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Is That "Sexting" Pic Illegal? A Scientific Test

CmdrTaco posted more than 5 years ago | from the i-like-the-testing-part dept.

711

Frequent Slashdot contributor Bennett Haselton writes " Amid the latest 'sexting' controversy, here is a proposal for a scientifically objective method to determine whether a picture constitutes child pornography. This is a harder problem than it seems, but not for the reasons you'd think. And it raises questions about how the same scientific principles could be applied to other matters of law." Hit the link below to read the sextiest story on Slashdot today.

A county district attorney in Pennsylvania has threatened to file felony child pornography charges against three teenage girls for pictures that they took of themselves, even though the girls' lawyers say the pictures are clearly not sexually explicit and do not meet the legal definition of child porn. The American Civil Liberties Union has countered by asking a federal judge to block District Attorney George Skumanick from filing charges.

Skumanick won't show the pictures to anyone, including the girls' lawyers, but according to the reported descriptions, one picture shows two of the girls flashing the peace sign in their bras, and the other picture shows a girl wrapped in a towel with her breasts exposed after stepping out of the shower. Unless there's something very significant being deliberately left out of those descriptions, it sounds pretty obvious that the pictures do not meet the definition of child pornography, which requires sexual explicitness, not just nudity.

Skumanick may even sound like a buffoon for threatening to prosecute the girls over those pictures, but his overreaching is probably an example of the "context syndrome" that I referred to in writing about a Wikipedia article about a CD showing a naked underage girl on the cover. In that article, I wrote:

Suppose you read a news article about a man who was arrested for possession of child pornography, and you happened to see a sample of the images (never mind how) that he was arrested for. And suppose the Virgin Killer album cover photo had been mixed in with those images. Would it have jumped out at you as an obvious case of over-reaching by the police?

In other words, even an obviously legal photo might seem illegal when it's mixed in with a group of photos that constitute actual child porn. According to the AP, Skumanick's office first found the photos in question after confiscating students' cell phones and rounding up 20 students accused of making or distributing the images found on the phones. Some of those other photos were presumably racy enough to meet the definition of child pornography, and Skumanick probably just lumped in the bra and towel pictures into that category without thinking too much about it. Giving him credit, if someone had come to his office and shown him the picture of the towel girl by itself and asked him to prosecute the girl for creating child pornography, he might have said that it didn't meet the legal definition.

But the "context syndrome" only excuses the initial mistake, and only partly. By now, he's had time to think about those particular pictures, and he knows that non-sexually-explicit photos do not constitute child pornography, so what is he doing? He claims that the girls in their bras were posed "provocatively", but that's not the same as sexual explicitness, and he hasn't even made that claim about the towel picture, so unless there's some bombshell piece of information about the photos that he's still keeping secret (and why would he?), there's no excuse for him not to drop the threats of prosecution right away.

But could even the initial mistake have been avoided? I think it could have, if you designed a scientific procedure for deciding, objectively, whether an image meets the legal definition of "child pornography", by borrowing some of the principles used in police lineups.

Now, obviously one big difference between deciding if the right suspect has been identified in a lineup, and deciding whether an image constitutes child pornography, is that the question of a suspect's identity in a lineup is a question about objective reality, while the question of whether an image is "child pornography" is a matter of opinion and consensus about an imprecisely defined English phrase, so it may sound odd to try and find a "scientifically objective" answer. But by "objective", I mean that the procedure should eliminate the influence of factors that are not relevant to the legal definition of child pornography (for example, if asking someone to decide if they think a picture meets the definition, don't tell them whether the photo was found in a pedophile's basement or in a parent's photo album, because under the strict legal definition, that shouldn't matter). And by "scientific", I mean that the Yes/No answers returned by the procedure should be repeatable as far as possible, so that different defendants aren't being tried under wildly different standards, where Bob is convicted of possessing an innocuous photo while Alice is acquitted even though she possessed a racier one.

A naive solution, from a scientific point of view, would be to poll a random sample of lawyers or other professionals in a police go-to database, and ask them to evaluate whether the picture is child pornography, without any information about where the picture came from. These results would be objective (if the respondents didn't know the source of the picture), and would generally be repeatable, if the sample size is large enough. The problem with this method is that while all defendants would be held to the same standard, all citizens would not be. Suppose the lawyers in the go-to list start to decide, as many of them probably would, that anybody who is being prosecuted for possessing a picture of a topless underage girl is probably a pedophile creep anyway, and would start voting "child pornography" for all but the most obviously legal pictures. The prosecutor would realize this, and would know that they could threaten to ruin people's lives by charging them with possession of child pornography because of pictures found in their possession -- even while other members of society possessed similar pictures without ever being charged.

Here's where the analogy to a police lineup comes in. Police lineups are supposed to include "known innocent" candidates in order to test the credibility of the eyewitness; if the eyewitness selects a candidate who could not have possibly committed the crime (because, for example, they were in jail), then the police know the eyewitness is not reliable. (This was one guideline notoriously violated by District Attorney Mike Nifong in the Duke lacrosse team rape trial; he assembled a lineup consisting only of lacrosse team members from the party, so that whomever the eyewitness identified was guaranteed to fall under a cloud of suspicion.) In the same vein, the lawyers or other experts being consulted by the police could be shown a "lineup" of photos, consisting of several photos that were determined in advance to be legal (either because of a prior court ruling, or perhaps just because the D.A. had declined to prosecute the photos on previous occasions), along with the photo whose legality was in question. Ask the experts to pick which photo they think is closest to the definition of child pornography. Unless most of them pick the photo that's on trial, then that photo can't be said to be worse than any of the other photos that had already been deemed legal.

This is closer to a fair solution, but there's still a big loophole. When police assemble candidates for a lineup, they are supposed to pick candidates who match the general physical description given by the eyewitness. If the eyewitness said they were attacked by a redhead, the police can't fill out the lineup with one redheaded suspect that they want to railroad, and 10 blondes. Because attributes like "Caucasian" and "redhead" are pretty straightforward, if the rules for lineups are being enforced properly, the police don't have a lot of wiggle room to fill out the lineup with candidates who blatantly don't match the description. Unfortunately, it would be a lot easier to cheat when creating a "lineup" of photos to compare against a photo whose owner was on trial for possessing child pornography. If the photo at issue is probably legal but still provocative, then the police could fill out the rest of the lineup with completely non-sexual but perhaps eyebrow-raising photos, like a naked teenage girl watering some houseplants. Then when the police ask, "Which of these does not belong?", everybody would pick the provocative one, and the police would take that as "vindication".

