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Thought crimes, privacy and pre-emptive strikes


Thought crimes, privacy and pre-emptive strikes

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punter99
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Sally Mann and David Hamilton photos are marketed as artistic and arguably don't come under the definition of Cat C because they contain nudity, but not erotic posing. Although I'd say that the David Hamilton images come closer to being erotic, than the Sally Mann ones. Again, this is an example of where the public interest defence comes into play. If the police did follow the judges advice and prosecute the distributors and producers of these books, they would have to go after Waterstones, Amazon and other large corporations, who can afford good lawyers. Then they would need to track down and invade the homes of all the thousands who had bought a copy, to see if they were still in possession of it. The sheer scale of such an operation explains why they decided not to proceed.

It's notable in this case that the judge did not express a view as to whether the images were indecent or not. Really his argument was that because they are for sale in a bookshop then society has given it's approval for them and therefore they are acceptable. He also said that police should target the producers and distributors, not the possessors.

But apply this logic to images downloaded from the internet. I would say exactly what the judge said, which is that the police should go after the producers and distributors of this material, not the possessors. But they don't do that in the main, because it's too difficult, instead they target the lowest hanging fruit.

Similar story with films that are widely distributed on Netflix or Freeview. The issues with broadcasting something indecent on Freeview are that there is no way of knowing who viewed it, as peoples TV viewing habits are not logged and unless the TV was capable of storing the images on a hard drive, there is no way for the viewer to possess the images that they saw on screen. For those reasons, getting a conviction would be difficult. For something broadcast on Netflix though, there would be a log somewhere identifying the viewers, either on the device or held by Netflix on their servers. But the resources required to track down and punish all the people who streamed Cuties for example, mean that mass prosecutions are unlikely.

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Was - 27 Nov 20 7:05 PM
In the UK, the law is much more vague about an artistic defence. 


I won't mention the film, but only two weeks ago a Freeview TV network broadcast a kinematic projection which on the strict definition of the law should have been illegal.

The interpretation is down to a jury. Only a brave person would throw themselves on their mercy. I am not that person!

This case case to mind:
https://www.theregister.com/2011/02/24/bookshop_conviction_overturned/
The guy was convicted for possessing a book which he bought in Waterstones, later overturned. I would query why the CPS and police were not prosecuted for an "abuse of process", there would be a clear public interest in that. Surely anyone investigating such a case and believing that the content was illegal would go after the publisher and retailer - it makes little sense to go after someone who just bought a book in a high street store.
There will always be a line between what is and isn't illegal. It does make you wonder just how many images are being prosecuted, are of similar content, and the proportionality of treating non-famous images to a higher standard. Indeed, if the images were identical - surely the "victim" would have suffered more if the images are widely available and big business is profiting from it. And that's the issue, it's quite easy to label Indecent images as "child abuse images", and assume that for each image there is a victim. But there will always be some in the lower category which do not contain a victim, were produced for artistic merit, family photos, or self produced by the child etc. Whether those are just a few edge cases, or account for accounts for most in category C classification I wouldn't know.

punter99
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The old test for obscenity is that it depraves or corrupts the viewer of the image, but the obscenity rules have largely been replaced by the indecency test now.

Indecency is defined differently, in the various online dictionaries, as morally offensive, or inappropriate, which are very subjective concepts and would therefore depend on the personal views of the jurors.

But legally the definition is not stated. The courts have said the jury should apply the standard of decency which ordinary right-thinking members of the public would set - the "recognised standards of propriety" as R v Stamford [1972] puts it. Again, this assumes that there is one moral standard held by all, or at least the overwhelming majority, of the public. We know from internet browsing behaviours that the public in fact has a very wide range of sexual and other interests, many of which fall outside the majority view, so are they all indecent?

As to whether the test of indecency has been met by Cuties, you would have to look at the 2013 sentencing council guidelines which talk about Cat C being 'erotic posing'. The key question being whether or not the image has a 'sexual focus'.

It seems to me that the girls in Cuties were posing for the camera and since the focus of the movie was about the sexualisation of children, by society, through inappropriate media influences, that the film did, quite deliberately, sexualise those child actors, in order to make the point.

So there is no doubt that the film depicts erotic posing, of children, with a sexual focus. The only real debate, is whether the film makers artistic motivation for making the film, is sufficient to save them from a charge of production. The various rulings in English courts do not address this directly, but they do say that if the producer knew the image they were creating was likely to be indecent then they are guilty of producing an illegal image. Cuties does appear to meet this test.

However, in America, the laws are different and vary from state to state, with more focus on the effect on the viewer, of the images, as well as the motivations of the producer. For example, in New Jersey they define illegal images as ones which;

“Portray a child in a sexually suggestive manner”, which means:
'in a manner that, by means of the posing, composition, format, or animated sensual details, emits sensuality with sufficient impact to concentrate prurient interest on the child;'
or
'to otherwise depict a child for the purpose of sexual stimulation or gratification of any person who may view the depiction where the depiction does not have serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value'

So according to the New Jersey definition, Cuties appears to meet the first test, but not the second test. The effect of the image on the person viewing it becomes a factor, as does the purpose for which it was created. Since the makers of Cuties presumably did not create it for purposes of sexual gratification, they could claim an artistic defence.

However, if we apply the same two tests to the Britney Spears video, that does appear to satisfy both of the tests. It has debateable artistic merit and probably was made with the intention of sexually stimulating or gratifying at least part of it's target audience, although you would have a hard time proving that in court.

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In the UK, the law is much more vague about an artistic defence. 


I won't mention the film, but only two weeks ago a Freeview TV network broadcast a kinematic projection which on the strict definition of the law should have been illegal.

The interpretation is down to a jury. Only a brave person would throw themselves on their mercy. I am not that person!

punter99
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I don't know if Britney was over 18 when that particular video was made, but if she was 16, then she is a child, from the law's point of view and that video could now be illegal, although at the time it was made, it probably was not. Even the cover of the Baby One More Time album is borderline jailbait material.

In some ways it doesn't really matter, since my argument was more about people's thoughts and what someone might be imagining when they watched the Britney video. If it was her idea, then I would still question what MTV execs and her management were thinking, when she pitched it to them. Which was probably something along the lines of; "What a good idea. This will appeal to the 'Dads', as well as to their kids, so we should get great viewing figures for it."

When it comes to Cuties, the reaction to that film kind of shows how attitudes have changed. There is supposedly no artistic defence for child porn, according to a supreme court ruling in the USA, but in reality there probably is, since photographers like Sally Mann could be prosecuted for taking pictures of her kids and publishing them, but so far she has not been visited by police. The fact that her motive for taking them was artistic, rather than sexual, is probably what protects her.

In the UK, the law is much more vague about an artistic defence. The word 'indecent' has never been defined legally, so it remains unclear if art could be used as a defence, over here. I suspect that what protects the viewers of Cuties from prosecution, is the anonymity of crowds. It's rather like a crowd of football fans singing an offensive song at a match. If there are just one or two singing, the police will go in and arrest them, but if it's a thousand people singing, the police will turn a blind eye.

