New York’s anti-child porn bill stalled

Jun 17, 2012
Legal
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ALBANY — State Sen. Martin Golden, a retired police officer, figured this would be one of his easiest bills to pass. In just 20 lines, all it does is make viewing all child pornography online illegal, a measure necessary after what he considered a shocking court ruling based on a technicality.

That was a month ago, and the bill is no closer to necessary passage in the Assembly.

“I am very concerned,” the Brooklyn Republican told The Associated Press. “I hope and pray to God this gets done.”

The state’s highest court shocked many by upholding a challenge to the state’s child pornography law. The Court of Appeals ruled in May that the law had required a viewer to click or download pornography, an action no longer required with today’s technology of video streaming.

Golden introduced a bill 12 hours later to revise the law and make viewing all child pornography illegal again. His bill passed the Senate on May 15 and was sent to the Democrat-controlled Assembly, where it sits.

There was no immediate comment from the Assembly’s majority. There’s still time to pass the bill before the June 21 end of session.

But it turns out wording a bill that outlaws even the viewing of child pornography is tricky. To overcome the court’s objection, the law will have to subject anyone who sees child pornography on their screen to a felony. No longer would a download or other clear action be required, but viewing streaming video or images stored in a “cloud” would be covered.

The Assembly is wrestling with the “what ifs” of civil rights arguments: What if someone accidentally hits a child porn site amid the proliferation of legal adult pornography sites? What if a college professor is doing legitimate research?

Golden’s bill is aimed at anyone who “knowingly” accesses with the intent to view sexual acts involving a child younger than 16. It’s that “knowingly” that he added to take away the need to act to view the images.

About 15 states have changed child pornography laws to get rid of language that could result in acquittals or no arrest because of technological changes in viewing the Internet. Federal agents can use federal child pornography laws in its investigations, often with local law enforcement, even in New York.

Golden insists that the bill needs to be enacted this session and that it has nothing to do with the fall elections.

“The longer it stays legal in New York, the more child pornography can be seen, and that means there will be more child pornography, and you’ll see more abused children,” Golden said.

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