The only way I can think of to guard against this, would be to let the defense counsel pick the other photos in the lineup, and then they could pick the most "provocative" ones that were still legal! For any photos that have been declared legal in the past, the defense ought to be able to argue that if an independent panel of experts doesn't think their client's pictures are any worse than those, then their client should not be prosecuted either. (If the defense lawyer decided their client was a child molester and wanted to throw them to the wolves, they could deliberately pick non-sexual photos for the lineup, so that their client's photo gets pegged as the odd one out -- but when the defense lawyer decides to railroad their own client, it's almost impossible for the system to guard against that anyway. Also, it's probably not a good idea to make this an option for child pornography defendants who decide to represent themselves, so that they can rifle through thousands of photographs of naked children, even legal ones, to find the pictures that they think are the "sexiest" to use for their defense.)

Perhaps someone can think of a better method that is still roughly scientific, in the sense of trying everyone according to the same standard and giving repeatable results. The irony is that despite the potential of child pornography charges to destroy a person's life, it is in possible in principle to try child pornography cases more objectively than almost any other type of crime, because you can separate out the alleged criminal act from everything else about the defendant, and let people examine the evidence of criminality in isolation. If someone shoots a person and claims it was self-defense, it's hard to imagine how you could distill out only the relevant facts of the case, and pass along just those facts to some third-party observer who then renders a judgment without knowing anything else. Half the courtroom battle is over what facts are "relevant" in the first place. But in the case of a child pornography charge, you can give the photo -- and no other information -- to an expert, and ask them to make a judgment.

I know, I know. The police and prosecutors are not actually doing to do this. But that in itself says something. Even if it's not possible to try most crimes in a truly objective fashion, why don't the courts and the police do this when it is possible? Many first-year psychology students that have an intuitive grasp of the principles of sound double-blind testing, could probably come up with a procedure better than the one I've described. When you've spent long enough thinking about how to design experiments objectively, you can't even hear about lawyers arguing over whether a photo constitutes child pornography, without the thought popping into your head: "Have a group of experts look at the photo and rate it, independently of each other. Compare the results to a 'control' result where the experts look at a photo that is not child pornography." And so on. Why don't those suggestions ever come from within the legal profession itself?

And on the flip side, what about using scientific methods to examine facts about the legal system? When considering that judges are tasked with evaluating parties' claims in an objective and fair manner, one could ask: Are they really being objective? What are different ways that we could test this? Perhaps by having two actors in different courtrooms on the same day, charged with exactly the same crime under the same circumstances, except one is black and the other is white, and repeat the experiment many times to see if they receive different average sentences. For a scientist, the idea is the most natural thing in the world. Forget the fact that the legal system doesn't do this -- why is virtually nobody in the legal profession even suggesting it?

Probably because most people who think in terms of objective experimental design are drawn towards the hard sciences, not toward law. That's probably a good thing; such people can likely do more good as physicists and research psychologists than they could as lawyers and policemen. But they can still speak out for the principles of science to be applied wherever possible, in any area where objectivity is important -- especially the law.

All true scientists at heart should keep telling the world that "science" is not just a label that encompasses nerd subjects like biology, physics, and chemistry, with other subjects like art and law being "outside the domain of science". While the statements made within the framework of those subjects are not scientific ("This painting is pretty", "The court finds the defendant not liable", etc.), science can make statements about the people in those professions and the patterns in the conclusions that they reach. If art experts are evaluating paintings differently depending on whether they think the paintings come from an art gallery or a 4-year-old's kitchen table, you could find that out through a scientific experiment. If judges are giving an easier time to lawyers than they are to parties who represent themselves, even when they make exactly identical arguments, you could test that hypothesis with an experiment, too. And scientific principles could be used to draw up procedures for trying cases more objectively, as in the procedure for deciding the legality of sexting photographs. We just need to get over the idea that "scientists" should limit themselves to the forensic CSI stuff and then stay away from the legal arena because that's a "separate domain". Science could tell us quite a lot about how fairly justice is dispensed in the courtroom, and sometimes even how to fix the problems.

cancel ×

711 comments

nice... (5, Insightful)

Em Emalb (452530) | more than 5 years ago | (#27387865)

Skumanick won't show the pictures to anyone, including the girls' lawyers

hard to prove your innocence if you're not given the chance to.

Re:nice... (5, Funny)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 5 years ago | (#27387925)

Everyone knows that sex offenders float when hog tied and thrown in water. How much more scientific do you need?

Re:nice... (5, Informative)

Em Emalb (452530) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388001)

it's shame this got a troll mod. Rather amusing to me, and a tongue-in-cheek reminder at how quickly history is forgotten.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salem_Witch_Trials [wikipedia.org]

Off wit 'es hed.

Re:nice... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27388021)

So, they're made of wood, like witches?

Re:nice... (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388151)

Or bread, ducks...small rocks

Re:nice... (1)

xaositects (786749) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388317)

Churches!

Re:nice... (3, Funny)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388463)

That's a nice proof that Southern Baptist churches (typically wood) are satanic, whereas the Anglican and Catholic stone churches (Stone) aren't.

Re:nice... (1)

sticky_charris (1086041) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388325)

Nail em up I say... nail some sense into them.

Re:nice... (5, Insightful)

Hojima (1228978) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388273)

This is yet another comment that I wish could be modded beyond a 5. Good job for such a witty comment on how this has turned into a witch hunt. And if I may contribute to this discussion with an argument that has been proposed before yet not enough know about it: go after people who have actually committed child abuse or sexual offenses. Who cares if some pedophile has child porn? If anyone goes to a hentai site, they may actually have an idea of the amount of people jerking it to loli. Hell, the Barely legal magazines and similar sites are a clear reminder of how many men are attracted to underdeveloped women. The law is not here to persecute people who are likely to commit a true crime, it's here to persecute those who have. If we continue to press charges like these, we may as well start rounding up those who go through too much violent media (sound familiar?).

Re:nice... (2, Insightful)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388523)

Sometimes conspiracy is a crime.

And when a real correlation (causation != correlation) can be made that pedophiles become motivated to act on child porn, we have the circumstance that there might be a crime committed.