As a result, the producers and distributors of Cuties are also protected, under a 'public interest' defence. By this, I mean that the CPS will only prosecute, if it is in the public interest to do so. If they did go after the producers of Cuties and charge them with producing illegal porn, then they would be conceding that Cuties is child porn. That admission automatically then makes all those tens of thousands, who streamed it to their devices, guilty of possessing child porn, so they would have to be prosecuted too, which would overwhelm the courts.

So it's in the 'public interest' to turn a blind eye to Cuties and not ask the question of whether it is indecent or not, because you may not like the answer you get.

But I may ask my PPU, the next time he comes round, if Cuties would meet the legal definition of a Cat C movie, or not.

I do wonder how many women actually do dress up as a schoolgirl for their other half and be okay with it, my guess would be not that many. As a guy I think it's tricky to ask for, and for a girl I'd be surprised if she didn't ask 'why'? But maybe I'm overthinking.

Forget the Britney Spears video (she was 16 at the time of filming and claimed it was her idea), if *that scene* in the Netflix film Cuties is legally fine - a moving image of a sexual dance by underage girls - then I want my Cat C charge quoshed. I'm only half-joking.


khafka
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Was - 25 Nov 20 10:11 AM
khafka - 24 Nov 20 6:10 PM

Christ, can you imagine pulling that out in court? The papers would have a field day.

It raises a question though. Where is the line drawn between art and exploitation? I've not seen the movie but one could argue that it is in a movie therefore it is art. Same with another movie which I want to say was called Lolita(?) which actually featured a nude, underage actress playing a child prostitute.

You are probably referring to Brook Shields in Pretty Baby. 

That's the one!

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khafka - 24 Nov 20 6:10 PM

Christ, can you imagine pulling that out in court? The papers would have a field day.

It raises a question though. Where is the line drawn between art and exploitation? I've not seen the movie but one could argue that it is in a movie therefore it is art. Same with another movie which I want to say was called Lolita(?) which actually featured a nude, underage actress playing a child prostitute.

You are probably referring to Brook Shields in Pretty Baby. 
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Mr W - 24 Nov 20 5:57 PM

Forget the Britney Spears video, if *that scene* in the Netflix film Cuties is legally fine - a moving image of a sexual dance by underage girls - then I want my Cat C charge quoshed. I'm only half-joking.

Christ, can you imagine pulling that out in court? The papers would have a field day.

It raises a question though. Where is the line drawn between art and exploitation? I've not seen the movie but one could argue that it is in a movie therefore it is art. Same with another movie which I want to say was called Lolita(?) which actually featured a nude, underage actress playing a child prostitute.

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punter99 - 24 Nov 20 2:39 PM
When it comes to planting the seed of an idea, the truth is that dressing up adults to look like children, in order to appeal to adult males, is and always has been, a part of mainstream porn, to such an extent that is has even crossed over into mainstream media. It's something which is both tolerated and condemned, often depending on the context in which it takes place.

A while ago, I saw a program on Channel 4, which was suggestings ways for couples to "spice up their sex life", as they put it. The suggestion was that they should try role play, so the woman put on a schoolgirl's uniform and the man pretended to be a teacher. In other words, they role played an illegal act, which would have led to the man being jailed for at least 10 years, if he did it in real life. So this is what our SO hating society thinks is perfectly acceptable, for a sexual fantasy then, is it?

Seems it's ok to fantasise about committing illegal acts yourself, provided you don't look at pictures of those acts being committed by someone else. Looking at videos of Britney Spears, dressed as a schoolgirl, is considered mainstream family entertainment, but looking at images of girls on the internet, who are dressed as schoolgirls, is 'disgusting', 'perverted' and 'abhorrent'.

Both of these things reveal evidence of people's thoughts and fantasies, but there is nothing to suggest that the thoughts will always lead to actions. If they did, then we would have to jail the makers of the Britney Spears video for producing child porn, jail the MTV network executives, for distributing child porn and then jail the viewers of that video, for watching it.

I do wonder how many women actually do dress up as a schoolgirl for their other half and be okay with it, my guess would be not that many. As a guy I think it's tricky to ask for, and for a girl I'd be surprised if she didn't ask 'why'? But maybe I'm overthinking.

Forget the Britney Spears video (she was 16 at the time of filming and claimed it was her idea), if *that scene* in the Netflix film Cuties is legally fine - a moving image of a sexual dance by underage girls - then I want my Cat C charge quoshed. I'm only half-joking.

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Fighting or Accepting - its difficult to know which is right and when.
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7 Months Ago by Mr W
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punter99 - 24 Nov 20 2:39 PM
When it comes to planting the seed of an idea, the truth is that dressing up adults to look like children, in order to appeal to adult males, is and always has been, a part of mainstream porn, to such an extent that is has even crossed over into mainstream media. It's something which is both tolerated and condemned, often depending on the context in which it takes place.

A while ago, I saw a program on Channel 4, which was suggestings ways for couples to "spice up their sex life", as they put it. The suggestion was that they should try role play, so the woman put on a schoolgirl's uniform and the man pretended to be a teacher. In other words, they role played an illegal act, which would have led to the man being jailed for at least 10 years, if he did it in real life. So this is what our SO hating society thinks is perfectly acceptable, for a sexual fantasy then, is it?

Seems it's ok to fantasise about committing illegal acts yourself, provided you don't look at pictures of those acts being committed by someone else. Looking at videos of Britney Spears, dressed as a schoolgirl, is considered mainstream family entertainment, but looking at images of girls on the internet, who are dressed as schoolgirls, is 'disgusting', 'perverted' and 'abhorrent'.

Both of these things reveal evidence of people's thoughts and fantasies, but there is nothing to suggest that the thoughts will always lead to actions. If they did, then we would have to jail the makers of the Britney Spears video for producing child porn, jail the MTV network executives, for distributing child porn and then jail the viewers of that video, for watching it.

Totally agreed. However I think the crux of it comes down to 'consent'. Britney was 18 at the time of the video/promo stuff so in the eyes of the law she was an adult so she can make that choice as she supposedly understands the situation and everything involved. Similarly to a couple doing a sex-based roleplay exercise. In the eyes of the law a child can't consent to the acts and that is what makes it illegal.

Whether adults dressing up as school children to tantalize and excite people is appropriate is a different discussion.

That's my take on it anyway.




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When it comes to planting the seed of an idea, the truth is that dressing up adults to look like children, in order to appeal to adult males, is and always has been, a part of mainstream porn, to such an extent that is has even crossed over into mainstream media. It's something which is both tolerated and condemned, often depending on the context in which it takes place.

