The latest wonderful moral panic is over the phenomenon cringe-worthily known as “sexting.” Horror of horrors: teenagers are horny and want to see one another unclothed.
What’s curious to me about this is that, as far as I can tell, the way child-pornography laws are written, the school officials who’ve discovered these images are, in fact, the ones who should be prosecuted. Leaving aside the question of whether those laws are just – laws that criminalize the mere possession of an image, no matter how it came into one’s possession (such as, say, by means of a spam attack e-mail attachment which was immediately jettisoned to the trash…but whose traces would be findable were the computer searched with high-tech equipment) – wouldn’t it be true that, as in this case, if cell phones are confiscated for wholly other reasons (“school officials confiscated a number of phones for violations of the district’s cell phone policy, and upon examining them discovered the photos”), the school officials were essentially engaged in a search for child pornography (and, in finding it, guilty of possession of the same)?
Or is there a “school principal trying to bust students” exemption? And just how long did those searches take, and how long were the images dwelled upon to determine the degree of their illicitness?
It’s the usual presumption of the censor: the moral cancer that will infect you (which is why it’s so dangerous and must be banned) is harmless to me, because (and here’s the presumption) of my superior moral incorruptibility.