There is little doubt that the Internet has flattened the Earth. The entire world has opened up for many of us in terms of communication, information and experiences that weren’t known 20 years ago. For those who don’t know the world before the Internet, the world has been their oyster.
For all of the good the Internet provides to us in terms of information and access to far corners of the world, there is also the dark shadows and underbelly of crime, immorality, and depravity and making it available to everyone.
Whether through websites, e-mail, instant messaging or other means, people can communicate in ways never known a generation ago, and we have access to people and situations that we never knew before either. One of those things that is more available to public consumption is sex over the Internet. While sex itself isn’t criminal, there are some acts that do cross the threshold, and some of the crimes have been “invented” in the 30 years of the Internet.
What are Internet Sex Crimes?
There may be nothing inherently illegal about answering a Craigslist ad about massages or sex, depending on the laws in your state. But there are some sex crimes that occur only over the internet, and they can involve minor children due to the ease of anonymity on the Internet.
Internet sex crimes, which are also called “Internet-related sexual offending,” are grouped into four basic acts which are considered illegal in all states – felonies in some cases, but at least misdemeanors elsewhere:
- Child pornography – online viewing, sharing, selling, or producing sexual images of children under the age of 18;
- Having electronic correspondence (chat or e-mail) with a minor, adolescent or vulnerable adult (with mental or emotional defect);
- Exploiting a minor by encouraging him/her to view or produce online sexual images, or to encourage him/her to send nude pictures of him/herself over chat or e-mail; and
- Setting up offline, in-person meetings (through chat/e-mail) to commit a sexual offense (rape, statutory rape, sexual assault, etc.) with a minor or vulnerable adult.
Protecting the Vulnerable
As you can see, Internet sex crimes are primarily focused on adults preying on children in sexual ways and using the Internet to do so. This in some ways makes the criminals harder to catch – the perpetrator could be in the same neighborhood as the victim (like before the Internet), but it also could be anywhere in the world, which increases the number of potential threats to children and forces parents and guardians to be all the more vigilant.
To learn more about Internet sex crimes and get information about rights and responsibilities as a parent, victim or accused, contact one of our criminal attorneys and get all the information you need about state and federal laws regarding Internet sex crimes and how to best protect yourself and your family.