A while ago, I saw a program on Channel 4, which was suggestings ways for couples to "spice up their sex life", as they put it. The suggestion was that they should try role play, so the woman put on a schoolgirl's uniform and the man pretended to be a teacher. In other words, they role played an illegal act, which would have led to the man being jailed for at least 10 years, if he did it in real life. So this is what our SO hating society thinks is perfectly acceptable, for a sexual fantasy then, is it?

Seems it's ok to fantasise about committing illegal acts yourself, provided you don't look at pictures of those acts being committed by someone else. Looking at videos of Britney Spears, dressed as a schoolgirl, is considered mainstream family entertainment, but looking at images of girls on the internet, who are dressed as schoolgirls, is 'disgusting', 'perverted' and 'abhorrent'.

Both of these things reveal evidence of people's thoughts and fantasies, but there is nothing to suggest that the thoughts will always lead to actions. If they did, then we would have to jail the makers of the Britney Spears video for producing child porn, jail the MTV network executives, for distributing child porn and then jail the viewers of that video, for watching it.

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A simplistic demonstration of this are cooking shows!


Yes. Very simplistic. I've watched Dexter and not felt the need to go out and become a crime solving serial killer,

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punter99 - 21 Nov 20 11:13 AM
AB2014 - 19 Nov 20 12:32 PM
punter99 - 19 Nov 20 11:48 AM
I have been reading about a really interesting case from America, where a man was arrested and charged with possessing illegal porn, because he had been writing down his fantasies about kids, in a private paper diary. In this instance, the jury found him not guilty, because they agreed that a private diary is, in effect, an extension of somebody's private thoughts.

The idea of a person's private space extending beyond their own head, is of course a fascinating one for the internet age. It's very unlikely that this individual would have escaped punishment, if he had recorded his thoughts electronically. The internet has broken down the distinction between private and public spaces. When you go online, you are inviting the world into your private life and you will be judged accordingly.

This has given governments, the police and the security services the ability, as they see it, to spy on and to investigate our private thoughts. In other words, to read our private diaries and punish us, if they find any thoughts in there which they find unacceptable.

We see it in areas like far right politics or radical islam, where merely looking at a website or downloading a document is now an offence. We see it with illegal images where looking is also a crime. The logic in punishing people for looking, is to stop them before they act, but why do we assume that looking will automatically lead to acting?

Arguably, this shift towards punishing people for looking and thinking, rather than acting, came out of the events in 9/11. This was the moment where governments realised that if they waited for people to act, it was too late. They decided that they had to adopt a policy of pre-emptive strikes, targetting the people who were having illegal thoughts and locking them up, often without trial, for many years. The Tom Cruise film, Minority Report, which came out at a similar time, expressed the idea of having a thought police, who could read someone's mind and then arrest them, before they could commit a crime.

At the same time, coincidentally, the internet allowed ordinary people to share their private thoughts with others, in a way we have never seen before. It was the act of sharing our thoughts online, or letting others read our private diaries, which brought those 'diaries' to the attention of the authorities. Suddenly, they had a way to read our minds, to get inside our private spaces and police our thoughts.

There are currently laws being discussed, which would make hate speech inside your own home a crime. This is the logical extension of the thought crime legislation, that exists for the internet. At the moment, police can force their way into your private home, if your are expressing illegal thoughts on your computer. In future, they may be able to break in and arrest you for expressing your private thoughts verbally as well. The argument that unhealthy thoughts inevitably lead to unhealthy actions is basically the same one which all authoritarian regimes use to suppress dissent. It's the reason why books are burned or banned. It's the reason why social media companies are starting to censor opinions and content they regard as unacceptable. A lot of the current debate about links between 5G and covid19 is being suppressed, on the basis that these are 'dangerous' thoughts, which people should not be allowed to express.

Private diaries are a rarity nowadays, but the belief that you can see inside someones mind, by looking at their computer instead, has been extended to other devices like mobile phones. It's not just offenders who are judged on the content of their devices though. Rape victims have their mobiles seized and their words analysed by police too. Assumptions are then made about their thoughts, based on the content of their devices. She said this, so she wanted to do that, is not a million miles from the wild accusations that police make about viewers of illegal images, based purely on what they have seen on a device; he was looking at this, so it means he wants to do that, and so on.

Curiously though, we don't see the same conclusions drawn about people's TV viewing habits. He was watching a TV program about serial killers, so he wants to kill people, is not an argument you hear very often, in court. This may have something to do with the fact that people's TV viewing habits are not logged, in the way that their internet browsing habits are. This is how the recording of a private thought, in a diary for example, becomes the 'proof' of intent or the 'evidence' of a crime.

At the heart of the debate is the idea that a thought cannot be just a private invention of the imagination. It is believed that all thoughts must be translated into actions, at some point. Was the man who wrote down his fantasies in a diary not punished, because it was accepted that these thoughts were not going to lead to actions, or because it was believed that the police don't have the right to punish us just for thinking something?

I think it was something else entirely. The jury understood the idea that thoughts can sometimes lead to actions, which is why they punish terrorists for downloading bomb making manuals and they understand the idea that some thoughts are beyond the pale, which is why they punish people for looking at pictures of kids, but it is the ability to share your thoughts with others that makes the internet a public space, not a private one. The act of communicating with another and potentially influencing that other is what scares people. The jury did not see any risk of a private paper diary being shared, which is why they accepted it as a legitimate means of expression.

Carissa Byrne Hessick, in her article on reforming illegal image laws, talks about the existing defamation laws. Defamation is only a crime if you say something disparaging about someone, outside your home and you are overheard by another. Inside the privacy of your house, when you are alone, you can harm no one with angry and abusive words, because you are not communicating your thoughts to anybody else.

Simliarly, harm is only caused by viewing an image, if knowledge of that viewing comes to the victims, or the producers, attention. If they remain ignorant of the viewing, no harm is done, as it is like shouting insults in an empty room, or writing in a private diary.

The current law on possession of images is a smokescreen to obscure the fact that of the 62k on the register in the UK and the 1 million on the register in USA, only a tiny few will commit contact offences. The law creators thought/believed that the crossover rate was nearer 100%, but when they first brought in the thought crime laws, in a pre internet age, it probably was higher due to arrestees being more immersed and commited to acquiring images, while in reality today, it is far lower because accessing these images is so much easier.

The law enforcement net has swept up thousands of casual viewers, alongside the more committed ones. They are all assumed to pose an equal risk and to be harbouring equally dangerous thoughts, but nobody really knows which ones are a threat to kids and which ones aren't, so they all get punished to the same extent. That's why the holy grail in sex offender research is finding a reliable tool to identify the crossovers from the tens of thousands who are not going to crossover. In other words knowing who will confine their thoughts to a private diary and who will take those thoughts into the real world and act on them.

There's a lot to take in here, but obviously the law is probably framed differently in the state in question. In England & Wales, there are laws about images and laws about publishing material considered to be obscene, but nothing about owning material that might be considered obscene that has not been published. I suspect that over here, it would have been quite a stretch to charge someone over this, and the CPS might well decide not to proceed. Of course, this might then become another case that is seen as exposing a dangerous loophole in the law, so that Something Must Be Done.

