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Child pornography vs. freedom of speech? There’s got to be a middle ground here somewhere

When I first ran across this story, I couldn’t help but not want either side to win:

A federal court in Philadelphia may make it legal for teens to send naked pictures of each other using cellphones.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit will hear arguments today in Philadelphia from the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania that would ban a district attorney from prosecuting underage teens involved in “sexting.”

On March 30, 2009, U.S. District Judge James Munley granted a temporary restraining order blocking the district attorney, George Skumanick, from bringing the charges, finding that the photographs were not child pornography under Pennsylvania law and were protected under the First Amendment.

The Wyoming County district attorney allegedly said he would charge the three high school girls with child pornography if they didn’t agree to be placed on probation, participate in a five-week re-education program and be subject to random drug testing.

First as an aside, what do random drug tests have to do with pornography? That alone to my mind is an overreach on the prosecutor’s part. But that’s only a side issue.

The problem with charging teens under child pornography laws is that those laws were written before current technology was even dreamed of; they’re intended to protect children by keeping dirty old men from exploiting them in order to make pornography. But charging teens with child pornography isn’t protecting them, it’s punishing them.

At the same time, as much as I support free speech, I cannot get on board with that argument. Child pornography shouldn’t be allowed whether it’s adults using kids to make it or kids making it themselves.

There needs to be something in between these two radical extremes.

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