back to article US judge bars teen 'sexting' charges

A federal judge has temporarily barred a Pennsylvania prosecutor from filing child pornography charges against three teenage girls who took nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves. The decision is the latest wrinkle in a nationwide phenomenon known as "sexting," in which teenagers armed with cell phones photograph themselves in …

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And who are they to judge?

Strange how they have this big hangup about Islam when they're just as guilty of dragging puritanical religion into their lawmaking. Deciding a bikini is provocative is right up there with the Ayatollah. Mind it's almost as bad here now, I'm just waiting for the laws to be passed that ban girls under 18 from having boyfriends over 5 years older than they are and if they are within 5 years of their age they must be accompanied by an official Government Chaperone to make sure they don't do anything naughty like hold hands!

As a father of a 13 year old if I found out a photo of her had been passed around school I'd be wanting to prosecute the person who was spreading the photo around, not my daughter who's only "crime" is being stupid enough to pose in the first place.

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well...

I guess there's likely to be at least one reasonable judge in a country with +300m population..

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Time to make the burqa mandatory.

I think The US are going to make the burqa -at the very least the chador- mandatory for women very, very soon. Land of the free, my fat hairy donkey!

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Sense at last?

Teenagers do stupid things, it's their nature. Acusing them of be pedophiles is spectaularly stupid, even in the pantheon of governmental stupid. Glad someone is finally seeing a little perspective on the matter.

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Disturbing.

Good preliminary ruling, I think. This is a parental issue, not a law issue. However, I find one thing a trifle disturbing, specifically this line:

"According to the decision, Skumanick threatened to charge one girl who posed in a picture wearing a bathing suit because he found it "provocative.""

Sounds to me like this Skumanick may have some issues. I mean, seriously, a grown man finding a child in a bathing costume provocative? He should seek help ...

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Paris Hilton

US judge bars teen 'sexting' charges

About time somebody stood up for reason.

BTW What would constitute "a prohibited sexual act" nowadays?

-

Paris, cause she is pure and would not know what "prohibited sexual acts" are.

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Paris Hilton

Medium not Participants

Forget the sender 's and recipient's ages,

they're entirely irrelevant.

It's the CONTENT that matters.

It's classified as CHILD_PORN whoever took it.

The offence was,

as per snailmail,

utilising the MEDIUM TO DISTRIBUTE..

Sending is an offence.

Receiving is an offence.

However,

good to see common sense finally prevailing

WRT the age of the participants.

Paris - Coz she'd obviously know better.

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Congrats, to the Miller family,

and the rest of you.

It's about time someone stood up to this insanity, and I'm pleased to see you have, thus far at least, prevailed.

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Anonymous Coward

@AC

The pics were fouynd on the phones, not sent by them.

The Prosecutor found them when a number of phones were impounded in their school and he went through the memory.

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Stop

Wait, what?!?

"A separate photo of the third girl, whose name was kept secret, showed her wrapped in a towel that extended to just below her breasts."

If the towel extended TO "just below her breasts", does this not mean that (1) she was using a very small towel and (2) her breasts were the only things that WEREN'T bared?

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Common Sense

Common sense prevails.

Unfortunately the law doesn't officially allow for that.

The laws need to be changed so that if its legal to be naked with the person its legal to have a naked pic.

Tou need a new law that covers minors sending pics to adults ... as clearly the minor should be punished, but clearly it needs to be a lessor offense.

Plus the laws should be changed to explicitly redefine possession so that if you are accidentally exposed to something illegal you can either immediately delete it or immediately report it.

This is probably how it works out in the real world in 99.9% of the cases, but only because judges and prosecutors chose to exercise some common sense.

Or course any politician who tried to make this sort of thing legal or less legal would probably be thrown out of office.

After all anything less than a knee-jerk zero tolerance policies is actively condoning the activity.

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Anonymous Coward

What about Skumanick?

Is it just me or is the fact that Skumanick said that HE found it provocative says more about him than the photo of a child in a swimsuit?

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PT

Some issues, certainly, but which ones?

"Sounds to me like this Skumanick may have some issues."

