Protecting Children in the Digital Age

No respectable human being could justify child pornography. Neither liberal nor conservative, democrat nor republican, male nor female. No one. It’s an offense that transcends every notion of basic decency.

The offense is so heinous, in fact, that Oregon law requires medical professionals, educators, licensed counselors, even pastors and attorneys to report any evidence of child pornography to the authorities, 24 hours a day.

And why are these professions in particular being singled out for mandatory reporting? Because often they are in a position where confidentiality would otherwise forbid them from reporting. Now, by law they are free to do the just thing: expose the crime and protect the child. Just as any citizen should.

Imagine for a minute it were your child or grandchild being subjected to sexual abuse. Wouldn’t you be outraged if someone knew about it and did nothing? That’s a crime in itself.

The Oregon House of Representatives apparently agrees. On March 15th, they unanimously passed House Bill 2463. HB 2463 updates Oregon’s mandatory reporting law to make it relevant to the computer age. Technology has come a long ways since 1987 when mandatory reporting was first enacted. These old statutes couldn’t anticipate that pornographers would use digital imaging, computers and the Internet to exploit children. House Bill 2463 corrects that.

Surprisingly, a very small, but vocal group is playing the “invasion of privacy” card. They suggest that Best Buy’s Geek Squad will now become state mandated witch hunters. Or that a child’s first bath pictures could send a parent-of-the-year award winner to jail for 15 years.

It’s nonsense. In a nutshell, it adds “Photographic Image Processors” and “Computer Technicians” to the list of mandatory reporters. If in the course of their work, they discover evidence of children engaged in sexually explicit conduct, they are required to report it. That’s pretty much it.

The bill does NOT require these photographic image processors or computer technicians to actively search for prohibited materials or monitor any user, subscriber, or customer.

House Bill 2463 is not some new infringement on civil liberties. The laws regarding child pornography are narrow and clearly defined in Oregon statute. House Bill 2463 doesn’t change that. It simply updates what was already on the books to make it relevant to the digital age.

Another way to say it is, “If you aren’t involved in child pornography, you have nothing to worry about.”

We sympathize with those genuinely concerned about free speech and civil liberties. These freedoms are constitutional pillars of the American way of life. But the sexual exploitation of children is not free speech. And when it comes to light, whether in a private conference with a licensed counselor or while geeks-r-us is examining a finicky hard drive, the crime must be reported and the child protected. That too is the American way of life.

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