The point about watching a serial killers documentary is also interesting, as for a long time it was accepted knowledge that playing video games depicting violence made people more violent. No, seriously. Of course, some people tried to use it as a defence, which led to the usual suspects demanding the suppression of violent video games. We're talking about the likes of Call of Duty and fighting games, not Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and nobody seemed interested in banning the films. Maybe it's because the films aren't interactive, but it still didn't happen, for whatever reason. Incidentally, I haven't seen the film Minority Report, but I did read the original short story, and in that nobody's mind was read. There were people who could see possible futures rather than being telepathic.

The 5G/COVID debate is quite polarising, but I have to say that if certain people believe something "unconventional" then I don't. It's probably best to avoid naming names here to protect Unlock. If other people believe things then I'm more than happy to take them seriously. Beyond that, it should all be down to reasoned discussion, but if someone arrives at a belief not through reason, then reason isn't going to convince them they are wrong. Just look at the news that isn't being suppressed.

The arguments about viewing certain content causing people to act in a certain way are ongoing. They predate the internet and for most of the last 400 years, it was books that were in the firing line, for spreading supposedly dangerous ideas, before cinema and then TV took over. But today it's about the online environment and the written word is largely ignored, unless it's written online.

When it comes to violence, sex, or suicide and self harm, I'm more persuaded by the argument that people who are inclined towards doing harm already, will be encouraged by what they see and read online, but that people who have no pre existing inclinations won't suddenly adopt these ways of thinking, just because they saw something on the internet.

If you take the recent case of Holly Hunter, the girl who committed suicide, after seeing images of self harm on social media. This is being portrayed as an example of how an otherwise happy and non suicidal individual can suddenly, out of the blue, be flipped around into having suicidal thoughts, by merely viewing an image.

I doubt this is what actually happened. It's telling that we know almost nothing about her life, outside of her internet viewing habits. We don't know if she had been struggling with suicidal thoughts for months or years, prior to going online and seeing pictures of self harm. We don't know if she had been talking to other suicidal individuals on online forums, and what effect that may have had on her. We don't know whether she had disclosed her suicidal thoughts to a GP, or to her parents. We are being told that one day she saw an image and the next day, she killed herself, as if there is a direct causal relationship between viewing the images and acting, with nothing else having influenced her decision to act at all.

It's a lazy and simplistic argument to suggest that people simply copy what they see on screen and that's all there is to it. One of the more logical reasons for banning suicide content, is not that it makes people want to kill themselves, but that it gives them ideas about how to do it. It's about the method, not the motivation. The motivation comes from elsewhere and that's probably true with violence and sexual content too. The old argument that porn 'causes' rape, is another example of where we are expected to believe in the power of images to give people the motivation to act, but rape didn't start when porn was invented, anymore than child abuse began, when the internet was invented. The inclinations that some people have, to rape, murder or commit suicide, have existed for thousands of years. They were around before books, TV, cinema, video games and the internet and they will probably be with us in the future, when some new medium for viewing content comes along.

Hi
What you write is in general an agreement; as you know I am not just referring to "internet viewing". The regrettable case of Holly supports my words, society only needed to be informed of a simple; yet easily understood, scenario that aligned with other topics of the time to have the impact the media's agenda sought. 
Not being discourteous, but you can say "viewers" see "imagery" and wish to "copy". A simplistic demonstration of this are cooking shows! Also we cannot simply say "video games and books (both are stories) that are violent cause issues but sexual ones do not". I fully agree these "stories" could provide "method of action" to a mind that already has the "seed of intention" or even actually plant the seed in the mind of an undeveloped mind. All I am saying is that; given these simple points, does society not have a responsibility to ask the question "What happened for the seed to be planted or how do we better nurture the development of our minds to stop the seed being planted?"  

Society has "morally" developed which obviously includes the premise of what is deemed acceptable and what is deemed inappropriate but as with most aspects of a "moral high society" it shys from it's past and so does not wish to discuss / accept their past actions.

As I wrote, as we developed our "behaviour" controls also did, therefore if we remove all personal emotions from the subject, all should see that these "controls" and the "individual's development" allows us to investigate, and so gain some insight to, the individual's ability to control relevant actions/ behaviour. Never would I consider that there is not some underlying discussion to be held about an individual's "development history" or life events, so hopefully offer the support to stop their re-offending rather than just punish and move on.
As the mind is older than (art) imagery, it is logical that we have a natural instinct to have desires about sex. This natural instinct must of been there since the beginning of "biological time" else nothing would have multiplied, but certain aspects of society have always had a "voice" to reprimand, chastise those of different thoughts. The inhibitions, concerning many subjects within different societies, are as varied as the languages spoken on this small planet; believe it or not it is not long ago it was thought that females disliked   football or that it was harmful to them and so not allowed to play. Even in those non-internet days, the manipulation of the minds of the masses of societies by the higher echelon of society provided the explanation and so acceptance of a lie.
Puritan's, as well as many other sects/religions, at various times have condemned an artist creating work that included visible flesh, gender elements as being the work of the devil. Why because they did not understand the "natural instincts" associated with viewing of a body designed and implemented by their religious creator (God or ??). For clarity I am not implying only sexual desires, as works of art engulf the emotions and encapsulate the thoughts of many humans in numerous manners. 
 
You know my offence so I say the following with absolutely no desire to reduce the legal age of consent or paying for sexual services. It was deemed acceptable in Queen Victoria's reign for females of a very young age to "sell services". It was only after a newspaper report (read by Queen Victoria) discussed the matter that the government of the time brought in the law of a - higher - minimum age. Social morality superseded previous conceptions that population growth was required and so supported the belief within society that sex was legal if a female was able to have children.  

A simple explanation of the reason for my offence was not that I was a deviant, but purely that scenarios; both military and personal, allowed me to consider paying for sex was acceptable and with no consequences. It is a shame that was not believed even though the evidence proved it.

Keep strong.




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AB2014 - 19 Nov 20 12:32 PM
punter99 - 19 Nov 20 11:48 AM
I have been reading about a really interesting case from America, where a man was arrested and charged with possessing illegal porn, because he had been writing down his fantasies about kids, in a private paper diary. In this instance, the jury found him not guilty, because they agreed that a private diary is, in effect, an extension of somebody's private thoughts.

The idea of a person's private space extending beyond their own head, is of course a fascinating one for the internet age. It's very unlikely that this individual would have escaped punishment, if he had recorded his thoughts electronically. The internet has broken down the distinction between private and public spaces. When you go online, you are inviting the world into your private life and you will be judged accordingly.

This has given governments, the police and the security services the ability, as they see it, to spy on and to investigate our private thoughts. In other words, to read our private diaries and punish us, if they find any thoughts in there which they find unacceptable.