By a curious coincidence, two judges in adjacent Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, went to jail recently for corruption. The scam, which ran from 2003 until it was discovered late in 2008, involved sentencing juveniles for trivial offenses to lengthy terms at private detention facilities, in return for kickbacks. Between them they netted several million dollars in kickbacks. Here's a link to a New York Times article about it:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/13/us/13judge.html?ref=us

Now Skumanick started making a fuss about these kids just before the judge scam came to light. I wonder whether a private juvenile facility was being lined up to provide the counseling service the kids were coerced into, and whether Skumanick received a consideration for his marketing efforts. I think we should be told.

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Coat

Re-education classes?

Am I the only one more worried about the term "re-education classes"? Just the name sends a chill through me, I can't think of anything more Stalinist.

Mines the one with a pic of a 13 year old in the pocket.

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Paris Hilton

@AC at 23:3

I think you need to re-read the story. Where does it say the pictures were sent (presumably as an MMS, which americans kind of don't use?) from anyone to anyone?

It doesn't.

The phones were confiscated by their school, who then went through the contents (is that legal?) and found the photos.

So if your point is that sending is an offence and receiving is an offence (are they both? I don't know, do you? Does that mean if someone sends me child porn I can go to jail, even if i abhor it?), well then, no offence has been committed ...

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Re: Medium not Participants

No. Of all the descriptions that have been applied to this situation, "child porn" is not one of the appropriate ones. More apt descriptions are "overreaching" and "railroading". The Federal District Court agrees in their restraining order:

http://www.aclupa.org/downloads/MillerTROorder33009.pdf

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Of course children are Paedophiles

Hormone ravaged teens being attracted to other hormone ravaged teens? That's purely natural, and the way things have worked since before even computers were invented.

Remember it was only a couple of hundred years ago that the norm was for a 13 year old to be married with her first kid on the way, while hubby was out working.

That is until the puritanical Victorians invented the teenager, neither child nor adult, but a powerless time of fear and loathing.

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Stop

Facepalm

Since when is being nekkid inherently sexual? I would very much like to know how these politicians expect people to put on a change of clothes, let alone bathe, in a world increasingly filled with photographic devices.

A pox on you fools!

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WTF provocative

"Is it just me or is the fact that Skumanick said that HE found it provocative says more about him than the photo of a child in a swimsuit?"

I bet all the pages of the women's clothing section in his Sears catalogue are all stuck together.

PT may well be right about the kickbacks.

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Jobs Horns

Can't get my head round this.

Surely a paedo, is an ADULT who seeks secual encounters with minors? If a minor seeking a sexual encounter with another minor (including sending smutty pics) is also a paedo, then surely each and every one of us is a kiddie-fiddler. There is no statue of limitations on such offenses, and I for one have spent an enormouse amount of time with my hands inside the bras and panties of 14 and 15 year old girls..........WHEN I WAS 14 or 15. I suppose I should offer my name up to some sort of register or something.

The point of child porn laws is to prevent adults from exploiting and hurting children, they do not apply when the "perverse" party is the same age as their ahem.."prey".

And yes.....the fact that this guy gets all flushed and hard at the sight of wee girls in the swimming cossie is severely terrifying. Actually maybe he should visit the UK where whaqui jacqui and her thought crime law would DEFINITELY screw him over......after all under that if you get a stiffie on the bus, you get labelled as a motophile or something

Balmer cos he's the only person who could out double think the judge.

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wait, what?

Confiscating the phones I can understand, but why were they going through the messages?

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Re: He found it "provocative."

>"According to the decision, Skumanick threatened to charge one girl who posed in a picture wearing a bathing suit because he found it "provocative.""

Given the apparent increase, more probably due to a more global media, in cases of people performing sexual acts with non-consenting inanimate objects not made for that purpose it won't be long before there is a prosecutor that charges people for being in posession of photographs of bicycles or plastic garden tables.

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Reminds me of the joke about forbidding the "two piece bathing suit" (bikini)

A Dutch christian democrat MP (strict variety) proposed to forbid "two piece bathing suits for women (bikinis).

Response from liberal MP: Which part should be omitted?

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Anonymous Coward

@David Wilkinson

Not quite. In this case it's not the mainly law that's to blame. There is not, in fact, any law against "provocative" pictures of minors, the prosecutor made that up. Even full nudity isn't really enough. (In the US that is, the UK is a bit hazier I guess.)

