‘online safety’

Think Internet Censorship Can’t Happen Here?

A few years ago I helped sue the state of Ohio. I’m proud to say we just won an important victory—something that protects every American. Like many states in the early 2000s, Ohio passed a law criminalizing the sending of material “harmful to minors” on the internet. There were only 3 small problems with the law—“harmful to minors” wasn’t really defined, on the net you can’t know who’s a minor, and I have the First Amendment right to say what I want if it isn’t obscene or libelous. Other than that, the law was fine. As the publisher of Sexual…

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Court Finally Limits Persecution of Teen Sexuality

Sexting has come of age—it’s on the front page of today’s New York Times. The good news is that our judiciary has finally told prosecutors enough is enough. A U.S. Appeals Court just upheld a preliminary injunction barring local prosecutors from filing felony child-porn charges against a teenage girl who took a topless photo of herself with her cellphone. Eighteen months ago, sexy shots of three Pennsylvania teen girls—one showing her breasts, the others in bra or bathing suit—were taken and sent to some friends via cell phone. School officials busted them and 13 other students who had the pictures…

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Fantasy On Trial (Again)

I’m on my way home from Denver, where I testified as an expert witness at a deeply troubling trial—a trial that’s become way too common in America. Here’s the situation: The defendant “Mr. Jones” goes into a Yahoo adult chat-room, and makes it clear he wants to have conversations about sexually dominating a young person. A person responds—let’s call her “Missy”—who says she’s a teen who would gladly chat with a wiser, older man about the ins and outs of sexual things. “Missy” says she’s 14, and she and “Mr. Jones” proceed to exchange hundreds and hundreds of emails, IMs,…

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Florida Criminalizes Arts & Crafts

Remember playing with photos and scissors as a young teen? You’d make collages: your scrawny face on a caveman’s body, your friend’s body with the head of a dog, you and a movie star on a beach in Hawaii. Silly adolescent stuff, harmless. Now what about putting your head on a movie star’s nude body? Or your neighbor kid’s face on your body? Still harmless, right? When does this kind of stuff become illegal? John Stelmack of Lakeland, FL found out the hard way. He allegedly cut out a Xerox copy of a girl’s head, taped it to a printout…

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My New Digital Camera: Sexting in Middle Age?

After taking thousands of pictures around the globe with my trusty Pentax, I bought a digital camera last week. If you already have one, this may sound pretty ho-hum. But to someone who spends hundreds of dollars on film every time he leaves the country, and who still thinks a “photo” is a picture of something as it actually was, a digital camera is a little miracle. My wife and I spent a few hours learning how to use it yesterday. Sitting in the living room we took turns learning to use things like the “multi selector” and “shooting mode.”…

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Protecting Kids On-Line: A Growth Industry

I was privileged to be part of this year’s annual meeting of FOSI, the Family On-Line Safety Institute. This was the first year they invited a sex expert. So it was 400 public policy people and one sex guy—me. The lineup of speakers was extraordinary: a Senator; senior executives from companies like Verizon and Comcast; several state Attorneys General; President Obama’s Deputy Chief Technology Officer; and dozens of heavy hitters like Adam Thierer (Progress & Freedom Foundation) and Larry Magid (ConnectSafely). The complexity of the internet, broadband, and mobile-connected world of kids and teens which they discussed for two days…

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