Several years ago I spoke in front of a group of 17 year old high school students for law day. One of the issues that came up involved whether it would be legal to hack into someone’s Facebook account to then taunt that person. In this case the example we used involved making negative comments about that person’s sports team on his own Facebook page, so it was minor taunting. We used that hypo on purpose because we didn’t want it to seem serious. The students all thought it was ok. They didn’t think it was bullying, and one of the students told us most clearly that it wasn’t illegal.
I asked them, well, how would you feel if someone started posting using your Facebook account? They admitted they wouldn’t like it. I said would it make you feel bad? Yes, the said. So is it bullying? Yes, they agreed. Then I told them, much to their surprise, that it would also be a felony to hack into someone else’s Facebook account. I said unless you care to have a record while you are trying to get into college (we were at a college prep school) then I suggest you stay away from breaking into other people’s online accounts and services.
Why am I writing about this today? I am writing about it because the local news just informed viewers that a student stole the phone of another and grabbed an explicit video. Then he and two of his friends posted the video online.
There are a number of likely charges here. First, stealing the phone. Second, we also could have some child pornography charges. The charges will likely be filed against the three boys. But it is also likely that those in the video will face charges as well. In Pennsylvania people who film themselves, if both are underage, face a summary offense of child pornography. This is the lowest level of offense possible. If one of the people in the film is above the age of consent, well, that one could face more serious charges.
As far as the boys who posted the video, prosecutors are not likely to be sympathetic. Even if those sharing the images are children themselves. Just because it is a child sharing the explicit photos or video, that does not stop what is shared from being child pornography. There are other charges possible too, when invading someone’s privacy like this.
It is very important that parents talk to their children, please. Make them understand that not only could they be destroying someone else’s life (sharing nude pictures of another person without his or her permission is very cruel,) but also destroying their own.
And also, please talk to your children about taking the videos and pictures in the first place. No matter what people think, those videos and images really seem to have a way to come back and bite people in the butt that they just showed off.