The actual harm is that child porn happened. It abused one or more children to have been recorded for subsequent whatever. In a way, it's like snuff films, where someone was killed in the recording of the film for the subsequent gratification or use by others.

The chicken-and-egg problem is tough. The post's implication that in and of itself, a nude picture of a child isn't porn. I would agree that this is true for most people. A certain subsegment, however, can get sexual gratification...

Is a texting of a nude pic of a teenager (or younger person) in and of itself, pornography? My judgment says no. But the context is difficult to establish. If a teenager sends it to arouse someone or titillate them, is it porn, and if so, is that tacitly illegal? Perhaps it should be, but it's not a felonious act.

Re:nice... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27388595)

But that's not true any more. At all levels of government we are seeing case of prosecutors (and commanders in chief) attacking citizens (sovereign nations) who have might have the capacity and predilection to commit crimes. Of course, this is done in the name of safety, but where do you draw the line? All gun owners are not murderers. All programmers are not crackers. All porn fans are not molesters.

Re:nice... (5, Insightful)

Shadow of Eternity (795165) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388439)

Don't forget that they will very likely be tried as adults because they were fully capable of understanding the nature and consequences of their actions for something that is only illegal because they are NOT capable of doing exactly that.

Re:nice... (1)

phlinn (819946) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388609)

I missed that in the articles. Are you sure there is a possibility of trying them as adults? Not that the thought of trying them for child pornography isn't asinine anyways, but trying them as adults would be beyond belief.

Re:nice... (5, Funny)

Tom (822) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388679)

That's an excellent point. So often, the good questions are simple: How can you be tried as an adult for having "child porn" of yourself?

Maybe the law has finally found quantum physics. You know, Schrödinger's Defendant - she's both adult and a kid at the same time, at least until a judge looks. :-)

Screwy laws... (5, Interesting)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 5 years ago | (#27387973)

IN some states, the age of consent and child porn statutes have the same age limits.

For instance, a quick read of NV law shows the AOC to be 16. Child porn is defined as sexually explicit blah blah blah involving a person under 16. Federal law makes it a crime with a person under 18, but there may be some state line/interstate commerce nexus that needs to be fulfilled.

I didn't feel like looking at too many states, but found this same AOC/CP thing with NH-16/16.

Many states forbid distributing/exhibiting obscenity to people under 18, regardless of their AOC/CP statutes.

SO, excluding the feds, it's not a crime to have sex with a 16 year old or film it. But, she can't watch the tape afterward. It's a crime to allow her 16 year old friend to watch the act as it occurs, but not a crime to have her join. Neither of them can smoke a cigarette or have a beer afterward. If either one were to rob,beat,kill one of their fellow participants, they would be tried as an adult in every state in the country.

- Stolen from a Fark thread.
-----
How old do you think your great-great-great grandparents were when the got it on?

Re:Screwy laws... (5, Insightful)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388619)

If either one were to rob,beat,kill one of their fellow participants, they would be tried as an adult in every state in the country.

Which is what I find (darkly) humourous in so many cases. We had a case a few months ago where an 8 year old boy shot and killed his brother (intentionally). Very sad event for the family naturally, but then the county sheriff was on the news, and actually said that they were going to attempt to try the boy as an adult if they could.

Now, the crime aside, if an EIGHT year old is tried as an adult, does the distinction even serve a purpose anymore? What the age is, I don't know (I'm going to say 16 sounds nice personally), but I think that the transition age from child to adult should be FIRMLY and legally defined, and at that specific age all of the following become true:

- you can legally have sex with any individual
- you can legally participate in pornography
- you can legally drive a car
- you can legally have a beer
- you can legally use tobacco
- you can be legally drafted
- you can be legally tried as an adult
- and to hell with it, you can legally be president (the 35 thing is odd for me - I doubt anyone younger than this would make it anyways, but it's a stupid law IMHO).

Again, there's room for debate on what that age should be (16 sounds good for me, but I could live with raising it to 18), but whatever the number, I think that all of the above events should occur at the same milestone.

Re:nice... (1)

u38cg (607297) | more than 5 years ago | (#27387995)

Mmm. How exactly are these girls going to get anything approaching a fair trial under the circumstances?

Yes, but... (2, Informative)

ChePibe (882378) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388087)

No case has yet hit the court and, as such, there are no charges to defend against - only "threatened" charges.

Once the charges are made, the prosecution will be required to furnish the photographs. As it is right now, they may be required not to do so under dissemination laws. This isn't terribly sinister, perhaps simply a stupid law.

Re:nice... (5, Insightful)

Wrath0fb0b (302444) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388125)

Skumanick won't show the pictures to anyone, including the girls' lawyers

hard to prove your innocence if you're not given the chance to.

This isn't a trial and nobody needs to prove anything at this stage, since no one has been charged with a crime. If he charged them, and if it went to trial, the pictures would be evidence that the girl's attorneys would be entitled to see at discovery. Just don't get too far ahead of yourself.

Now, whether or not it's ethical for a prosecutor to threaten prosecution like this is a longstanding debate in legal academia. He has every right to bring them to court an attempt to prove to the jury that they have violated the law -- that's what prosecutors do, they bring charges to court and attempt to prove them. Also in their power is the option of making a plea deal with the defendants -- which is what happened here -- he didn't want a trial so he made them an offer for some probation. They refused, now the DA has to put up or shutup (there's also this preemptive Federal lawsuit, which I think is destined to fail).

Of course, the real motivation here ought to be for the legislature to amend the law to define child pornography in a more sensible way but they have a good track record of messing these things up, so I'm not holding my breath. Oh, and if you live in that county, you could vote for a DA with better priorities. Maybe. I don't know who the other candidates are/were.

Finally, a word of advice to the kiddies: the law might be stupid, but you should probably follow it. To the letter. Many on /. will probably revile the idea that we ought to follow such stupid laws, but you have to chose your battles (something the DA ought to learn) and this one just doesn't seem worth taking a stand for.

Re:nice... (2, Interesting)

Manfre (631065) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388563)

If the DA fails to bring charges against the girls, would that open him up to a defamation lawsuit for tarnishing their image for so long?

Re:nice... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27388179)

On the flip side of that coin, it should be hard for the District Attorney to prove the defendants' guilt, at least in theory. Everyone (at least in the United States) accused of a crime is innocent until proven guilty.

