Here’s a hypothetical scenario –
Let’s say that your young but Internet-savy child does an on-line search for “Barney the Dinosaur”. The search engine directs him to a site called www.BarneyTheDinosaueFanClub.com . (There actually is no such website that we know of – this is just a hypothetical.)
Your kid clicks on the website, and the front page of the site shows a picture of Barney the Purple Dinosaur with a message reading “Click on Barney’s picture to see all of his latest adventures”.
Your kid clicks on the picture as directed – and is instantly transported to a website featuring hot XXX hardcore sex action of the most depraved sort imaginable – The kind that you can only experience in the Asian underground porn scene (or on Bill Handel’s radio show for that matter).
If a website owner now tries that trick – it could soon land him up to 20 years in prison (assuming that he is in a place that could be subject to U.S. legal jurisdiction).
In July of 2006, Congress passed a law that makes it a federal felony for anyone to use misleading “words” or “images” that are intended to confuse a minor into viewing a sexually explicit website. It is all part of the “Adam Walsh Child Protection Safety Act of 2006” – one of the most extensive rewrites of federal laws concerning child pornography and sex offenders in several years.
The law was named after Adam Walsh – a young child who was tragically abducted and killed in the early 1980’s (His father, John Walsh, went on to host the popular television show “America’s Most Wanted”.)
The law states in part: “Whoever knowingly embeds words or digital images into the source code of a website with the intent to deceive a minor into viewing material harmful to minors on the Internet shall be fined under this title and imprisoned for not more than 20 years.”
This law defines the phrase “harmful to minors” as “any communication, consisting of nudity, sex, or excretion, that, taken as a whole and with reference to its context—
(1) predominantly appeals to a prurient interest of minors;
(2) is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community as a whole with respect to what is suitable material for minors; and
(3) lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors.”
Civil libertarians worry that the law might be too broadly worded. Could you get into trouble by posting pictures of Barbie dolls engaged in sex acts if your site is designed to appeal to Barbie fans with a sense of humor? The argument would be that the site wasn’t specifically geared for only minors, or that the pictures still hold “serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors” as the law allows for. It is a natural inclination to think that authorities would use common sense in enforcing this law. But if you have any serious concerns – consult an attorney.
In addition to criminalizing sexually explicit websites that are deliberately designed to lure minors, this law increases the federal penalties for number of sex related crimes.
Increased penalties for “domain-name” deceit
It is already illegal to “knowingly [use] a misleading domain name on the Internet with the intent to deceive a minor into viewing material that is harmful to minors.”
For example, simply calling your hard-core porn site www.SesameStreetForKids.com could potentially be a violation of already existing laws. [Once again, there is currently no such website to the best of our knowledge. This is just a hypothetical.] The theory is that kids would be likely to search for and visit sites related to the popular children’s show “Sesame Street” and would not expect to find color photos of Bill Handel’s recent trip to the whorehouses of Tijuana posted on that site.
Misleading domain names alone that knowingly lure children to sex sites can now result in up to 10 years in prison under the new law. (The law previously called for penalties of up to 4 years based on misleading domain names.)
Apparently, the deceit concept doesn’t work in reverse. After all, when you visit HandelontheLaw.com, you would expect to find a great deal of explicit XXX action. But instead, all you get is some good legal advice and access to qualified attorneys who can help you with your legal problems. As misleading as this may be, the law currently allows for this kind of chicanery.
New criminal provisions and larger penalties for crimes against kids
In addition to the passages concerning Internet deceit, the Adam Walsh Child Protection Safety Act of 2006 creates a number of new provisions in federal law.
It increases the minimum federal penalties for child prostitution, child sex trafficking and other crimes against children.
The minimum federal penalties under this law include:
Murder of a minor – 30 years (This does not preclude a possible death sentence if aggravating factors are present).
Kidnapping or maiming of a minor – 25 years.
Any other crime of violence against a minor involving either a serious bodily injury or dangerous weapon – 10 years.
A person who is federally charged with child prostitution or commits any sexual activity with a child that constitutes a federal offense can now be sentenced up to 10 years to life.
Penalties for federal sexual abuse against a minor now results in a fine plus imprisonment “for any term of years or for life”.
In addition to the provisions described above, this law also –
• Outlaws the intentional Internet sale or distribution of “date rape drugs”.
• Forces federal sex offenders to provide a DNA sample. (This follows the lead of many individual states which have already created similar DNA programs for convicted felons.)
• Provides funds for experimental programs to place GPS tracking devices on sex offenders in order to monitor them in real time.
• Plans for the creation of a national sex offender registry that will be publicly accessible on the Internet. Once the registry is created, anyone will theoretically be able to type in their zip code and discover who in their area has been convicted as a sex offender. (It is currently unclear how long it will take to create this system.)
• Allows non-citizen sex offenders to be deported if they fail to regerster as a sex offender under the registry.
So here is some free “legal advice” – Don’t involve kids in your sexual excapades. This new law will make it tough for you. If you are ever accused of disregarding this advice, please consult an attorney.
[Note from HandelontheLaw.com: This article is to be used as an educational guide only and should not be interpreted as a legal consultation. Readers of this article are advised to seek an attorney if a legal consultation is needed. Laws may vary by state and are subject to change, thus the accuracy of this information can not be guaranteed. Readers act on this information solely at their own risk. Neither HandelontheLaw.com, or any of its affiliates, shall have any liability stemming from this article.]
Note from HandelontheLaw.com: This article is to be used as an educational guide only and should not be interpreted as a legal consultation. Readers of this article are advised to seek an attorney if a legal consultation is needed. Laws may vary by state and are subject to change, thus the accuracy of this information can not be guaranteed. Readers act on this information solely at their own risk. Neither the author, handelonthelaw.com, or any of its affiliates shall have any liability stemming from this article.