Last year three teens in Lacey, Washington, were charged with dissemination of child pornography—a felony punishable by up to 36 weeks in a juvenile detention center and mandatory inclusion in the sex offender registry—after forwarding a nude photo of a former friend that was eventually seen by what some estimate to be hundreds of local kids.(The eighth-grade girl in the photo was not charged, though in some states she could have been.) In the wake of its sexting scandal, the Lacey schools implemented programs to educate students, but other districts have been slow to catch on."To be honest, I didn't even think about the legal stuff at all."Many teens don't.
She is suing the social media giant and the man suspected of posting her photograph in what is believed to be the first case of its kind in the world.
Facebook is attempting to have the claim against it dismissed, arguing that it always took the picture down once notified.
Sexually explicit images of under-eighteen-year-olds are considered child pornography; depending on the state's laws, district attorneys may prosecute anyone who's gotten hold of such a picture, from the subject and photographer to the distributors and recipients.
Recently, in Cincinnati, when a teenage girl killed herself after a sext she'd sent to her boyfriend went public, her parents sued the boy for invasion of privacy and infliction of emotional distress.
Kat, a seventeen-year-old from San Francisco, says her friends sext all day long, ducking into bathrooms between classes to snap provocative shots destined for their boyfriends or simply guys they're interested in. In one case, Kat says, she heard about a boy from a different school printing a photo he'd received and handing out copies.
While Kat has never sexted, she admits she's thought about it: "I have a boyfriend now, and sometimes I feel like it might lighten the mood or make things fun," she says.Barristers Edward Fitzgerald QC and Peter Girvan, representing the teenager, claim it was done in revenge and likened it to a method of child abuse.They contended that Facebook had the power to block any republication by using a DNA process to identify the image.D., a psychologist in Los Angeles who has worked with many clients who have gotten into trouble for texting explicit photos and videos."Teenagers tend to think they're invincible: ' That won't happen to me,' ' No one will ever find me,' ' It's just a picture,' et cetera." Morgan, a sixteen-year-old in Rhode Island, says, "I think kids are aware they can get in trouble, but no one ever thinks they'll get caught."The pressure to sext—even when the social and legal consequences can be so catastrophic—can sometimes compel even the most reluctant of participants.The girl, who cannot be identified, is seeking damages for misuse of private information, negligence and breach of the Data Protection Act.