U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin

Supreme Court Upholds Child Pornography Law Critics Say Polices Thought

May 19, 2008 03:40 PM
by Josh Katz
The 2003 Congressional law criminalizes the “pandering” of child pornography; some call the judgment a blow to the First Amendment.

30-Second Summary

In United States v. Williams, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for the majority in Monday’s 7-2 opinion, defending the Congressional law making the promotion of child pornography a crime deserving a mandatory five-year prison term.

Justice David Souter and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented, arguing that the law, which can include cases involving computer-generated images and older actors portraying younger children, goes too far.

In the 2002 case Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition, the Supreme Court struck down parts of the Child Pornography Act of 1996. In response, Congress passed a law in 2003 allowing “federal agents to arrest anyone for advertising, promoting, presenting, distributing, or soliciting material in a manner that is ‘intended to cause another to believe’ that the material is illegal child pornography” even if it isn’t child pornography, according to The Christian Science Monitor.

Critics say this “pandering” law is too vague, and can result in the punishment of individuals for their “thoughts and fantasies,” the Monitor writes. The law allows federal agents to arrest an individual as long as “the would-be recipient believes it is child pornography involving real children.”

Opponents to the law say it could “apply to mainstream movies that depict adolescent sex,” such as “Traffic” or “Titanic.” They also argue it can apply to “classic literature or even innocent e-mails that describe pictures of grandchildren,” the Associated Press reports.

In Monday’s case, Michael Williams of Key Largo, Fla. was charged with an encounter he had with an undercover agent in an Internet chat room. Williams claimed to possess nude pictures of his four-year-old daughter and he posted a hyperlink to sexually explicit photographs of young children.

Headline Link: ‘Supreme Court upholds part of child porn law’

Background: A controversial child pornography law

Video: ‘Paul Smith Discusses U.S. v. Williams’

Reference: United States v. Williams and Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition


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