Techdirt posts about sexting have a depressingly similar story line: young people send explicit photos of themselves to their partners, and one or both of them end up charged with distributing or possessing child pornography. Even more ridiculously, the authorities typically justify branding young people who do this as sex offenders on the grounds that it “protects” the same individuals whose lives they are ruining.
Judging by a story in The Local, reporting on a press release that first appeared on the MyNewsDesk site (original in Danish), the police in Denmark seem to be taking a more rational approach. Rather than charging the two young people involved for sexting, they are charging 1,004 people who shared the video and images afterwards, some several hundred times:
The video was primarily sent to and shared between young people, the police said in a major announcement on Monday morning.
Individuals under police suspicion in the case may have broken Danish child pornography laws, police wrote.
The material contains sexual images involving persons under the age of 15 years at the time of recording, the Danish National Police (Rigspolitiet) confirmed in a press statement.
The case came to light after Facebook received reports of sexual video material involving young people under 18 being shared on its Messenger platform last year, and alerted the US authorities as a result. They, in their turn, passed the information on to Europol, the European police agency, who forwarded it to the authorities in Denmark. The Local quotes a Danish police officer pointing out the long-term effects of being convicted of breaking the country’s child pornography laws:
“If you receive a criminal conviction as a minor it can stay on your record for it least ten years. That means you cannot get a job in a daycare or as a football coach. If American authorities are informed, it can also cause difficulties with travelling to the USA. So this is serious and has serious consequences far into the future.”
It could be argued that child pornography laws are not the right way to deal with this kind of sharing by third parties. And it is not clear how the explicit material came to be spread around so widely — to what extent, for example, one or both of the people involved in the sexting started sharing it elsewhere themselves.
But it is surely some kind of progress that the police are concentrating on that wider diffusion, which involved hundreds of people, rather than on the initial sexting by two young people, as so many previous cases have done.