So in THIS case if the prosecutor had simply followed the law there wouldn't have been a problem.

Of course if there had been actual sex in the pictures, then yes, the law is completely nuts as applied to a situation like this.

Personally I think the existing child porn laws should be scrapped, as they've become completely detached from their original purpose. After that we can decide if we need to replace them with something, or if the laws against child abuse itself are enough. These "sexting" cases are the ultimate proof that what we have now is broken.

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@Gilbert Wham

If I were being particularly sceptical, I might suggest that they were looking for something which they shouldn't be.

If this were the UK, you wouldn't have heard a word about it. The "Officials" would have been arrested for viewing the images.

I guess we can thank the Gov. for protecting our rights by making reporting a crime illegal. Well done!

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Joke

Main question is...

Has Wikipedia got hold of the images yet?

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Being a DA must be a pedophile's dream

"Is it just me or is the fact that Skumanick said that HE found it provocative says more about him than the photo of a child in a swimsuit?"

I just know that with him up for reelection, that if I was in his district, or better yet, his opponent, I'd be screaming from the rooftops that he's clearly a closet pedophile - as demonstrated by his finding of a photograph of a girl in a swimsuit to be worth to charges because he found it "provocative."

On second thought, change that - he's not even a closet pedophile, he's pretty damn open about it. Better yet (from his point of view), he's managed to land himself a job where he gets to look at kiddie porn pics on the job safely. I wonder how much hand lotion he goes through.

-Daniel

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Paris Hilton

@Re-education

I was thinking about the Cardassians personally, but I'm sure it was based on the same thing.

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Re: Magilla

"If the towel extended TO "just below her breasts", does this not mean that (1) she was using a very small towel and (2) her breasts were the only things that WEREN'T bared?"

I think it's safe to assume that the towel was around her waist, under her breasts."

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"April Fools"

Shouted the judge as he then had the parents arrested for posession of a child pornographer.

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@David Wilkinson re.Common Sense

"The laws need to be changed so that if its legal to be naked with the person its legal to have a naked pic.".

As far as I know, it's 'legal' for anyone to be naked with anyone else, provided both people are freely consenting to be naked. If this were not the case, police would raid nudist camps and gym changing rooms.

"You need a new law that covers minors sending pics to adults ... as clearly the minor should be punished, but clearly it needs to be a lessor offense."

13 year old girl tries on a nightdress in a store changing room. It's over her agreed budget but it's very good quality and very nice. She takes a pic and sends it to her mother asking 'awww, go on, can I buy it?'. Clearly, the girl should be punished.

It's very difficult to write down a law that accounts for the complexity of normal human behaviour, which is why there is this mess in Pennsylvania.

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Joke

Latest news....

...Skumanick is seeking to bring charges against several grand pianos for displaying provocative legs in public.

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Alert

@ wait, what?

Because it's America.

YOU have no rights in America, and THEY have responsibilities to... er.. idunno... poke through your phone for smut?

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Black Helicopters

Re-education classes

have been around for a while.

Lots of people in Vietnam were sent to them in the 1970s , so that any Capitalist ideas they had could be wiped from their minds.

Lots of countries have done this-it is called brain washing,

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@Gilbert Wham

Exactly! Surely, even in the US, it is illegal to confiscate someone's personal media and then peruse them without a warrant or similar?

As for the charges, the perversion in this instance stems not from these girls' activities but from the prosecutors' attempted manipulation of the letter of the law. At least the judge in this case recognises this.

You want to laugh at the Yanks but you know that it all just filters over here eventually!

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Anonymous Coward

That's right elderlybloke.

You keep blaming those "damn commies"... Like what's going on a Guantanamo Bay - oops wrong country and political system.

This is just ridiculous. A temporary ban on the frankly mental Skumanick pressing charges isn't enough! Firstly the local school board should be punished under privacey, theft and aggravated assault laws, then this wacko Skumanick should be arrested under child protection laws AND for the fact that he has be abusing power. Whats the betting that he's been rigging the elections too...

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Boffin

Polaroids

Minors with Polaroid cameras have been taking pictures of themselves/each other in situations which an adult present would be in clear breach of the law, since the invention of the Polaroid camera.

