Digital world is not a virtual Wild West
The widespread belief that the online world is a virtual Wild West where traditional laws do not apply is troubling, says Toronto criminal lawyer Sam Goldstein.
A Toronto teenager was recently charged for allegedly trying to extort a girl using photos she sent him online, the Globe and Mail reports. Read Globe and Mail
Investigators say the teen girl began an online relationship with the boy, during which she sent him intimate photos of herself, the report says.
Police allege the boy then used the photos in an attempt to manipulate and coerce the girl into sending him a video of herself, it continues. When she refused, police say the boy gained access to the girl’s email account and sent the photos to several of her contacts, the report states, adding the boy is charged with making, possession and distribution of child pornography, extortion, and threatening death.
“It’s cases such as this one that remind us criminal law applies as much to the digital world as it does in corporeal reality,” says Goldstein.
Text messages are becoming “more and more part of criminal trials as evidence of the accused’s threat or after-the-fact consciousness of guilt or contradictory evidence that the complainant is afraid of the accused,” says Goldstein.
He says he often tells his clients to search their computers, phones and digital devices for electronic messages from a complainant and is almost “100 per cent successful at either having the charges withdrawn or securing acquittals with this damning electronic evidence.”
Goldstein believes “sexting” is here to stay and warns that if a photograph depicts a person as under the age of 18 engaged in an explicitly sexual activity, the image qualifies as child pornography.