Re:nice... (1)

msuarezalvarez (667058) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388363)

For appropriate values of "everyone" and "innocent", of course...

Re:nice... (1)

Jason Levine (196982) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388235)

Skumanick seems to be using a loophole at the moment. He hasn't actually filed charges, just threatened to do so. Once he files charges, though, he'll need to release all evidence (including those photos) to the defense attorneys. If he doesn't, the defense attorneys can get the photos tossed out of the evidence list and then Skumanick won't have any shred of a case at all.

Re:nice... (4, Insightful)

Brooklynoid (656617) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388301)

Actually, here in America, you don't have to "prove your innocence." You're presumed innocent, and it's up to the prosecution to prove you guilty.

Re:nice... (1)

tganter (654412) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388313)

Skumanick won't show the pictures to anyone, including the girls' lawyers

hard to prove your innocence if you're not given the chance to.

In some countries you ARE innocent unless proven guilty.

Re:nice... (5, Insightful)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388461)

Legally. These girls are also being tried in the court of public opinion.

Re:nice... (1)

xpiotr (521809) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388369)

First I thought it was 1st of April...
because "Skum" in Swedish means "shady",
and I read "maniac" for the end.
"Mr Shadymaniac", but then I realized it is not yet.
But the name is fitting.

Thinking to MMS him a picture of my 5 month son taking a bath.
That should put him away.
What's his cell phone number?

Re:nice... (3, Insightful)

PhxBlue (562201) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388415)

hard to prove your innocence if you're not given the chance to.

Fortunately, defendants aren't required to prove their innocence in court -- the burden of proof lies with the prosecutor. And I can't imagine a judge that would take this seriously if the prosecution refused to show its evidence to the defense attorneys.

Re:nice... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27388423)

If it's good enough to "convict" terrorists, it should be good enough to convict perverts.

Re:nice... (4, Insightful)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388485)

"hard to prove your innocence if you're not given the chance to."

I know. We should move back to a system where the accused do not have to prove their innocence, but the accusers have to prove guilt.

"Skumanick won't show the pictures to anyone, including the girls' lawyers"

This is called denial of exculpatory evidence, and is solid grounds for a complete case dismissal. So why would the DA do such a thing? He's probably afraid an independent lab will find DA DNA.

How it actually works... (5, Funny)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#27387881)

In practice, I suspect that the DA just consulted the "Contemporary Community Standards" that he keeps in his pants.

Re:How it actually works... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27388143)

In practice, I suspect that the DA just consulted the "Contemporary Community Standards" that he keeps in his pants.

IF relevant to my interests
THEN fap
ELSE ban
 
/but what if the DA doesn't like redheads?

Re:How it actually works... (1)

scrow (620374) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388505)

Oh, you mean the Rule of Thumb?

I have a better test. (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27387903)

Post the pictures on Digg. The legality of the pictures will be inversely proportional to the number of Pedobear sightings.

wtf is sexting? (4, Informative)

aztektum (170569) | more than 5 years ago | (#27387907)

a summary that long dedicated to whatever the fuck it is and no actual definition. [wikipedia.org]

at first I thought it might be a "sex sting". turns out it is sending pics of your "naughty bits" via camera phone.

Re:wtf is sexting? (1)

michelcolman (1208008) | more than 5 years ago | (#27387947)

Texting - Sexting? Just a wild guess...

Re:wtf is sexting? (1)

Em Emalb (452530) | more than 5 years ago | (#27387963)

Did you really not understand what "sexting" meant wrt the context it was being used in?

Don't get me wrong, "sexting" is probably the dumbest term I've ever heard for something, but hey, to each their own.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have to go "sext" this picture of two goats displaying a bit of cleavage to CmdrTaco. He's mighty unpleasant in the mornings if you don't get him his goatporn before noon.

Re:wtf is sexting? (1)

aztektum (170569) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388299)

"Summary: Amid the latest "sexting" controversy, here is a proposal for a scientifically objective method to determine whether a picture constitutes child pornography. This is a harder problem than it seems, but not for the reasons you'd think. And it raises questions about how the same scientific principles could be applied to other matters of law."

That's the first paragraph. It mentions the word right off the bat. Surely a quick (sexting is the act of sending sexually explicit pics via camera phone) wouldn't have been too much of a pain. As it is I stopped reading the rest of the sentence and Googled it.

Re:wtf is sexting? (1)

Rachel Lucid (964267) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388373)

It's the new "Media Buzzword" for Sexually Explicit Text Messages / Picture Messaging.

I've been hearing it a lot on HARO lately (a media trough for reporters looking for sources for articles and books -- it's also a nice predictor of media trends anywhere from a week to two months or so in the future), so apparently somebody thinks it's newsworthy that kids are swapping around dirty pictures of each other.

Re:wtf is sexting? (1)

Contusion (1332851) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388535)

Sexting [urbandictionary.com]

You're just not looking in the right dictionary.

Bennett Asshole-ton, you are my enemy! (-1, Offtopic)

Gizzmonic (412910) | more than 5 years ago | (#27387959)

Bennett Asshole-ton, you sit alone in the coffee shop, typing out article after article for your Slashdot masters, but you don't fool me. I know you're an alien sent to take over this planet of ours. Phase one of your scheme involves gaining the trust of the tech-savvy public, which is why you spam Slashdot with your obtuse and irrelevant opinions. "Sexting" is a made-up code word that will trigger complete obedience in anyone who has read a Bennett Hasselton article all the way through. Don't fall for it! Resist the alien programming and live your own life with FREEDOM!

Let's throw off the yoke of Bennett Hasselton and celebrate with a nice cream soda!

Re:Bennett Asshole-ton, you are my enemy! (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388675)

Well, *I* for one, welcome our new obtuse and irrelevant opinion-writing overlord!

Unreasonable on its face (5, Insightful)

russotto (537200) | more than 5 years ago | (#27387967)

The DA is threatening to file felony charges against three girls for taking pictures of themselves. There's no wiggle room; the guy IS an unreasonable buffoon, and excuses like "context syndrome" don't help.

