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Sexting teen convicted of child pornography

A teenage girl in Canada sends naked pictures of her boyfriend's ex-girlfriend to a friend and posts one picture to the victim's Facebook page. She is more or less the same age as the victim, yet is convicted of child pornography.

Defense Attorney Christopher Mackie speaks with reporters after the verdict.
Global News/Screenshot by CNET

At what point is it possible that hurtful, juvenile attempts at humiliating a fellow teenager can be defined as child pornography?

A court in Canada seems to have taken a very firm attitude in the case of a teenager from Saanich, British Columbia, who was in possession of naked images of her boyfriend's ex-girlfriend and disseminated them.

As CBC News reports, a judge in Victoria, BC, offered a literal interpretation of the teen's actions.

It didn't matter that her boyfriend had voluntarily shown her the pictures. It also didn't matter that there was little age difference between the sexter and the victim.

At the time of the offense, the sexter was 16. Her aims were said in court to be humiliation and intimidation (she sent the victim texts threatening to "stomp" her).

But she was convicted on Thursday of possession and dissemination of child pornography and of threatening behavior.

Global News Canada quoted the sexter's mother as saying last September: "It's been so hard on all of us, especially my daughter, to have to go through all of this. It changed who she was as a person, and there's more than just one victim in this whole situation."

The defense lawyer, Christopher Mackie, says he will challenge the verdict on constitutional grounds. How can it be child pornography when adults can text naked pictures quite legally? There is, he argued, no aspect of this that might be termed child pornography.

"These child pornography laws were intended to protect children, not to persecute them, and again it seems the criminal justice system -- it's a heavy hammer to be using," he told CBC.

He further intimated that the sexter had not acted alone.

Some might imagine that such sexting is less child pornography and more cyberbullying, but perhaps lawyers don't feel the law in that area has caught up with the consequences of technology's immediate effect.

Indeed, Chandra Fisher, the prosecutor, forced to look at 36,000 texts between the parties in this case, told CTV: "I had trouble understanding text language and I had to take a lesson in what some of these symbols meant."

Teens clearly don't think things through, especially when teenage emotions are involved. Sometimes, this kind of bullying can even lead to the victim's suicide. But to label a teen sexter a child pornographer brings with it its own consequences.

It will take months for the constitutional challenge to be heard. In the meantime, the sexter is deemed a child pornographer.