Wash. State's Prosecutors Urging to Make Viewing CP Illegal

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington state's Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony Wednesday from prosecutors who are urging to pass a bill that would make it a felony to view child pornography online.

Senate Bill 5183, which was introduced by Sen. Steve Hobbs (D-Lake Stevens) at the request of Attorney General Rob McKenna, would add a second degree to the felony crime of possessing CP by criminalizing the intentional viewing of sexually explicit images of minors.

In a news conference last month, McKenna said the bill aims to close the loophole in the law that allows pedophiles to avoid prosecution by streaming CP content rather than downloading it.

“The bill catches up with the technology,” McKenna said.

Nevertheless, committee members — and the Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection, the nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating CP — fear the bill might be too broad and could result in the prosecution of innocent people.

“It is very possible that people who find this material by accident may potentially be arrested and even prosecuted due to this proposed law,” said Tim Henning, ASACP Technology and Forensic Research Director. “It would also mean that everyone in the U.S. who reports a site to ASACP’s hotline, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's hotline, or even directly to law enforcement is potentially admitting to a crime.”

ASACP CEO Joan Irvine added that this law would add another level of burden to law enforcement.

“Law enforcement already has their hands full tracking down and prosecuting child pornographers,” Irvine said. “To create a law that would simply make it illegal to see CP would not only make people reluctant to report it, it would be tremendously difficult to prove, and potentially needlessly overwhelm law enforcement.

“ASACP believes the most effective approach to stop child pornography is by eliminating CP from being profitable and prosecuting those who create it, which is why we participate in the Financial Coalition Against Child Pornography.”

The FCACP is a group of the world's most prominent financial institutions, Internet industry leaders and child protection agencies, working together with the shared goal of eliminating commercial child pornography.

The Coalition’s founding members include AOL, American Express, Bank of America, Chase, Citigroup, Discover, Visa, Wells Fargo, Yahoo and the NCMEC.

In December, ASACP participated in the FCACP’s semi-annual meeting in Washington D.C., where Henning, who also is a member of FCACP’s Technology Challenges Working Group, discussed ASACP's findings of a 60 percent drop in commercial child pornography since September 2007.

ASACP sends a large volume of CCP reports to NCMEC and law enforcement on an ongoing basis. It also works to help parents prevent children from viewing age-inappropriate material online with its "Restricted to Adults" website label.