Re:Unreasonable on its face (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388117)

I'd like to point that the US is far more conservative about pornography and sexual depictions than most Western cultures. Showing a nipple here on broadcast TV gets you fined by the FCC. After primetime TV hours in Western Europe you'll see lots of things. In Nice, France, you'll see whole families nude including grandma, grandpa and baby in the summer time. And if you're ever seen Japanese TV,*shudders*

Interesting idea (5, Insightful)

ratnerstar (609443) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388057)

It is an interesting idea, and it might even work in theory, but I doubt it will ever be widely used. Why? Because you'll have a hard time convincing people to send possible child pornography off to be examined by a bunch of anonymous experts.

In the case of "sexting," where oftentimes the defendant and the victim are the same person, maybe it would pass. But if Joe Blow is charged with distributing dirty pics of Jenny Junior, I doubt Jenny's parents will be okay with those pictures being shown to even more people. There's no incentive for them to compromise, since people are routinely convicted on child pornography charges without this process.

This whole thing would probably have to be legislated anyway. How many state legislatures, not to mention the US Congress, will be willing to go out on a limb to (it will be said) protect child predators?

The solution to the "sexting" problem is common sense and prosecutorial discretion. Hopefully we'll see more of both!

Re:Interesting idea (1)

Mathinker (909784) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388341)

> The solution to the "sexting" problem is common sense and prosecutorial
> discretion. Hopefully we'll see more of both!

Unlikely, since in many electoral districts neither is likely to get the DA elected to a higher office.

Re:Interesting idea (1)

ratnerstar (609443) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388421)

True enough. And I'd rather see big-picture reform that eliminates the incentives for prosecutorial overreach than this sort of piecemeal approach.

In the interests of scientific research... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27388093)

...please post some pictures of naked teens watering plants.

I read the headline... (1)

darkmeridian (119044) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388115)

... and I ran here. Does that make me a bad person?

Re:I read the headline... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27388417)

tl;dr, worthless without pics.

Is it just me? (-1, Flamebait)

ModernGeek (601932) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388119)

Is it just me, or does anyone else here find it disturbing that CmdrTaco put "I-like-the-testing-part" and described the story as "the sextiest" when the subject is about children taking nude pictures of themselves, and testing to see if they are child pornography?

Re:Is it just me? (5, Insightful)

Dog-Cow (21281) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388331)

I think it's more disturbing that you think females past the age of puberty are somehow not sexual beings and that having a sexual interest is somehow unnatural and wrong.

Re:Is it just me? (1)

tecnico.hitos (1490201) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388495)

Either this or have them overly sexualized.

As it seems, it's hard to have a neutral view about these matters. At least it is when it gets to media.

Re:Is it just me? (1)

77Punker (673758) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388349)

How old are these girls? 16?

I wouldn't become involved with them in person. I also do not recommend that they take erotic photos of themselves.

On the other hand, I bet they don't actually look like children.

Re:Is it just me? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27388379)

When you roam the Intertubes as long as CmdrTaco has you have a need to broaden your horizons beyond just your usual mainstream pr0n.

Re:Is it just me? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27388385)

No, I was also disturbed.

Re:Is it just me? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27388399)

What children? The article is about teenagers.

Re:Is it just me? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27388513)

It's just you. You must be new here, Welcome to the Internets.

Re:Is it just me? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27388521)

What is this some kind of forbidden topic that you can't joke about?

Missing prerequisite (3, Insightful)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388127)

determine whether a picture constitutes child pornography

We don't have a scientific or legal definition for whether a picture constitutes any sort of pornography, other than Oliver Wendel Holmes' "I know it when I see it".

Re:Missing prerequisite (1)

junglee_iitk (651040) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388437)

It is called "sarcasm". Wikipedia has a good article on it.

Some cases are subjective (4, Insightful)

davidwr (791652) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388131)

Child porn cases can be divided by two dimensions: The photo and the context in which it is possessed.

You can objectively decide the photo: It's either clearly porn, clearly not porn, or in the hopefully-narrow grey area where some local courts or experts applying local community standards would it is and some would say it isn't.

You can objectively decide based on the context: Is this a parent with a childhood photo album that happens to contain half a dozen bathtime pictures, one of which has the child appearing to be masturbating, mixed in with hundreds of non-bathtime pictures? Is this a parent with an album of nothing but bathtime pictures most of which have the child masturbating? Is this an adult with pornographic pictures of himself he inherited from his parents? Is this a teenager with pornographic photos she took of herself? Is this a teenager with pornographic photos his girlfriend let him take? Is this a 30 year old with pornographic pictures of kids he doesn't even know? Is this a 30 year old with pornographic pictures of kids he doesn't even know stored in a locked vault in his office at the FBI, with carefully controlled access to the files in the vault?

Clearly, the FBI is allowed to have such pictures for official use. Clearly, the typical citizen is not allowed to have such pictures of kids that aren't his own without a very good reason, and possessing them is more than likely a sign that the person has criminal tendencies. While not as crystal clear, it's fairly clear that even a parent shouldn't have an album full of such pictures without a very good explaination, for the same reasons. The teenager, teenager's boyfriend, the now-grown child with inherited photos, and mom or dad with a single pornographic "cute kid in bathtub playing with his/her genitals" picture out of many innocent ones are much more likely to result in acquittals or public outcry at overzealous prosecution, even if the picture itself is objectively clearly pornographic. Why? Each of them can claim a moral right to take and/or possess the photos, and each can legitimately claim that possession of the photos is not an indicator that they are a danger to society. In other words, they are very sympathetic defendants.

Re:Some cases are subjective (1)

msuarezalvarez (667058) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388427)

You cannot objectively decide if something is porn or not. Pretending otherwise will only bring more problems.

Re:Some cases are subjective (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388503)

You cannot objectively decide if something is porn or not. Pretending otherwise will only bring more problems.

I think I addressed this when I said:

You can objectively decide the photo: It's either clearly porn, clearly not porn, or in the hopefully-narrow grey area where some local courts or experts applying local community standards would it is and some would say it isn't.

Some photos are clearly porn. Some are clearly not porn. Some are not clear. The latter is the "grey area" that I referred to.

Re:Some cases are subjective (1)

tecnico.hitos (1490201) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388547)

Is this a parent with a childhood photo album that happens to contain half a dozen bathtime pictures, one of which has the child appearing to be masturbating, mixed in with hundreds of non-bathtime pictures?

Photos the parents keep are a risk for the children. For real. They should be illegal.

Re:Some cases are subjective (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27388687)

There is no grey area. If it is not clearly porn then charging someone for possessing it is charging them for a thought crime and is wrong.

