sexting

Should this Pennsylvania teen be charged as a child pornographer?

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Between a Texas appeals court ruling that sexting a minor constitutes “free speech” and the Georgia Supreme Court’s endorsement of sending unsolicited dick pics, this hasn’t been a great week for United States sexting legislation. And it just got even worse: The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has reinstated child porn possession and distribution charges against a teenage girl, who posted a hardcore video of her friends on Facebook.

The video, which depicted two minors aged 16 and 17 having sex, had been making the social media rounds for at least a year before prosecutors pressed charges against the Lehigh County girl, known only as “C.S.” in court papers. In 2012, a judge dismissed the charges against her, on the grounds that they were an “overreaction by law enforcement,” and that the child pornography law was “unconstitutional” as applied to C.S.

A few weeks ago, however, the state Supreme Court reversed the judge’s decision, thanks in large part to a legal loophole. Now, C.S. is required to return to juvenile court, where she’ll face felony charges for the possession and distribution of child pornography.

Though the decision to press child porn charges against underage sexters is controversial, it’s not uncommon for overzealous prosecutors to do so (in 2008, a Lehigh County district attorney threatened to file child porn charges against dozens of high school students for distributing nude images of teenage girls, and earlier this month a Virginia teenager who posted nude selfies was charged with child porn distribution). This has led to fiery debate over whether a first-time teen offender should be subject to the same legal treatment as an actual pedophile would.

Perhaps the most galling thing about this particular case, however, is that only C.S. was charged for her role in distributing the sex tape, despite there being significant evidence that the 17-year-old boy in the video had posted it on the Internet and shared it with several friends. While the decision not to prosecute him was most likely motivated out of a desire not to punish the “victim,” it seems somewhat arbitrary to charge one party with distribution of pornography, and not the other.

H/T AVN | Photo by Niccolo Caranti/Flickr (CC BY - NC 2.0)