We see it in areas like far right politics or radical islam, where merely looking at a website or downloading a document is now an offence. We see it with illegal images where looking is also a crime. The logic in punishing people for looking, is to stop them before they act, but why do we assume that looking will automatically lead to acting?

Arguably, this shift towards punishing people for looking and thinking, rather than acting, came out of the events in 9/11. This was the moment where governments realised that if they waited for people to act, it was too late. They decided that they had to adopt a policy of pre-emptive strikes, targetting the people who were having illegal thoughts and locking them up, often without trial, for many years. The Tom Cruise film, Minority Report, which came out at a similar time, expressed the idea of having a thought police, who could read someone's mind and then arrest them, before they could commit a crime.

At the same time, coincidentally, the internet allowed ordinary people to share their private thoughts with others, in a way we have never seen before. It was the act of sharing our thoughts online, or letting others read our private diaries, which brought those 'diaries' to the attention of the authorities. Suddenly, they had a way to read our minds, to get inside our private spaces and police our thoughts.

There are currently laws being discussed, which would make hate speech inside your own home a crime. This is the logical extension of the thought crime legislation, that exists for the internet. At the moment, police can force their way into your private home, if your are expressing illegal thoughts on your computer. In future, they may be able to break in and arrest you for expressing your private thoughts verbally as well. The argument that unhealthy thoughts inevitably lead to unhealthy actions is basically the same one which all authoritarian regimes use to suppress dissent. It's the reason why books are burned or banned. It's the reason why social media companies are starting to censor opinions and content they regard as unacceptable. A lot of the current debate about links between 5G and covid19 is being suppressed, on the basis that these are 'dangerous' thoughts, which people should not be allowed to express.

Private diaries are a rarity nowadays, but the belief that you can see inside someones mind, by looking at their computer instead, has been extended to other devices like mobile phones. It's not just offenders who are judged on the content of their devices though. Rape victims have their mobiles seized and their words analysed by police too. Assumptions are then made about their thoughts, based on the content of their devices. She said this, so she wanted to do that, is not a million miles from the wild accusations that police make about viewers of illegal images, based purely on what they have seen on a device; he was looking at this, so it means he wants to do that, and so on.

Curiously though, we don't see the same conclusions drawn about people's TV viewing habits. He was watching a TV program about serial killers, so he wants to kill people, is not an argument you hear very often, in court. This may have something to do with the fact that people's TV viewing habits are not logged, in the way that their internet browsing habits are. This is how the recording of a private thought, in a diary for example, becomes the 'proof' of intent or the 'evidence' of a crime.

At the heart of the debate is the idea that a thought cannot be just a private invention of the imagination. It is believed that all thoughts must be translated into actions, at some point. Was the man who wrote down his fantasies in a diary not punished, because it was accepted that these thoughts were not going to lead to actions, or because it was believed that the police don't have the right to punish us just for thinking something?

I think it was something else entirely. The jury understood the idea that thoughts can sometimes lead to actions, which is why they punish terrorists for downloading bomb making manuals and they understand the idea that some thoughts are beyond the pale, which is why they punish people for looking at pictures of kids, but it is the ability to share your thoughts with others that makes the internet a public space, not a private one. The act of communicating with another and potentially influencing that other is what scares people. The jury did not see any risk of a private paper diary being shared, which is why they accepted it as a legitimate means of expression.

Carissa Byrne Hessick, in her article on reforming illegal image laws, talks about the existing defamation laws. Defamation is only a crime if you say something disparaging about someone, outside your home and you are overheard by another. Inside the privacy of your house, when you are alone, you can harm no one with angry and abusive words, because you are not communicating your thoughts to anybody else.

Simliarly, harm is only caused by viewing an image, if knowledge of that viewing comes to the victims, or the producers, attention. If they remain ignorant of the viewing, no harm is done, as it is like shouting insults in an empty room, or writing in a private diary.

The current law on possession of images is a smokescreen to obscure the fact that of the 62k on the register in the UK and the 1 million on the register in USA, only a tiny few will commit contact offences. The law creators thought/believed that the crossover rate was nearer 100%, but when they first brought in the thought crime laws, in a pre internet age, it probably was higher due to arrestees being more immersed and commited to acquiring images, while in reality today, it is far lower because accessing these images is so much easier.

The law enforcement net has swept up thousands of casual viewers, alongside the more committed ones. They are all assumed to pose an equal risk and to be harbouring equally dangerous thoughts, but nobody really knows which ones are a threat to kids and which ones aren't, so they all get punished to the same extent. That's why the holy grail in sex offender research is finding a reliable tool to identify the crossovers from the tens of thousands who are not going to crossover. In other words knowing who will confine their thoughts to a private diary and who will take those thoughts into the real world and act on them.

There's a lot to take in here, but obviously the law is probably framed differently in the state in question. In England & Wales, there are laws about images and laws about publishing material considered to be obscene, but nothing about owning material that might be considered obscene that has not been published. I suspect that over here, it would have been quite a stretch to charge someone over this, and the CPS might well decide not to proceed. Of course, this might then become another case that is seen as exposing a dangerous loophole in the law, so that Something Must Be Done.

The point about watching a serial killers documentary is also interesting, as for a long time it was accepted knowledge that playing video games depicting violence made people more violent. No, seriously. Of course, some people tried to use it as a defence, which led to the usual suspects demanding the suppression of violent video games. We're talking about the likes of Call of Duty and fighting games, not Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and nobody seemed interested in banning the films. Maybe it's because the films aren't interactive, but it still didn't happen, for whatever reason. Incidentally, I haven't seen the film Minority Report, but I did read the original short story, and in that nobody's mind was read. There were people who could see possible futures rather than being telepathic.

The 5G/COVID debate is quite polarising, but I have to say that if certain people believe something "unconventional" then I don't. It's probably best to avoid naming names here to protect Unlock. If other people believe things then I'm more than happy to take them seriously. Beyond that, it should all be down to reasoned discussion, but if someone arrives at a belief not through reason, then reason isn't going to convince them they are wrong. Just look at the news that isn't being suppressed.

The arguments about viewing certain content causing people to act in a certain way are ongoing. They predate the internet and for most of the last 400 years, it was books that were in the firing line, for spreading supposedly dangerous ideas, before cinema and then TV took over. But today it's about the online environment and the written word is largely ignored, unless it's written online.

When it comes to violence, sex, or suicide and self harm, I'm more persuaded by the argument that people who are inclined towards doing harm already, will be encouraged by what they see and read online, but that people who have no pre existing inclinations won't suddenly adopt these ways of thinking, just because they saw something on the internet.

If you take the recent case of Holly Hunter, the girl who committed suicide, after seeing images of self harm on social media. This is being portrayed as an example of how an otherwise happy and non suicidal individual can suddenly, out of the blue, be flipped around into having suicidal thoughts, by merely viewing an image.