Saying its okay for you to look at photos of scantly clad children but not okay for someone else because they're a pedophile/witch/whatever you want to call them is ridiculous.

Making someone a criminal because of who they are and what they think of something, a photo in this case, will never be right. It strikes me as identical to the old racist thinking that made it illegal for black people to go to the same places or do the same things as white people. "You can't sit in the front of the bus, you're different than me." > "You can't look at this picture, you're different than me."

Evolving Standards (5, Insightful)

cephus (1471105) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388139)

The concept of picking the illegal photo from a lineup of legal ones is a good one, but it will inevitably lead to a slow migration of the legal standard to an ever more permissive definition of provacative. In order for a photo to be consistently selected from the lineup it would have to be significantly more provacative that the legal ones. Any photos that were only sligthly more provacative would not be identified and would therefore become part of the suite of photos that had been determined to be legal.

Re:Evolving Standards (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388475)

That is just stupid.

Provocative means intending to provoke.

You know what that means don't you?

You don't think you can claim that some guy "just standing around minding his own business" is "provoking" you, can you?

Try punching that guy or shooting him and see what happens.

This notion that no one knows what "provocative" is is just assinine.

Re:Evolving Standards (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388559)

Maybe that can be prevented with a counter-test: Have another group of experts see the same picture together with pictures identified as child porn, and let them identify the picture which is least pornographic. If the picture isn't pornographic, it should be selected by most of the experts, but this time the force goes into the opposite direction: If it is only slightly less pornographic than the others, the experts are more likely to not select it as the least-pornographic.

If both tests give a consistent result, it's an obvious case, and the picture can be clearly sorted into one category. If both tests give different results, then the picture is obviously at the border; it shouldn't lead by itself to conviction due to the benefit of the doubt, but it also shouldn't be entered into the repository of clearly non-pornographic pictures (nor into the repository of clearly pornographic ones, of course).

Re:Evolving Standards (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388647)

it will inevitably lead to a slow migration of the legal standard to an ever more permissive definition of provacative.

Good! That is what we call progress.

Strange Laws and their Application (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27388173)

It is quite obvious that no underage girl taking pictures of herself---be they pornographic or not---should ever be charged for creating child pornography. The guys who buy the pictures, distribute, or consume them should be charged. People like this judge confuse victims (who might also be victims of their own stupidity or immaturity) with offenders in a rather bizarre way.

what does this have to do with "news for nerds" (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27388177)

Sounds like news for pedophiles to me, and an invitation for even more than usual salacious porn-addled posts. Is that the focus of /. these days?

Re:what does this have to do with "news for nerds" (-1, Flamebait)

davidwr (791652) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388199)

Sounds like news for pedophiles to me, and an invitation for even more than usual salacious porn-addled posts. Is that the focus of /. these days?

/. = heavily biased to men who can't have a healthy romantic relationship with an adult woman
pedophiles = heavily biased to men who can't have a healthy romantic relationship with an adult woman

Things that make you go "hmmm...."

Further Reading (1)

PhilHibbs (4537) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388231)

This article reminded me of the book "An introduction to general systems thinking" by Gerald Weinberg. Wikipdia [wikipedia.org] has an article on systems thinking.

The real test (5, Insightful)

evanbd (210358) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388247)

Was the subject abused or otherwise injured (psychologically or physically) by the photography? After all, child pornography laws are there to protect the children involved. If they took the pictures themselves, it's hard to make a case that they were injured.

It seems to me that if they're old enough to take responsibility for their actions in creating the pictures, and therefore old enough to be punished for them, then they're old enough to have given consent.

Sometimes, a test without context would be appropriate. In other cases, like this one, the context is sufficient to determine innocence without even looking at the pictures.

Childporn or sexual repression? (5, Insightful)

johannesg (664142) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388249)

The article claims it is about childporn, but the story reminds me more of the kind of sexual repression of young people that I normally associate with countries like Iran...

Wait... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27388277)

Also, it's probably not a good idea to make this an option for child pornography defendants who decide to represent themselves, so that they can rifle through thousands of photographs of naked children, even legal ones, to find the pictures that they think are the "sexiest" to use for their defense.

But said pictures are perfectly legal to look at, right? So why stop these *accused* people from using them to make their defence like everyone else?

I dunno, that just seems wrong.

(Objection!) Waste of time (2, Insightful)

Kwesadilo (942453) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388279)

Some of these ideas seem like they would work to ferret out bias in legal proceedings, but mostly this would be because all of the judges and lawyers were too busy participating in scientific evaluations to actually get any (potentially biased) work done. The experiments that he describes (like holding two trials on the same charges for a white guy and a black guy) could take days, and that's just for one judge. To rigorously test the entire judiciary (and I imagine that this would optimally take place periodically), you would probably need almost all of the time of almost all of the judges, not to mention all of the other people that have to participate.

The thing about having a panel review alleged child pornography before charges are pressed wouldn't take that much time, comparatively, but preventing incorrect charges isn't as important as preventing incorrect convictions. IANAL, but isn't that what grand juries are for?

talk to a judge (2, Insightful)

Goldsmith (561202) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388309)

Lawyers and judges do run experiments like you suggest (at least, the good ones do). Judges are generally encouraged to take classes which look at case studies (that is what you are talking about) of types of cases they're commonly trying. There are many social scientists who have made their careers studying how people interact in a court room and whether or not a particular procedure is fair.

Go sit in the audience for a court case. You'll find that lawyers absolutely can not just argue about things. The "case" which a lawyer makes is from evidence and experts, not opinion. They often bring up expert witnesses, and can have whole panels of experts look at evidence and interpret it. The defense lawyers in the case you bring up absolutely will have access to the pictures and will have a panel of experts evaluate them, should this ever go to trial. Anyone who's been on a jury for a DUI has seen how this works, as a good prosecutor will have a medical expert describe how alcohol enters the blood stream, how long it stays there and what the effects are. A good judge would not allow a lawyer to simply assert any of those things.

As a "hard" scientist, I would point out that what you're suggesting is not objective. It's fine to have a science of law, but it is a subjective science. Please don't assume that because someone is "an expert", they are an unfeeling automaton. Any measurement which requires the judgment of a person is subjective.