Phones are just a lot more widespread than Polaroids ever were.

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Anonymous Coward

@Can't get my head round this.

Actually a peadophile is someone who has misaligned sexual urges towards pre-pubesent children, and just like other sexual misalignments is almost always due to either a: genetics or b: environment. People rarely just decide to be misaligned.

Some sexual misalignment are accepted in society (homosexuality, females with low child bearing potential) whilst others are not (peadophillia, beastiality.)

Where a misalignment is not accepted it is best to deal with it in a mature way, many who are misaligned pose no risk at all as they are controlled by the various checks and balances in society (you want a job, you want to be respected, you don't want to go to prison, you don't want to be hated.)

In cases where that is not enough, in a healthy society such people would be able to get help, counselling, chamical castration, advice, etc...

Unfortunatly we don't have a very healthy society, and as such are unable to deal with this problem. Sending people with a sexual misalignment to children or animals to prison will solve nothing.

Also treating people with a sexual misalignment to prepubecent children the same as those with a sexual misalignmnent to teenagers is stupid.

Infact one can reasonably argue that an interest in teenagers is perfectly natural - and it is mearly a social concept that such interest is bad. If you look around the world there are plenty of perfectly functional nations that don't agree with US/UK/some other nations opinion on this matter.

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Skumanick?

As other posts have noted, it doesn't sound like this guy should be in such a position of power, deciding arbitrarily what is 'provocative'.

Should we not be educating young people that if something like this (that seems a bit of fun at the time), is released on one of the popular technology platforms (mobby's, Internet etc), then the Genie is truly out the bottle....

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Please! Won't somebody think of the ... oh wait..

I just truly hope that the good burghers of Pennsylvania vote this twunt out of office. He is one seriously fucked-up dude.

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Anonymous Coward

Vote for Mr Skumbag?

I doubt if many of the good citizens of Pennsylvania will be voting for a man who is sexually "provoked" by images of thirteen year old schoolgirls larking about in their undies. But hey, you never know what turns some people on; just look at our very own Mrs Skumbag who finds childish doodling to be sexually provocative. And no, we won't be voting for her either.

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I hope

He is barred from public swimming baths, from schools with gyms, from diners in Summer.

How has he not barred PA from participating in Miss Universe?

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Anonymous Coward

@Can't get my head round this. cntd...

This entire sorry tale is an example where law is made without proparly considering the consequences. The entire situation aws predictable, that teenagers would take pictures of themselves naked and give them to partners, or use them to tease others is hardly a great leap, and I'm quite sure it has happend for years.

These poorly thought out laws are then given over to people in positions of power who have their own personal agendas and prejudices and they use the law as best fits their world view.

And you have to wander what the laws were stopping in the first place, seen as engaging a minor in a sexual acts was already illegal as is making minors commit sexual acts to themselves or others, creating a photo is just further evidence of a crime. You can also extrapolate that owning a photograph is being in posession of evidence of a crime and therefore also an offence.

The situation where taking the photo is also a crime kind of makes sense in the states where you do terms one after another, however due to plea bargaining an actuial criminal will be able to get rid of either the main offence or lots of little ones.

So we're now wandering, why does this creating child pornography law even exist, when in order to create child pornography you have to abuse a child, and that's already a crime that has a hefty sentance. You also have decency laws that stop you distrobuting material that is deemed as indecent, such as child sex. So why have seperate distrobution laws for CP.

Why do we create new laws that cover things that are already illegal?

Two thoughts, law makers need something to do and politicians need to look to be doing things.

At the end of the day I suspect if we cooked down all the laws into their basic meaning we'd end up with at a push 20 basic laws, some that would appear, don't steal, don't kill or harm people without good cause, don't abuse people trust, don't abuse your position, do not ruin anothers livelyhood, do not ruin anothers good name, do not rape, do not judge based on racial,sexual, or religious prejudice only on the facts available.

Why do we need a few thousand laws?

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DR

@Medium not Participants

You say that recieving is illegal,

but we're talking about text messages, it's a push technology, you physically send people the message, requesting to be sent an image of child porn may be illegal, but just being sent it I doubt would be covered by the law.

downloading from the internet is different since you physically request the files.

