The Associated Press reports that sexting-extortion is on the rise:
INDIANAPOLIS - The nightmare began with a party: three teenage girls with a webcam, visiting an Internet chatroom and yielding to requests to flash their breasts. A week later, one of the girls, a 17-year-old from Indiana, started getting threatening e-mails.
A stranger said he had captured her image on the webcam and would post the pictures to her MySpace friends unless she posed for more explicit pictures and videos for him. On at least two occasions, the teen did what her blackmailer demanded. Finally, police and federal authorities became involved and indicted a 19-year-old Maryland man in June on charges of sexual exploitation.
Federal prosecutors and child safety advocates say they’re seeing an upswing in such cases of online sexual extortion. They say teens who text nude cell phone photos of themselves or show off their bodies on the Internet are being contacted by pornographers who threaten to expose their behavior to friends and family unless they pose for more explicit porn, creating a vicious cycle of exploitation.
A lot of bloggers have been pointing out the absurdity of law enforcement for going after 15 year old girls who take pictures of themselves or the boys that they send the pictures to. In one case, though I can’t find a link, they prosecuted a boy who had deleted the picture from his phone on the basis that they knew he had it at one point. But it brings to light some rather interesting questions: how do you deal with some of this stuff?
Prosecuting girls for taking pictures of themselves and even sending them around, absent some sort of complaint on the part of who she is sending it to, is indeed quite absurd. And though less absurd it doesn’t seem particularly fair to go after the boys that they send them to if they’re not passing it on. And in some cases even when they are passing it on, they may be guilty of some unsavory behavior but they’re not really comparable to those aiding and abetting an industry devoted to exploiting young girls. I would just shrug it off to prosecutorial discretion (if the girl or guy is not making money off of it or doing it maliciously, treat them different from someone in the industry or doing what the above guy is doing), but when it comes to sex crimes involving minors I am not sure how much faith in prosecutors I have. Yet the distinctions between people with malicious intent and those that have a picture of the girlfriend they’ve seen nude with regularity is something difficult to codify into law.