In a cultural context where Congressman Anthony Weiner foolishly published salacious content on Twitter, it’s hard to ignore sexting as a cultural phenomenon. Countless adults send sexually explicit content to one another, either as acts of flirtation or more explicit sex acts. And yet, when teenagers do so, new issues emerge. Teen sexting gets complicated, especially when images or videos are involved, because it butts up against child pornography laws. Unfortunately, teens have been arrested on child pornography charges for taking or sharing images of themselves or their peers.
Teen sexting isn’t just an issue for parents, teens, and the law; it’s also a challenge for the tech industry. Because technology companies are required by law to work diligently to combat child pornography, sexting creates new challenges for them. In this talk for the Read Write Web 2WAY conference, I outline some of the challenges that the tech industry faces with respect to teen sexting. I also invite those in the tech industry to engage about this issue, either out of goodwill, monetary interest, or fear of legal liability.
“Teen Sexting and Its Impact on the Tech Industry”
Dena Sacco and her team have put together a fantastic document that maps out the legal and socio-legal issues surrounding sexting: Sexting: Youth Practices and Legal Implications. This is for the Berkman Center Youth and Media Policy Working Group that I’m coordinating with John Palfrey and Urs Gasser (funded by the MacArthur Foundation).
Sexting: Youth Practices and Legal Implications
This document addresses legal and practical issues related to the practice colloquially known as sexting. It was created by Harvard Law School’s Cyberlaw Clinic, based at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, for the Berkman Center’s Youth and Media Policy Working Group Initiative. The Initiative is exploring policy issues that fall within three substantive clusters emerging from youth’s information and communications technology practices: Risky Behaviors and Online Safety; Privacy, Publicity and Reputation; and Youth Created Content and Information Quality. The Initiative is funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and is co-directed by danah boyd, Urs Gasser, and John Palfrey. This document was created for the Risky Behaviors and Online Safety cluster, which is focused on four core issues: (1) sexual solicitation and problematic sexual encounters; (2) Internet-related bullying and harassment; (3) access to problematic content, including pornography and self-harm content; and (4) youth-generated problematic content, including sexting. The Initiative’s goal is to bring the best research on youth and media into the policy-making debate and to propose practical interventions based upon that research.
This document is intended to provide background for discussion of interventions related to sexting. It begins with a definition of sexting, and continues with overviews of research and media stories related to sexting. It then discusses the statutory and constitutional framework for child pornography and obscenity. It concludes with a description of current and pending legislation meant to address sexting.