Supreme Court Takes Up Child Porn Case

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The Supreme Court is hearing arguments about a 2003 federal law making Internet child pornography illegal.

Dahlia Lithwick, with the online magazine Slate, says the 2003 law also made it illegal to present material that someone might believe is child porn, even if it is not. Critics argue that the law is too broad and could punish people for distributing movies like Lolita and American Beauty.

The case before the Supreme Court involves Michael Williams, who was arrested in a child pornography sting after bragging to an undercover police officer that he had child porn and then sending the officer a link to a child porn Web site.

Lithwick says the court will decide whether the law is too broad and whether Williams can be convicted for boasting about possessing child porn.

The Department of Justice says law enforcement officials do not go after people who share copies of Lolita and similar films. Those who may be arrested would not be prosecuted. And without any instances of law enforcement officials arresting and prosecuting someone for distributing such films, the government argues that the statute should not be struck down.

Lithwick says the justices do not appear to be fond of either position, but are especially critical of Williams' arguments. It's likely, she says, that the justices will look for a way to decide the case very narrowly.

Lithwick talks to Alex Cohen about the case and whether the law is so broad that it infringes on free speech.



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