I doubt this is what actually happened. It's telling that we know almost nothing about her life, outside of her internet viewing habits. We don't know if she had been struggling with suicidal thoughts for months or years, prior to going online and seeing pictures of self harm. We don't know if she had been talking to other suicidal individuals on online forums, and what effect that may have had on her. We don't know whether she had disclosed her suicidal thoughts to a GP, or to her parents. We are being told that one day she saw an image and the next day, she killed herself, as if there is a direct causal relationship between viewing the images and acting, with nothing else having influenced her decision to act at all.

It's a lazy and simplistic argument to suggest that people simply copy what they see on screen and that's all there is to it. One of the more logical reasons for banning suicide content, is not that it makes people want to kill themselves, but that it gives them ideas about how to do it. It's about the method, not the motivation. The motivation comes from elsewhere and that's probably true with violence and sexual content too. The old argument that porn 'causes' rape, is another example of where we are expected to believe in the power of images to give people the motivation to act, but rape didn't start when porn was invented, anymore than child abuse began, when the internet was invented. The inclinations that some people have, to rape, murder or commit suicide, have existed for thousands of years. They were around before books, TV, cinema, video games and the internet and they will probably be with us in the future, when some new medium for viewing content comes along.

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khafka - 19 Nov 20 12:40 PM
Great write up and as fate would have it. I was also reading the other day about a chap who was arrested for seemingly illegal images because the police deemed the person in the images to be underage. The accused fought and maintained their innocence and that the actress in the images was in fact of legal age and a willing participant. The police, judge, and court were having none of it.

The adult star in question is Lupe Fuentes and was essentially marketed at the time as a "legal child" given how she appears.

She actually ended up in court on behalf of the defendant showing the documentation etc. proving she was legal, the whole thing was above board and the accused was actually innocent.

Here is a link to an article about it, I'm sure you could find others.

There are 3 things I take away from this situation that ire me a little.

  1. This guy was looking at 20 years in prison, being on the registry and his life essentially ruined over a police mistake and there was zero accountability on their end just an "Oops, sorry!"
  2. The accused was held in custody for 8 months and nobody even bothered to try and verify the age of the actress in the movies which would've absolved him
  3. Kind of tied to number 2 but I feel it is somewhat pertinent - when images are found on a suspects device they are counted and categorized. The accused never gets to see what images (for fairly obvious reasons) however, to me, it causes a problem in that we are just taking the police's word that the person(s) in the image(s) are underage because they feel they are and judgments and sentences should be based on facts, not feelings. In some instances sure you can tell they are blatantly underage and I'm sure some who are caught know they have indecent material. My main concern is perhaps "beefing" their count up a bit and the accused has zero way to defend themselves and as we can see from this example, the police and courts are far from infallible. I might have had 3 indecent images of and 100 of my then 18 year old girlfriend, would they bother verifying her age? Doubtful. I'm now the owner of 103 images.
Just my two rambling cents.

Hi
Unfortunately any accusation would be driven by the question "why was he desiring to look at someone who appears to be under legal age?".
In ways the reply does not matter as the inference to a jury has already been made.  Look at Trump for a real life example.

In regard to the authorities not checking, why would they if it would be counter productive? I gave the Police all the details of blackmail messages used by the woman against me, did they go to the service provider to retrieve them and so gain an explanation for certain "contact" events? No as it would not support their case.

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Hi
First most of you have read my previous words (opinions) on images and their victims. I do not judge those offenders but I do "voice" that essentially there is no difference between "contact and no contact" in the contextual manner it is often quoted in. As you know I never intentionally mean offence to anyone by my opinions either. Also please do not ask for stats to prove points as in my opinion, unless you know the data captured, stats only show what the creator aims to show so they are PR and so meaningless. Please do not let us digress from punter99's important post to discuss this either.

I started bullet pointing replies as I read punter99 words however, I have discarded them as in my opinion there are so many elements to his post that raise one overall question, so I am not either in agreement or dismissal of his individual "thoughts".

I write my reply acknowledging I always read punter99's words with interest and respect. That does not mean by any stretch or manipulation of these or my previously documented words, that they should imply he is influencing me to "view images". I say that as the underlying element to his post is the presumption by society, who are informed / lead / seduced by the authorities, that the reason someone commits a sex / serious offence is because of a specific reason; "All S/SO are abnormal individuals who have no self-control". We know that is not applicable in many cases but that sentence is easily understood by them.

Much is discussed about the actions undertaken by those whose role in life is to "punish" individuals to protect society; but that leads to the question of "who monitor's the protectors?". A conspiracy theory would suggest "they monitor themselves by protecting themselves!", but who believes in conspiracy theories? The actual question I believe is based on how I see today's society views and anything it does not understand but will often accept the explanations presented as they are in a manner it can easily accept!

To put into context, we know the Police cannot just "barge" into a private residence without evidence. Their monitoring of the individual(s) in the residence will go unnoticed by society so they only see the "barging in" which allows them to think they can/do. Again the monitoring of individual's opinion's to others takes many forms. Logically the reasoning behind any Police action is the same as with someone downloading certain instructions or proper gander material, they act to protect first because of the repercussions if they do not and an "event" occurs.

I do not agree that the authorities are correct in their investigative manner but again, their aim is to prove they are protecting society. This is their justification for many of the many irregulates that an investigation would show. Remember if fault is found in their work a statement is published saying " we are sorry and our procedures are being updated", and everything is OK.

This brings me to how I see their actions and procedures manifest and so society say are justified.

Humans by nature are creatures of habit, in fact habits are "repeatable" across us all. Over the generations we all "learn" habits by our experiences with other humans, therefore on analysis of vast amounts of individuals, we can start to see relationships between not only the reason for the habit but also what controls individuals use to either accept or deter their use.

It is the attempt to master the understanding of "how and who can control these habits" that the science of "Psychology" aims to achieve. Unfortunately, in my opinion, this is were (ex) offenders fall foul of a science that is not fully understood; as we still do not understand comprehensively the human brain's activities. This fact does not discourage the authorities from their use of this science in the primary aim though - protection of society.

In my opinion any common linkage between individual humans should be treated as an individual habit; in other words "the individuality of the individual allows the common habit to be an individual habit to that individual."

We, as ex-offenders, will always say we are different to other offenders and so comparisons to others should not be used.

The authorities or society do not have the time, patience, resources or possibly wiliness to investigate suspects as individuals. They are "result" driven and the need for fast results is becoming too influenced by a society that believes life's answers should be found as quick as a google search.

In my opinion this influence allows the acceptance of explanations - be they right or wrong, if they are presented in a manner that they can be easily accepted; but scientific.

There is no such thing as truth as truth is only a perception of the individual's reality and society has their own perception


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Great write up and as fate would have it. I was also reading the other day about a chap who was arrested for seemingly illegal images because the police deemed the person in the images to be underage. The accused fought and maintained their innocence and that the actress in the images was in fact of legal age and a willing participant. The police, judge, and court were having none of it.