We have forgotten the whole purpose of the law (5, Insightful)

locker1776 (463385) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388311)

IAAL

The whole purpose of child pornography laws is to protect the minor victim.

Under the law, a minor child CAN NEVER give consent to a sexual act. Period. There are exceptions for teenagers with other teenagers, but beyond that there is no exception (hence statutory rape laws). The whole point of making child pornography possession illegal is to get around the loophole of "I have a picture of an illegal act, but you can't prosecute me because you do not know who is in the picture."

Now when you actually KNOW who was depicted in the picture, and the circumstances surrounding the picture, you can make a determination as to whether the underlying sexual offense has taken place.

I find it impossible to comprehend the charging of a minor for possession of THEIR OWN PORNOGRAPHY!!! We are now prosecuting the person whom the law was written to PROTECT!!!

The question should not be "is it pornography?" The real question is "was the person who is shown in the photograph illegally exploited?" That is a much simpler question to come to terms with, and by ignoring that question, you make a mockery of the legal system.

Idiocy. Again. (5, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388319)

Okay, first, you can't "scientifically test" people's sexual mores. It's a question of taste, culture, environment, and context. Second, the definition of pornography has long been held to be something along the lines of "You'll know it when you see it." This has actually been used as the legal test in many courts in this country. Third, people are stupid frothing-at-the-mouth retarded and lobotomized flatworms as soon as they become emotionally engaged in a social problem, and doubly-so when it involves criminal charges.

The legal system is a crap shoot. As a defendant you can be hung even if you make completely honest statements. False witnesses, poor quality of evidence, lack of evidence, or (god help you) eyewitness testimony, etc., can all destroy the credibility of a defendant who is completely honest on the stand. If you excercise your fifth amendment rights, the jury will pretty much hang you on that basis alone -- nevermind the VERY strong legal arguments for doing so (even if you're innocent). Not only that, but did you know that in something like a quarter of rape cases where the defendant was later aquitted based on DNA evidence -- they admitted to the crime? Not that YOU would ever do something like that, but why do you suppose they did it? And let's not even get into over-zealous prosecutors, incompetent judges and attorneys, "lost" or witheld evidence from the police department--because we all know they aren't human but in fact infallable robots who never make honest mistakes, let alone malicious ones. Did I mention that a lot of people plead guilty to lesser offenses simply because they don't want to deal with the hassle and stress of a trial? A lot of people do this. Think of when you got a parking ticket or speeding ticket -- after venting about how you're going to fight the man, etc., and how the cop was just singling you out, etc... How many of you knew you weren't guilty but decided to give in anyway and pay the fine just because it was easier than a fight and the risk of losing and having to pay even more (and pay you will, Citizen).

In the majority of cases, the trial is over before it even starts. And people don't learn -- it doesn't matter how many innocents they throw to the wolves, because in their mind they're justified for doing so "because we got a few bad guys doing it too!" People are irrational, emotional, slathering rat-beasts. And they're stupid. Just realize how stupid the average person is and then realize that half the people serving on your jury will be stupider than that. Oh, and the icing on the cake? I don't know you, but I'm sure you've committed an arrestable-offense today. There is no person on the planet who can understand and follow all the laws we've created. And there are so many of them, that the odds are incredibly good that you've broken at least one of them. So all of you are criminals. We just haven't caught you...yet.

Lastly, consider this: What if one of these girls had been a boy instead. Ah, but justice is blind they say.

Re:Idiocy. Again. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27388649)

In the majority of cases, the trial is over before it even starts. And people don't learn -- it doesn't matter how many innocents they throw to the wolves, because in their mind they're justified for doing so "because we got a few bad guys doing it too!" People are irrational, emotional, slathering rat-beasts.

"A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it."
-Men In Black

Pick provocative but legal photos? (1)

hduff (570443) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388333)

Sounds good, but the viewers would eventually recognize the "provocative but legal" photos as that pool of photos would 1) probably not be so large as to avoid frequent duplication, and 2) become notorious and publicized and be rendered ineffective for this purpose.

Perhaps a comparison of of written descriptions of the photo content versus written descriptions of "provocative but legal" photos? The description would be written by both the prosecution and defense and the final edit would belong to a judge other than the presiding judge, but not one whose sole job is to review descriptions.

email them here ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27388343)

email them here, daddy@gmailer.com and I'll take a look. ;)

Easy Question (3, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388383)

If the people in the picture are younger than the age at which they can legally consent to having that picture taken, then that picture is illegal. If it's a picture of sex or nudity, then it's child pornography.

It's an easy question if the law protects the subject of the picture. Protects them from the original event, where they're having sex or being naked in a way that exploits them. And protects them from the damage to their reputation and self image that distribution of the picture does. Easy question, simply the age and pose of the subject.

If you're making a law that punishes sinners for lusting after a child, then it's a hard question. You've got to make the law prohibit depictions of children who don't exist, like in comic books [huffingtonpost.com] . You've got to prohibit pictures of adults (un)dressed like children. And probably all kinds of other things, chasing the perversion in the minds of perverts, notoriously non-uniform in what's in their minds to prohibit.

That kind of question should be hard, because it's a waste of time. The government's business isn't policing sin, but protecting children. That legit business is mercifully much easier, while still hard enough that it needs to be done by professionals when parents fail.

Science vs. social stuff (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388419)

...If judges are giving an easier time to lawyers than they are to parties who represent themselves, even when they make exactly identical arguments, you could test that hypothesis with an experiment, too...

I doubt it. The social stuff has way too many variables, both known and unknown, and the experiments, if any, are constrained by the expense and ethical constraints.

"Hard science" has built up much credibility capital for the therm "scientific", painfully and slowly, and using the term willy-nilly like this will destroy it pretty quick.

I wonder... (1)

Etherized (1038092) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388447)

Is this guy actually trying to get kiddie porn laws overturned, by using them in the most ludicrous manner imaginable?

It seems to me that this guy's actions just highlight how insane some of our current laws against victimless crimes really are, by showing the ways in which they can be abused.

i've said it once but i still believe it. (1)

webdragon (788788) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388457)

To quote myself. Bet he never got a single valentine from his girlfriend containing a nude Polaroid of herself.

pics... (2, Funny)

rmadmin (532701) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388489)

or it didn't happen...

Anonymous Coward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27388501)

We are the priests, of the temples of syrinx

Is it hot? Then it's bad!
This really ain't news, and no one should be concerned. If someone takes naked pictures of themselves, thats their business.

