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Sexting: The Porno World’s New Best Friend?

In my last blog entry I talked about texting—that it has become an obsession among many individuals and that it poses numerous potentially serious security risks. But I cannot stop there. The fact that mobile computing devices such as smart phones are also used in swapping pornographic photos—“sexting”—is a somewhat related, but yet in many ways distinctively different issue.

Just as texting has become the rage, especially among young people, now sexting has started to grow in popularity.. Sometimes it surfaces in a rather mild form—adults (even married couples) sending risqué pictures of themselves to each other. But several worst case scenarios are also occurring. One is that child pornography traffickers are reportedly using mobile computing technology increasingly to go about their evil business. I suspect that the chances of being caught and apprehended would be lower with smart phones and similar technology than with conventional computers connected to the Internet. As such, I’d expect child pornographers to use smart phone-based photo transmission more in the future.

Additionally, minors are increasingly exchanging nude and semi-nude pictures of themselves using smart phones and similar technologies. You may recall the two adolescent boys in the Northeast who faced child pornography charges because they allegedly had nude pictures of girl friends in their smart phones. Somehow, charging 14-year old boys with possession of child pornography doesn’t seem very fair when hard core 40-year or older pedophiles use the same technology in much the same way, but for different reasons. And I seriously doubt that minors are going to pay much attention to child pornography laws when they have a chance to gain a prized possession—a nude or semi-nude picture of an attractive peer or boy or girl friend.

I honestly do not know what can be done about sexting, It is clear that current pornography laws are of not much relevance to those who engage in it. Additionally, law enforcement cannot realistically monitor adolescents for this activity when so many young people are participating in it. Law enforcement barely has enough resources to keep up with pedophiles and other porno traffickers. I imagine that this topic will eventually be integrated into sex education and other programs in junior high and high schools, but only time will tell whether or not this will make any difference.

Sexting also entails a significant personal risk—humiliation and even blackmail if photos fall into the wrong hands. I was driving home from work several weeks ago when I noticed a boy who was several years younger running away from a girl (who ostensibly was his sister) with what appeared to be her cell phone. He would look at the cell phone when he had gotten sufficiently far from her and then run away from her again when she got close. The only thing that I could figure was that he was looking at some very interesting photos on her phone.

I strongly suspect that what we are seeing with it is only the tip of the iceberg. And as law enforcement comes more up to speed with respect to this new way of what in effect is disseminating pornography, I suspect that steganographic and other methods for protecting photos stored on mobile devices will be developed and become widely available. So hang on to your seat—this is going to be a wild ride.

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