'm just mentioning that notable Legal Minds don't believe in adjusting laws. To some folks, a law is an immutable law, and you must follow it, whether you know that law exists or not.

> ... the last time I read the US Constitution, I don't recall it saying anything for or against child pornography, ...

"Congress shall make no law ... abridging ... the free press ..."

Child pornography is explicitly permitted by Federal law. Most state constitutions are the same.

"So imagine a scenario ten years down the road, as you’re taking a stroll in the park." .... "WHAM. You are now a criminal, guilty of recording, distributing, and possessing child pornography."

I find this highly implausible. Hypotheticals like this damage the argument. Crimes are caught on camera everyday. Seems to me the crime here (aside form the rape) is to knowingly destroy evidence of the crime, which the innocent strollers in this scenario are supposedly encouraged to do out fear for themselves. I have not thought about this enough to have a strong opinion other than simple gut reaction, but it seems more evidence to support this idea in particular is needed.

In this case both destroying the evidence and possessing the evidence are crimes. What are you supposed to do?

I challenge anyone to find actual foundation for the claim that unwittingly recording a child rape in the park is a crime even if the witness reports it and provides the video evidence. Seems to me that this is the "slippery slope" argument taken to unreasonable extremes.

Twenty years ago I would have challenged someone to find a case of a 17 year old being prosecuted for child pornography for taking a picture of themselves. Or a 19 year old being forced to register as a sex offender because of a 17 year old partner.

These laws have already been pushed to unreasonable extremes.

Like I said I haven't thought about or researched this enough to have a strong opinion so I'm relying on really basic assumptions.

"a case of a 17 year old being prosecuted for child pornography for taking a picture of themselves."

Has this happened? Hypotheticals don't help any. We need facts in order to move forward with the conversation.

EDIT: it has, in fact, happened. The facts are indeed in Google.

It satisfies the elements specified in the law. By definition it's a crime. Now, it's quite possible that the police and prosecutors will be reasonable and not prosecute it... but prosecutors and police are human, and quite possible to be unreasonable. In fact, they have great incentive to prosecute open-and-shut cases and rack up their conviction count.

Here's a description of a similar case that discusses the catch-22 that the witness is in: http://books.google.com.au/books?id=2xkDvMQlh-YC&pg=PA23...

There is no need to slip before the argument is valid, so there is no slippery slope argument.

possessing the evidence is a crime, unless you can make an "affirmative defense" (I've commented about it elsewhere on this page.)

One form of "affirmative defense" is "contact law enforcement and turn over the recording". This is what you are supposed to do (standard disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, this is not legal advice.)

They're both crimes, but you're much less likely to get arrested if you don't go to the police.

I also think you should be able to yell "Fire" in a crowed theater. Not being able to do so might cause someone observing a fire in a crowded theater to keep that information to himself rather than informing others, for fear of prosecution.

(I'm not even sure if I'm being sarcastic or not.)

One of the big arguments for banning child porn is that having the material "out there" causes continual anguish to the victim. In fact, victims have been awarded financial damages from those convicted of possession. (Can't find the source now, but I recall reading about the case in the "cybercrime blog").

In my opinion, this whole argument is specious at best. One could argue that making the "Star Wars Kid" viral video (among so many others) illegal would have saved that poor dude some major suffering. Why are things of a sexual nature so special?

One argument for decriminalizing simple possession is the fact that crowd-analyzed investigation at the citizen level is severely hampered. I recall reading an amazing account of the investigation and rescue of the then-8-year-old girl in the "Tara series". A relatively small group of people analyzed the photos, identified paintings and drapes in a motel, which allowed law enforcement to home in on the victim and her captor.

Can you imagine the scope of such investigations if these pics were allowed to be viewed and discussed in a public forum? The power of anon and /b/ could be used for so much greater good than hunting down kids who torture cats.

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