There are a lot of bad things in the world, but the list of the actual worst is pretty short: Genocide, poverty, oppression, racism, and Donald Trump. Oh, and child pornography. Can we move that higher on the list? Trump is bad, but not kiddie porn bad.
In the name of eradicating the scourge of exploitation like this, innumerable bills have been introduced in the U.S. Congress. While the production of outright pornography featuring children is, of course, long since illegal, some predators have taken advantage of children through a more insidious method — their phones. They can trick kids into sending nude pictures of themselves through text messages. But though predators are skilled at hiding their identities, and the threat is very real, the simple fact is that most “sexting” simply occurs between consenting people. Sometimes those people are teens.
There is a major discussion to be had regarding educating our kids about “exposing” themselves in such a way. But the reality is, nothing will prevent horny teens — especially with access to technology — from doing what they do.
Unfortunately, when Rep. Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) introduced the “Protecting Against Child Exploitation Act of 2017” back in March, he was only considering the predators. Or maybe he considers teens predators, as well: Lawmakers were warned in advance of their vote that it would subject teens to the same mandatory minimum sentencing as the villains who prey on them.
Reporting for TechDirt, Tim Cushing writes
The bill would add mandatory minimums to child pornography production — even if both participants are minors. Mandatory minimums would also apply to thoughtcrime. Rep. Bobby Scott — one of the few opponents of the bill — was the first to point out that this draconian child porn law would criminalize consensual behavior between teenagers.
Think about that for a second. Have you ever sexted with your significant other? Under this bill, if you had done so the day before you turned 18, you would have been sentenced to a mandatory 15 years in prison.
Making things worse, or better, I’m not sure anymore, is that the bill goes beyond actual production into “solicitation”: Asking for nude photos. Again, fantastic idea, if you can limit it to predators. But now the teenage boy who even asks his girlfriend to “send nudes” is automatically subject to a prison sentence that virtually guarantees his life is over?
Increasing sentences for those who prey on children is a no-brainer. But can’t we get some sort of example like the one set forth by Justice Potter Stewart in 1964?
I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it.”
Featured image via video screen capture