The adult star in question is Lupe Fuentes and was essentially marketed at the time as a "legal child" given how she appears.

She actually ended up in court on behalf of the defendant showing the documentation etc. proving she was legal, the whole thing was above board and the accused was actually innocent.

Here is a link to an article about it, I'm sure you could find others.

There are 3 things I take away from this situation that ire me a little.

  1. This guy was looking at 20 years in prison, being on the registry and his life essentially ruined over a police mistake and there was zero accountability on their end just an "Oops, sorry!"
  2. The accused was held in custody for 8 months and nobody even bothered to try and verify the age of the actress in the movies which would've absolved him
  3. Kind of tied to number 2 but I feel it is somewhat pertinent - when images are found on a suspects device they are counted and categorized. The accused never gets to see what images (for fairly obvious reasons) however, to me, it causes a problem in that we are just taking the police's word that the person(s) in the image(s) are underage because they feel they are and judgments and sentences should be based on facts, not feelings. In some instances sure you can tell they are blatantly underage and I'm sure some who are caught know they have indecent material. My main concern is perhaps "beefing" their count up a bit and the accused has zero way to defend themselves and as we can see from this example, the police and courts are far from infallible. I might have had 3 indecent images of and 100 of my then 18 year old girlfriend, would they bother verifying her age? Doubtful. I'm now the owner of 103 images.
Just my two rambling cents.

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punter99 - 19 Nov 20 11:48 AM
I have been reading about a really interesting case from America, where a man was arrested and charged with possessing illegal porn, because he had been writing down his fantasies about kids, in a private paper diary. In this instance, the jury found him not guilty, because they agreed that a private diary is, in effect, an extension of somebody's private thoughts.

The idea of a person's private space extending beyond their own head, is of course a fascinating one for the internet age. It's very unlikely that this individual would have escaped punishment, if he had recorded his thoughts electronically. The internet has broken down the distinction between private and public spaces. When you go online, you are inviting the world into your private life and you will be judged accordingly.

This has given governments, the police and the security services the ability, as they see it, to spy on and to investigate our private thoughts. In other words, to read our private diaries and punish us, if they find any thoughts in there which they find unacceptable.

We see it in areas like far right politics or radical islam, where merely looking at a website or downloading a document is now an offence. We see it with illegal images where looking is also a crime. The logic in punishing people for looking, is to stop them before they act, but why do we assume that looking will automatically lead to acting?

Arguably, this shift towards punishing people for looking and thinking, rather than acting, came out of the events in 9/11. This was the moment where governments realised that if they waited for people to act, it was too late. They decided that they had to adopt a policy of pre-emptive strikes, targetting the people who were having illegal thoughts and locking them up, often without trial, for many years. The Tom Cruise film, Minority Report, which came out at a similar time, expressed the idea of having a thought police, who could read someone's mind and then arrest them, before they could commit a crime.

At the same time, coincidentally, the internet allowed ordinary people to share their private thoughts with others, in a way we have never seen before. It was the act of sharing our thoughts online, or letting others read our private diaries, which brought those 'diaries' to the attention of the authorities. Suddenly, they had a way to read our minds, to get inside our private spaces and police our thoughts.

There are currently laws being discussed, which would make hate speech inside your own home a crime. This is the logical extension of the thought crime legislation, that exists for the internet. At the moment, police can force their way into your private home, if your are expressing illegal thoughts on your computer. In future, they may be able to break in and arrest you for expressing your private thoughts verbally as well. The argument that unhealthy thoughts inevitably lead to unhealthy actions is basically the same one which all authoritarian regimes use to suppress dissent. It's the reason why books are burned or banned. It's the reason why social media companies are starting to censor opinions and content they regard as unacceptable. A lot of the current debate about links between 5G and covid19 is being suppressed, on the basis that these are 'dangerous' thoughts, which people should not be allowed to express.

Private diaries are a rarity nowadays, but the belief that you can see inside someones mind, by looking at their computer instead, has been extended to other devices like mobile phones. It's not just offenders who are judged on the content of their devices though. Rape victims have their mobiles seized and their words analysed by police too. Assumptions are then made about their thoughts, based on the content of their devices. She said this, so she wanted to do that, is not a million miles from the wild accusations that police make about viewers of illegal images, based purely on what they have seen on a device; he was looking at this, so it means he wants to do that, and so on.

Curiously though, we don't see the same conclusions drawn about people's TV viewing habits. He was watching a TV program about serial killers, so he wants to kill people, is not an argument you hear very often, in court. This may have something to do with the fact that people's TV viewing habits are not logged, in the way that their internet browsing habits are. This is how the recording of a private thought, in a diary for example, becomes the 'proof' of intent or the 'evidence' of a crime.

At the heart of the debate is the idea that a thought cannot be just a private invention of the imagination. It is believed that all thoughts must be translated into actions, at some point. Was the man who wrote down his fantasies in a diary not punished, because it was accepted that these thoughts were not going to lead to actions, or because it was believed that the police don't have the right to punish us just for thinking something?

I think it was something else entirely. The jury understood the idea that thoughts can sometimes lead to actions, which is why they punish terrorists for downloading bomb making manuals and they understand the idea that some thoughts are beyond the pale, which is why they punish people for looking at pictures of kids, but it is the ability to share your thoughts with others that makes the internet a public space, not a private one. The act of communicating with another and potentially influencing that other is what scares people. The jury did not see any risk of a private paper diary being shared, which is why they accepted it as a legitimate means of expression.

Carissa Byrne Hessick, in her article on reforming illegal image laws, talks about the existing defamation laws. Defamation is only a crime if you say something disparaging about someone, outside your home and you are overheard by another. Inside the privacy of your house, when you are alone, you can harm no one with angry and abusive words, because you are not communicating your thoughts to anybody else.

Simliarly, harm is only caused by viewing an image, if knowledge of that viewing comes to the victims, or the producers, attention. If they remain ignorant of the viewing, no harm is done, as it is like shouting insults in an empty room, or writing in a private diary.

The current law on possession of images is a smokescreen to obscure the fact that of the 62k on the register in the UK and the 1 million on the register in USA, only a tiny few will commit contact offences. The law creators thought/believed that the crossover rate was nearer 100%, but when they first brought in the thought crime laws, in a pre internet age, it probably was higher due to arrestees being more immersed and commited to acquiring images, while in reality today, it is far lower because accessing these images is so much easier.

The law enforcement net has swept up thousands of casual viewers, alongside the more committed ones. They are all assumed to pose an equal risk and to be harbouring equally dangerous thoughts, but nobody really knows which ones are a threat to kids and which ones aren't, so they all get punished to the same extent. That's why the holy grail in sex offender research is finding a reliable tool to identify the crossovers from the tens of thousands who are not going to crossover. In other words knowing who will confine their thoughts to a private diary and who will take those thoughts into the real world and act on them.

