Explicit & Incriminating Content you post may make its short way online publicly..

posted 10 Mar 2011, 16:11 by Jess Maher   [ updated 12 Mar 2011, 04:08 ]

In an interesting case of the incredibly clique “internet threat” is focus of some of our current inquiry and research this week as we work on a pro bono case for a underage client who has found herself in the “good old story” of the teenage school girl who finds someone had uploaded explicit photos of her posted without her knowledge or consent.  

Of course, the first and obvious response is how did they get the photos? With the risk of sounding like a broken record, the initial advice is don’t take or send/post pictures that you don’t want to potentially become public in the first place… Parents worldwide continue to struggle with the fear & unknown when it comes to their child and worry how to best protect them in this social and “connected” day and age, and rightly so. I am glad I am not a teenager, nor the parent of one in this day & age, just in terms of the potential for damage and ongoing lifelong consequences from the stupid and often regrettable “teenage shit” that we all did, not being largely lived out online by teenagers today.  Obviously, like any other matter concerning the “best practise” of parenting kinds of topics, various approaches have been adopted by different teenagers and parents internationally.

Some families I know, taking Facebook for example, extend the set rules or codes of conduct, insisting the “almost thirteen year old” youngest was therefore “almost” allowed to have a Facebook account AFTER his birthday. While another, based overseas and away from home, have younger daughters (much younger than the 13 yr old Facebook imposed age restriction) not only have Facebook profiles, but in fact, their Mum helped them set them up presumably… Clearly of course, the contexts are different, and given the individuals, locations etc the approaches taken in each of these contexts would by all accounts be arguably the best option given the parents options in each, well, it would at least be the option I would myself adopt anyway…  In terms of assistance or advice for parents of teenagers, from Facebook at least, can be easily found on their support section (not unlike their many number of extended and overwhelming options for their privacy settings) http://www.facebook.com/help/?page=937 .

In terms of this case specifically was that the pictures of concern were actually taken from an email account. Whilst it is obviously still not advisable for an minors to be engaging in the exchange of any kind of pictures that they do not wish to take the chance of becoming public at some point, especially of this nature, this does add another element to the context in this case…  If these pictures where posted on any kind of social media forum at any stage or for any length of time by said teenage girl, then arguably, she has already herself exposed them to the public arena and while privacy settings may provide some hope for forming reasonable cause of action is largely extinguished as the ‘the idea of resolving the questions through laws is paternalistic and in the end, often futile’- (NZ Herald Editorial, 2010, 4 May, Social web use best protected via education).

Yet when the forum of email comes into play, the context changes on a key variable in this case, the fact the pictures where (at least at this stage) obtained by unauthorized & fraudulent access of someones email account. For all intensive purposes, when it comes to email, it is widely accepted that a reasonable expectation of privacy is maintained. Given, in this particular case, we are dealing with a minor and sexually explicit material together, the case obviously becomes one with criminal offenses becoming explored.  This too is the general rule of thumb when it comes to the wide variety (or lack there of it) of advise out there for parents trying to help their kids in such situations…

Here are a number of examples of this train of thought when it comes to this topic…  




Obviously, the first step is to get the material off where ever it has been posted. We have placed a request and laid a complaint with the service provider of this particular blog at this stage. While we continue to explore this issue with our client, who clearly is experiencing a degree of embarrassment and distress given the current situation, we wish to respect the privacy and best interests of these kids involved and will not being saying anymore about this particular topic. But given the clear cut “lines” or boundaries in this case, the opportunity to learn from it as a case study for what are commonly arguments with much bigger grey areas which continue to arise throughout society…