No 1st Amendment right to ‘talk dirty’ to children
The case involves talking dirty and showing filthy images to children online – an approach too often used by child predators to lure young victims into dangerous and sometimes deadly experiences with criminals. In the case in Georgia, the state Supreme Court ruled perpetrators don’t have First Amendment rights to use the tactic online.
“What many would assume to be criminal activity, such as having these really explicit and predatory conversations online, has not really been criminalized,” says attorney Dani Pinter of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. “We really haven’t caught up with the Internet age in that area, and it was actually being challenged on First Amendment grounds, which is a really controversial topic.”
So in an age of concern over Internet censorship, Georgia’s Supreme Court found a balance between protecting free speech while also protecting children. Many states don’t have laws that have kept pace with communication developments.
Pinter explains why it’s imperative lawmakers step up the pace.
“If a child predator were to expose themselves to a minor in public, you know no one would claim that’s free speech,” she says. “Meanwhile in these cases that’s exactly what these predators were doing, but just via webcam. So those same principles need to apply online as well.”
Pinter says state legislatures could use the Georgia law as a model. The National Center on Sexual Exploitation could also be used as a resource.