More trouble for Amazon, this time with photos – Amazon sells books and videos containing images of children in possible sexual situations
“What the law has upheld is that nudity alone is not enough to prove that something is child pornography,” said lawyer James Marsh, one of Flatley’s teammates in the fight for Masha’s Law. Marsh represents victims in child pornography cases and blogs about these issues at childlaw.us.
Amazon would never have sold material like the pornographic photos of Masha; however, as Marsh pointed out to me, the site currently lists a lascivious “true crime” book, for sale by four used-bookstore partners, about Masha’s case, written by Peter Sotos, a man who once pleaded guilty to a child pornography charge.
Listing a book and selling pictures and videos are clearly separate acts, as is the difference between a simple baby picture and true child pornography. What people now want to know is this: Where does the line get drawn? And who gets to draw that line?
“There’s a real disconnect on what the true nature of child porn is,” Marsh said. “99.9999 percent of the material I deal with features pre-pubescent children being raped … the most graphic hardcore images you can imagine. People think downloading a picture of a baby in a bathtub is going to send them to prison. That’s not what we’re talking about.”
But there is a fine line. When it comes to young girls in swimsuits, Marsh mentioned the case of a child model group in Florida that was successfully shut down, because despite the lack of sexual abuse in the imagery, the photos focused on sexual aspects of the children. “There are complicated legal tests that courts need to engage in to determine what is or isn’t legal,” he explained.
And what about the nudist videos? “We do see a big overlap between the child molesters and the so-called naturists. We have at least a couple of documented cases of public naturist advocates actually adopting and sexually abusing children for the purposes of child pornography.” He cites the ‘”notorious” case of William Peckenpaugh, a naturist in Washington state who adopted an orphan boy from Romania and abused him sexually, distributing images of him online. He also says that people in Eastern European countries, Belarus and Ukraine in particular, are known to distribute child pornography, using children who may be “rented” from the countries’ impoverished orphanages.
But Marsh also suggests, only half in jest, that maybe some of this is a government front to entrap pedophiles. “How those videos have managed to survive in circulation for years? Careful editing or a government front. Could be either, or both.”
As for Amazon – and Facebook, another current target of Marsh’s activism – he says free speech should not be the defense. “It’s not about First Amendment rights,” said Marsh. “It’s about what material a good corporate citizen should be making available to the public. And that’s the kind of decision Amazon should be making.”