Legal Responses to Internet Child Pornography: The Way Forward

Sandeep Gopalan, Oakland, California
Rina Pal, University of California, Berkeley

The paper analyzes the legal responses to Internet child pornography in the backdrop of the arguments presented before the United States Supreme Court in Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition, in October 2001. The debate between freedom of speech on the one hand and criminalization of child pornography on the other has been thrown into sharp focus because of the constitutional challenge to the CPPA. The paper aims to examine such fundamental questions as the link between child pornography and child sexual abuse, the appropriateness of criminal sanctions to tackle the menace, the extent and limits thereof, and the viability of legal responses given the fact that technology does not respect national boundaries.

The research covers case law, treatises, scholarly articles, criminological studies, congressional findings, and psychological data. The paper attempts to formulate responses that the law could adopt to deal with child pornography on the Internet, and draws from the lessons learnt from other attempts to regulate conduct on the Internet. It is hoped that the paper would be an important addition to scholarship in the area, given the reality that the briefs filed before the court revealed a paucity of research supporting many hypotheses.

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Updated 05/20/2006