Lets stop being hyped up over enforcing stupid codes in this country we don't believe in. DOWN with the global elite megatards.

Hang the horse (1)

QuincyDurant (943157) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388507)

In the 16th and 17th centuries, authorities occasionally executed horses used in the commission of crimes.

Kiddie porn laws, in which an inanimate photo is placed on trial, are equally ludicrous on their face.

They may have some value as a prosecutorial tool if they convince a jury that a defendant is guilty of a real crime. But in those cases, no scientific evidence is necessary. A carefully-preserved collection of old Coppertone ads [wikipedia.org] in the possession of an accused molester could strengthen a case without requiring that they be adjudged pornographic.

Jury Influence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27388519)

The problem with this approach is that the public will have knowledge of your proposed screening procedure. The prosecutor can use whatever tools he desires to help him determine which cases he should prosecute and which he shouldn't. However, if the public knew that the prosecutor was only going after those whose pictures had been identified by "legal experts" to be objectionable, the potential for undue influence on the jury would be incredible. Simply put, if someone is prosecuted, the jury may assume the illegality of the photo is a foregone conclusion. That would result in serious prejudice to any defendant, effectively replacing the role of the jury with that of the prosecutor's methodology.

Better than nothing, but... (1)

FTWinston (1332785) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388525)

The only issue I see (apart from the inevitable so-called moral objections) is that if all pictures that are "deemed legal" by such a lineup process are then able to be used to test the legality of others, such a system is prone to slippage over time, due to the accumulation of tiny differences. If the first set of "approved pictures" are entirely non-raunchy, then over time some very-slightly-raunchy pictures will be compared to these, and deemed legal. As defense lawyers are always likely to choose the "most extreme" pictures possible, to bolster their client's chances, these will be used almost exclusively to test future cases, until some slighly-raunchy pictures are approved, and so on.

One partial solution would be a periodic review that has the unenviable job of looking over all pictures approved by this process, and the authority to say whether or not they can be used as "test pieces" in future line-ups. Even that would only slow the rate of slippage, not halt it altogether.

Another useful feature might be random selection of pictures, or even better computer selection, whereby pictures will be selected based on similarity to the "offending" image - but I appreciate thats got no chance of receiving endorsement.

Re:Better than nothing, but... (1)

Canazza (1428553) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388557)

Could it be done automatically, so that no human has to actually look at these images...

perhaps a Genetic Algorithm would work?

Re:Better than nothing, but... (1)

FTWinston (1332785) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388599)

So ... simulate a paedophile?

Re:Better than nothing, but... (1)

Shados (741919) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388569)

The "slippage" issue is true with the legal process in general though, through the precedent system. Thats how a lot of these screwed up judgements happen, too. You have a new law, then a precedent is set. Then things are compared to that precedent, sometimes setting new precedents. And over time, the spirit of the law went poof.

So that would be nothing new.

better method (4, Insightful)

Tom (822) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388575)

Perhaps someone can think of a better method that is still roughly scientific,

Yupp. Don't make thinking illegal.

This is part of the whole "victimless crime" item, except that in the vast majority of cases, you can not even establish probable danger.

If I am speeding on a safe, empty road, I'm not really putting anyone at risk except me, but you could argue that there might be a child hiding at the precise tree I'll be slamming into, or someone somehow gets in front of me without me noticing quick enough - etc. Short version: While in that actual situation nobody might have been harmed, a small modification of the situation creates plausible danger, hence you could argue my speeding needs to be punished.

Now try to extend that to someone looking at cartoon characters fucking. Uh, wait, seemingly underage cartoon characters (whatever that means) fucking. I challenge you. Which small modification of the situation causes harm or puts someone at risk?

There's no risk here. Not even a theoretical one. AFAIK the often provided "looking at drawings that look like a 12 year old doing naughty things causes children to be harmed for more porn production" line has no scientific evidence for it whatsoever. In fact, all evidence we do have suggests that the more you suppress sexual desires, the stronger they will erupt when the barrier falls.
Quite honestly, my personal belief is that these kiddie-porn-crusaders are probably causing more actual damage to children than the vast majority of those who enjoy sexy cartoons.

In the end, though, this is a lost cause. Evidence, truth and justice are not on the agenda of 99.99% of the people involved. Just look at the lineup. Politicians, lawyers, policemen. All people who stand to profit from more laws, more complicated laws, broader laws and more difficult to decide legal cases.

Always In The Basement? (1)

quangdog (1002624) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388585)

Don't get me wrong - I abhor and loathe pedophiles, however, it seems that these stories always refer to finding things in a pedophile's basement. Is there some unwritten (or written) agreement between all pedophiles that requires they keep their collections in the basement?

madness (1)

Mr_Nitro (1174707) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388591)

this is madness.... damn...world is going towards a very deep abyss.... but everyone with these crazy morals and fucked up ethics will be the first to have their twisted head chopped in the next huge civil war... how can a pic of myself, no matter what age, taken by myself and 'used' by myself be of ANY concern to the law?? Police State, that's the answer.

Appearance of impartiality (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 5 years ago | (#27388667)

Perhaps by having two actors in different courtrooms on the same day, charged with exactly the same crime under the same circumstances, except one is black and the other is white, and repeat the experiment many times to see if they receive different average sentences. For a scientist, the idea is the most natural thing in the world. Forget the fact that the legal system doesn't do this -- why is virtually nobody in the legal profession even suggesting it?

Nobody is suggesting it because the legal system operates on the premise that judges are impartial and unbiased.

The Western system of justice functions because the courts and their decisions are respected. To suggest (God forbid you actually show) otherwise is to damage the court's effectiveness... which is why studies showing that minorities receive harsher sentences are rarely popular.

There are always 'inconvenient truths' that must either be rhetorically obfuscated or avoided entirely. And with the proliferation of bias *studies, it is harder and harder to make the claim that individuals (Judges, Prosecutors, Police) are unbiased, because studies keep showing that even 'unbiased' individuals have unconscious biases.

Implicit Bias among Physicians ... Black and White Patients [nih.gov]
Racial Discrimination Among NBA Referees [upenn.edu] (3rd one down)
Check your own biases using Harvard's IAT tests [harvard.edu]

*and corresponding studies looking at ways to practically apply the results of such bias studies

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  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
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