Children who create and send sexually explicit messages of themselves electronically will be breaking the law in Rhode Island, after a new Bill was signed this week.Got that? To protect children from sex offenders, it's necessary to label children as ... sex offenders.
Under the new measure, anyone below the age of 18 who creates and sends a sexually inappropriate image of themselves can be charged with a “status” offence.
Such offences are acts which are only considered criminal when committed by a young person.
Even tougher penalties can be handed out to those who possess or forward sexually explicit images of another young person.
Such an action can be prosecuted under the state’s child pornography laws and if convicted the person may have to register as a sex offender.
If you've ever laughed at one of those articles listing hilarious US state laws which are still in force - you know, like it being illegal to look at a moose from the air in Alaska; or forbidden to stroll down the street playing a violin in Maine (both real, btw) - this measure illustrates exactly why they occurred.
It's a combination of the authoritarian eagerness to be seen to be doing something in order to bolster their political ego (1), an over-estimation of their powers (2), and the belief that the public are unable to look after themselves without state interference (3).
On all three fronts, just like the return to prurient treatment of lifestyle choices, we are seeing a return to the stupid governmental habits of a century ago.
1) In the case above, the problem of sexting has prompted Rhode Island politicians' knees to jerk as they proudly puff out their chests and boast of finding a perfect solution.
2) Except that it's not perfect at all. How they can possibly believe they are capable of stopping the practice simply by declaring it a crime, one can only imagine. Perhaps the plan is to routinely spot check the personal mobile phone photos of underage kids? Yeah, I think there are any number of privacy and property conflicts with that idea, let alone moral concerns.
3) The state increasingly believes that the public are entirely incompetent. Otherwise this law wouldn't exist while, instead, parents were educated in how to tackle issues with sexting and given help should they request it. Incredibly, Rhode Island have still gone ahead with this law despite admitting that they really don't possess the powers to fully do the job.
[Attorney General Peter Kilmartin said] “Talking to children early and often will help to protect them from the dangers that can lurk in cyberspace.”Well exactly. In other words, this is a parental task and there is absolutely nothing the state can do about it without becoming hideously intrusive and - as they often do - making things several times worse.
And the Attorney General continued that parents should also discuss their expectations for their children’s behaviour, and “discuss the consequences” for failing to meet those expectations.
And I'd call having underage kids on a sex offenders register for life classes as pretty bloody damaging for the kids they profess to be protecting.
So Westminster will no doubt be tabling a bill along the same lines very soon ... the idiots.