I also wonder at the amount of people saying that a 13 year old in a bathing suit isn't child porn, if the police raided your neighbour and found their computer with hundreds or thousands of pictures of kids in swim suits. you'd be concerned no? probably say that they are looking at child porn? but then that's you defining porn, so should we be concerned that you'll categorise this as porn?

Whilst I do disagree that this is porn, it really is in the eye of the beholder.

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Anonymous Coward

@@Medium not Participants

"I also wonder at the amount of people saying that a 13 year old in a bathing suit isn't child porn, if the police raided your neighbour and found their computer with hundreds or thousands of pictures of kids in swim suits. you'd be concerned no? probably say that they are looking at child porn? but then that's you defining porn, so should we be concerned that you'll categorise this as porn?"

However why is it illegal to have such images? Nobody is harmed in the creation, nobody is manipulated, and the person viewing them is commiting no additional crime. The individual is satisfying their urges through completly legal and innocent images, why should society have the right to punish them? Particularly for what is no more then a genetic quirk or an environmental outcome.

Why is acceptable to treat peadophiles and those with a sexual interest in teenagers as if they _ARE_ child molesters when they have not molested any children?

However we do not treat gun owners as murderers, car owners as people who have commited vehicular homicide or people with an interest in computers as dangerous hackers? Infact we would view the notion as maddness.

Even homosexuals were left to their own devices as long as they were not "active" homosexuals.

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All crap

Idiocy - I have lots of pictures of my kids naked and sent them to my family and even to friends. No way anyone normal would condone this as being perverted etc.

Hell, being naked is our natural form. Some people even raise their families in the practice of nudism (dont know if there is a special word for this). There is nothing wrong with it. Its only our idiotic morality and religious inheritance that views nakedness as being something evil.

I vote we have an international naked day where everyone (yes, even people who are fat/old/ugly) spend the entire day naked. People living in polar regions are naturally exempt from taking part.

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The easy way out . . .

It's always easier to prosecute a couple of 13 year old girls than experienced perverts.

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Anonymous Coward

I agree sort of

I kind of agree that the kids in question needed some sort of punishment dealt out to them. They are not technically peados as they were not pre-pubesant (as said earlier) but they are guilty of something or another.

If they took the pictures with the intention of showing them to members of the opposite sex, then they are guilty of that, if however they took them for their own use, well, it does open a can of worms, can an old pervert now take semi-nude photos of a minor and claim first amendment protection?

If we say "its alright for kids to photo kids naked" then we are saying "its ok for us to let older folks photo kids naked". Over here its illegal to photo people under 18 in a sexual way (unless you are married to said person), so yeah, they broke the law and they should be punished.

I think their get out clause was "they said we got to else we'll be prosecuted" which is the amendment they broke, if however they had just prosecuted them, then maybe the kids would learn, you take photos of yourself nude, people *will* get hold of them, including the sort of people who would find sexual pleasure in them, so yeah, we should protect the kids by sending them to jail where they can see lots of other naked girls in the shower.

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@@Medium, not participants

If children in bathing suits are child porn then it should be illegal for children to wear bathing suits in public. It's that simple, otherwise you're accusing everyone who goes to the beach of being child abusers.

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@I agree sort of

They're guilty of taking photos of themselves and having those photos on their phone.

So lets take a look at this

"If we say "its alright for kids to photo kids naked""

Why not? If they arn't exploiting one another or manipulating them? Why shouldn't they take photos of one another regardless of how stupid it may be?

"its ok for us to let older folks photo kids naked"

Well in many cases it is completly reasonable for an adult to take pictures of kids nude, mostly family photos or art photos, where no exploitation exists.

In the case of an adult taking a picture of a sex act/manipulation/abuse of power, the crime is the sex act/manipulation/abuse of power. The photo is mearly evidence of the crime.

"then maybe the kids would learn, you take photos of yourself nude, people *will* get hold of them"

That';s a life lesson, it isn't the courts place to teach people life lessons.

"including the sort of people who would find sexual pleasure in them,"

And at least those people are getting sexual pleasure from such images that have not been created by abuse and are not abusing themselves, and if they are commiting acts of abuse well then prosecute them for that.

They've broken the law, but the fact of the matter is that the law protects nobody but the politicians that garner votes from acting tough.

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