FBI Arrests Anyone Who Even Clicks On Child Porn. Fair?

computescreenglow

If you merely click on a link that’s purporting to send you to stash of X-rated kiddie pics, should you be held criminally liable for child porn? The FBI says yes. And so do the courts they’ve got to OK this sort of thing.

Call it entrapment or just innovative investigative work for the Web 2.0 era. But here’s what the FBI is doing: Setting up fake websites made to look like child porn troves, then recording the IP address and other identifying info of anyone who even happens upon the site. Click a link and end up on a government-sponsored (alebit fake) child porn site? You could be arrested and thrown in with the To Catch A Predator crowd.

Federal law doesn’t just declare downloading child porn a crime, but the mere attempt at doing so. (Penalty? Up to 10 years in prison.)

That the FBI is devoting resources to catching sickos who prey on children is admirable. But the overarching implications of this practice are, frankly, frightening. How come? Because even your Catholic grandmother, who only uses the computer to check her email for photos of her grandkids, could be lobbed into this by accident. Or, as the FBI would argue, only human stains intent on downloading child porn would bother clicking on such a link.

The implications of the FBI’s hyperlink-enticement technique are sweeping. Using the same logic and legal arguments, federal agents could send unsolicited e-mail messages to millions of Americans advertising illegal narcotics or child pornography–and raid people who click on the links embedded in the spam messages. The bureau could register the “unlawfulimages.com” domain name and prosecute intentional visitors. And so on.

[…] While it might seem that merely clicking on a link wouldn’t be enough to justify a search warrant, courts have ruled otherwise. On March 6, U.S. District Judge Roger Hunt in Nevada agreed with a magistrate judge that the hyperlink-sting operation constituted sufficient probable cause to justify giving the FBI its search warrant.

[…] So far, at least, attorneys defending the hyperlink-sting cases do not appear to have raised unlawful entrapment as a defense.

“Claims of entrapment have been made in similar cases, but usually do not get very far,” said Stephen Saltzburg, a professor at George Washington University’s law school. “The individuals who chose to log into the FBI sites appear to have had no pressure put upon them by the government…It is doubtful that the individuals could claim the government made them do something they weren’t predisposed to doing or that the government overreached.”

The outcome may be different, Saltzburg said, if the FBI had tried to encourage people to click on the link by including misleading statements suggesting the videos were legal or approved.

Child porn laws were created as a safety measure: By criminalizing the action (disgusting adults downloading and producing explicit pictures and videos), legislators hoped to minimize the harm (forcing children to pose naked or engage in sexual activities). But what about CGI-generated child porn? No real children are harmed there, but it’s likely you’ve got the same crop of sickos downloading and creating the fake stuff. And now with child porn links, there’s no chance of actual child endangerment — the FBI’s links and sites contain no actual child porn — so the folks clicking on to these sites do not actually harm children with that act alone. So should they be tossed in jail for it?

[News.com]