There's a lot to take in here, but obviously the law is probably framed differently in the state in question. In England & Wales, there are laws about images and laws about publishing material considered to be obscene, but nothing about owning material that might be considered obscene that has not been published. I suspect that over here, it would have been quite a stretch to charge someone over this, and the CPS might well decide not to proceed. Of course, this might then become another case that is seen as exposing a dangerous loophole in the law, so that Something Must Be Done.

The point about watching a serial killers documentary is also interesting, as for a long time it was accepted knowledge that playing video games depicting violence made people more violent. No, seriously. Of course, some people tried to use it as a defence, which led to the usual suspects demanding the suppression of violent video games. We're talking about the likes of Call of Duty and fighting games, not Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and nobody seemed interested in banning the films. Maybe it's because the films aren't interactive, but it still didn't happen, for whatever reason. Incidentally, I haven't seen the film Minority Report, but I did read the original short story, and in that nobody's mind was read. There were people who could see possible futures rather than being telepathic.

The 5G/COVID debate is quite polarising, but I have to say that if certain people believe something "unconventional" then I don't. It's probably best to avoid naming names here to protect Unlock. If other people believe things then I'm more than happy to take them seriously. Beyond that, it should all be down to reasoned discussion, but if someone arrives at a belief not through reason, then reason isn't going to convince them they are wrong. Just look at the news that isn't being suppressed.

=========================================================

As Chris Stacey said: Although its not formally part of the sentence that is handed down in court, the criminal record that someone comes away with effectively becomes a second sentence, which can have a long-lasting, if not lifelong, impact.

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I have been reading about a really interesting case from America, where a man was arrested and charged with possessing illegal porn, because he had been writing down his fantasies about kids, in a private paper diary. In this instance, the jury found him not guilty, because they agreed that a private diary is, in effect, an extension of somebody's private thoughts.

The idea of a person's private space extending beyond their own head, is of course a fascinating one for the internet age. It's very unlikely that this individual would have escaped punishment, if he had recorded his thoughts electronically. The internet has broken down the distinction between private and public spaces. When you go online, you are inviting the world into your private life and you will be judged accordingly.

This has given governments, the police and the security services the ability, as they see it, to spy on and to investigate our private thoughts. In other words, to read our private diaries and punish us, if they find any thoughts in there which they find unacceptable.

We see it in areas like far right politics or radical islam, where merely looking at a website or downloading a document is now an offence. We see it with illegal images where looking is also a crime. The logic in punishing people for looking, is to stop them before they act, but why do we assume that looking will automatically lead to acting?

Arguably, this shift towards punishing people for looking and thinking, rather than acting, came out of the events in 9/11. This was the moment where governments realised that if they waited for people to act, it was too late. They decided that they had to adopt a policy of pre-emptive strikes, targetting the people who were having illegal thoughts and locking them up, often without trial, for many years. The Tom Cruise film, Minority Report, which came out at a similar time, expressed the idea of having a thought police, who could read someone's mind and then arrest them, before they could commit a crime.

At the same time, coincidentally, the internet allowed ordinary people to share their private thoughts with others, in a way we have never seen before. It was the act of sharing our thoughts online, or letting others read our private diaries, which brought those 'diaries' to the attention of the authorities. Suddenly, they had a way to read our minds, to get inside our private spaces and police our thoughts.

There are currently laws being discussed, which would make hate speech inside your own home a crime. This is the logical extension of the thought crime legislation, that exists for the internet. At the moment, police can force their way into your private home, if your are expressing illegal thoughts on your computer. In future, they may be able to break in and arrest you for expressing your private thoughts verbally as well. The argument that unhealthy thoughts inevitably lead to unhealthy actions is basically the same one which all authoritarian regimes use to suppress dissent. It's the reason why books are burned or banned. It's the reason why social media companies are starting to censor opinions and content they regard as unacceptable. A lot of the current debate about links between 5G and covid19 is being suppressed, on the basis that these are 'dangerous' thoughts, which people should not be allowed to express.

Private diaries are a rarity nowadays, but the belief that you can see inside someones mind, by looking at their computer instead, has been extended to other devices like mobile phones. It's not just offenders who are judged on the content of their devices though. Rape victims have their mobiles seized and their words analysed by police too. Assumptions are then made about their thoughts, based on the content of their devices. She said this, so she wanted to do that, is not a million miles from the wild accusations that police make about viewers of illegal images, based purely on what they have seen on a device; he was looking at this, so it means he wants to do that, and so on.

Curiously though, we don't see the same conclusions drawn about people's TV viewing habits. He was watching a TV program about serial killers, so he wants to kill people, is not an argument you hear very often, in court. This may have something to do with the fact that people's TV viewing habits are not logged, in the way that their internet browsing habits are. This is how the recording of a private thought, in a diary for example, becomes the 'proof' of intent or the 'evidence' of a crime.

At the heart of the debate is the idea that a thought cannot be just a private invention of the imagination. It is believed that all thoughts must be translated into actions, at some point. Was the man who wrote down his fantasies in a diary not punished, because it was accepted that these thoughts were not going to lead to actions, or because it was believed that the police don't have the right to punish us just for thinking something?

I think it was something else entirely. The jury understood the idea that thoughts can sometimes lead to actions, which is why they punish terrorists for downloading bomb making manuals and they understand the idea that some thoughts are beyond the pale, which is why they punish people for looking at pictures of kids, but it is the ability to share your thoughts with others that makes the internet a public space, not a private one. The act of communicating with another and potentially influencing that other is what scares people. The jury did not see any risk of a private paper diary being shared, which is why they accepted it as a legitimate means of expression.

Carissa Byrne Hessick, in her article on reforming illegal image laws, talks about the existing defamation laws. Defamation is only a crime if you say something disparaging about someone, outside your home and you are overheard by another. Inside the privacy of your house, when you are alone, you can harm no one with angry and abusive words, because you are not communicating your thoughts to anybody else.

Simliarly, harm is only caused by viewing an image, if knowledge of that viewing comes to the victims, or the producers, attention. If they remain ignorant of the viewing, no harm is done, as it is like shouting insults in an empty room, or writing in a private diary.

The current law on possession of images is a smokescreen to obscure the fact that of the 62k on the register in the UK and the 1 million on the register in USA, only a tiny few will commit contact offences. The law creators thought/believed that the crossover rate was nearer 100%, but when they first brought in the thought crime laws, in a pre internet age, it probably was higher due to arrestees being more immersed and commited to acquiring images, while in reality today, it is far lower because accessing these images is so much easier.

The law enforcement net has swept up thousands of casual viewers, alongside the more committed ones. They are all assumed to pose an equal risk and to be harbouring equally dangerous thoughts, but nobody really knows which ones are a threat to kids and which ones aren't, so they all get punished to the same extent. That's why the holy grail in sex offender research is finding a reliable tool to identify the crossovers from the tens of thousands who are not going to crossover. In other words knowing who will confine their thoughts to a private diary and who will take those thoughts into the real world and act on them.
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