Supreme Court Makes Even Offering Explicit Images of Children Illegal

Dennis Faas's picture

The Supreme Court has ruled that merely offering to give someone else explicit images of children is illegal, even if the pictures or videos don't actually exist. The ruling applies to all means of communication, but obviously most cases today involve the Internet.

The specific case in question involved the crime of "pandering" images of children, defined as promoting material (real or 'purported') in a way designed to convince people that it is explicit.

In this case, a Florida man named Michael Williams had been arrested after using an Internet chat room and offering to trade nude pictures of his underage daughter. He posted seven photographs of children online.

An undercover federal agent had been working undercover posting in the chat room, and agents then raided the man's house and found 22 pornographic pictures of children on his computer (though none were of his daughter). Williams was charged with possessing these pictures and plead guilty, receiving a five-year sentence. (Source:

Williams was also charged and convicted for the act of offering the photographs of his daughter. His lawyers took this charge to a Federal appeals court, which agreed with their argument that, as the photos of his daughter didn't actually exist, he'd been convicted merely for typing something. They claimed that a law making that act illegal was unconstitutional because it violated his free speech, a view backed by the court.

The Supreme Court, however, overturned this ruling. Though lawyers at the hearing argued that the law could theoretically make it a crime to offer to provide a copy of the movie Lolita, the judges ruled that such hypothetical cases weren't enough to make the law too broad and thus unfair. They said that juries would be able to decide what was and wasn't child pornography. (Source:

The ruling also made clear that the law applied equally whether somebody offered to sell child pornography, trade it, or merely give it away.

It's arguable whether the judgement will make any difference to the amount of child pornography that is actually available. But it does mean sending spam offering child pornography is now clearly a crime in itself, which could make it easier to prosecute offenders.

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