Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Are we protecting children, or are we controlling behavior?

It's a legitimate question, given the SCOTUS review of a child porn law. The DOJ says that ads selling 'child porn' hurt children, even if the photographs are fake.

Challengers to the law, including the National Coalition Against Censorship and the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, counter that it sweeps too broadly. They say it threatens the marketing of Lolita and other fictional depictions of adolescent sex.

At stake is Congress' latest attempt to prohibit sexual content on the Internet. Backed by 28 states, U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement stresses the need to curtail the marketing of child porn to protect the children abused to create it.

Clement, who will argue the case today, stressed in a written filing that because of the Internet "the distribution of child pornography has expanded exponentially." He said even fraudulent offers to buy or sell child porn feed the market.

This may be so, but isn't it an important distinction between controlling the behavior of some wierdo looking at teh internets versus the person who abuses a child for profit? Without a doubt, the latter is a crime. But is the former? If so, against whom?

Now, given most child porn scenarios, I think one can make the case the veiwer or purchaser of (real) child porn where a (real) child was forced to perform is indeed party to the crime, as they have directly or indirectly paid the actual person doing the forcing. But what about a cartoon? A drawing? A digital image? A book?

I don't see how, with no victim, there can be a crime. Frankly, in my opinion, not real child porn could actually keep kids safe from people who would otherwise want the real thing. Further, the sweeping nature of such laws can end up having troubling consequenses, depending on who is doing the interpreting and enforcing. Is a 15 year old girl doing a little dance for her 16 year old boyfriend, or taking racy photos, really a crime?

We need to keep the focus on the victims, and stopping the real crimes.

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