When you think of child pornography, after experiencing feelings of disgust and anger, you might picture an adult viewing and/or distributing inappropriate photographs of minors. In other words, more often than not, it’s adults who are implicated in criminal child pornography cases.
However, as our Palm Beach and Broward County juvenile defense lawyers know, it isn’t always adults who are suspected in these types of incidents — often times, as we’ll discuss in this post, it’s minors themselves who are implicated in the child pornography trade.
When underage teenagers are the suspects in child pornography cases, issues associated with age variance, youthful indiscretion, parental duty and corporate responsibility must be considered.
Last week, three Pembroke Pines teenagers were arrested after police said they created an Instagram account for the purpose of posting nude and “sexually explicit” images of fellow minor teenagers.
According to police, authorities began investigating the Instagram account in December, and discovered that the account created by the teenagers (a 15-year-old boy, a 12-year-old boy and a 13-year-old girl) had more than 500 followers who posted photographs of underage kids from the Broward County area. As NBC Miami reported, the Instagram account solicited followers to “post the images to ‘expose’ their peers.”
The photographs uploaded to the account included the personal information of the victims (including their names). As if the uploading of the photographs didn’t do enough harm, the followers of the Instagram account harassed the victims by posting “cruel comments” below the images.
So, in this case, it’s likely that the arrested teenagers (ranging in age from 12 to 15) were the same age of the many of the minor teens they victimized by way of creating the Instagram account. This presents a problem: there is no scary, older pedophile peddling sexually explicit images of underage teenagers. While there may very well have been older individuals, including dangerous pedophiles, who viewed the Instagram account and thereby indirectly supported the child pornography trade, the individuals behind the account, and thus those charged with electronic transmission of child pornography, were teenagers themselves. Nevertheless, this crime will be prosecuted, in many ways, just as it would if it were a bunch of 40 year old men behind the account.
That said, as our Palm Beach and Broward County juvenile defense lawyers know, the issue of youthful lapses in judgment must be considered. Should the faulty — indeed illegal — choices that people make when they are young teenagers follow them around for years? Should these kids have to be known as child pornographers due to mistakes them made while their brains still had 10+ years to develop? Our lawyers believe that poor decisions shouldn’t necessarily leave an indelible mark on a person’s life, which is why we aggressively represent our juvenile clients in the court of law.
Because the charged individuals are minor teenagers, the role of their parents has received some due attention. According to news reports, the Pembroke Pines Police Department has urged the Broward community to pay closer attention to their children’s online activity, including what they post to their social media accounts (including their Instagram accounts). Noninvasive oversight of online activity can go a long way in both preventing criminal activity and protecting your children’s legal/criminal records.
Lastly, we must consider the issue of corporate responsibility. We all know that social media sites have terms of service, outlining the responsibility of users and limiting what type of content they can legally upload. The fact that this account existed for as long as it did means that Instagram (owned by Facebook) could have done a better job at rooting out the account and disabling the users.
If you have any questions about the crime of child pornography in the era of social media, please contact our Palm Beach and Broward County criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Leifert & Leifert by calling 1-888-5-DEFEND (1-888-533-3363) to schedule a free consultation. We look forward to speaking with you.