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Laws regarding minors dating adults

UK obscenity legislation has recently been amended by the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 (‘ CJPOA 1994’) to deal with the specific problem of Internet pornography.(13) The following will show, however, that there are difficulties with the application of existing national laws to a medium such as the global Internet which does not have any borders.Obscene Publications Act 19 These two statutes constitute the major legislation to combat pornographic material of any kind in the UK.

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Section 1(3) of the 1959 Act makes it clear that the ‘articles’ contemplated were such items as computer disks; however most of the pornography on the Internet is now transferred electronically from one computer to another using telephone lines and modems rather than via any tangible medium such as discs.According to Walker, ‘social regulation within modern society has developed within physical bounds of time and space, but the development of cyberspace distanciates its inhabitants from local controls and the physical confines of nationality, sovereignty and governmentality leading to new possibilities in relationships and interaction.’(8) The idea of ‘governance without government’ may be the best approach for the development of the Internet.But ‘if such mechanisms of international governance and re-regulation are to be initiated then the role of nation states is pivotal.’(9) There appears to be no single solution to the regulation of illegal and harmful content on the Internet because, for example, the exact definition of offences such as child pornography varies from one country to another and also what is considered harmful will depend upon cultural differences.The Internet also makes it possible to discuss sex, see live sex acts, and arrange sexual activities(3) from computer screens.There are also sex related discussions on the Internet Relay Chat (‘ IRC’) channels where users in small groups or in private channels exchange messages and files.A recent European Commission Communication Paper stated that ‘each country may reach its own conclusion in defining the borderline between what is permissible and not permissible.’(10) The multi-layered governance system should be a mixture of national and international legislation, and self-imposed regulation by the ISPs and on-line users.

This should include codes of conduct by the ISPs, software filters to be used by parents, advice to parents and school teachers, hotlines and special organisations to report illegal content on the Internet.

If illegal and harmful content on the Internet needs to be regulated then the question is: how should this be achieved?

Despite the popular perception, the Internet is not a ‘lawless place.’(4) Rather the Internet ‘poses a fundamental challenge for effective leadership and governance.’(5) Walker states that: ‘ In the current stage of modern, or post-modern society, one can expect a trend towards ‘governance’ rather than the ‘government’, in which the role of the nation state is not exclusive but may need further sustenance by the activation of more varied levels of power at second hand.’(6) According to Reidenberg, laws, regulations, and standards will affect the development of the Internet and this is also true for self-regulatory solutions introduced for the availability of pornographic content on the Internet.

Following the amendments made by CJPOA 1994, this would even apply when A simply makes the data available to be transferred or downloaded electronically, by providing a password to B, so that B can access the materials and copy them.(16) The main concern of legislators and parents in relation to Internet content is child pornography, rather than other forms of pornographic content.

This has been the case ever since paedophiles started to use the Internet for circulating pornographic materials related to children.(17) Paedophilia can be seen as a minority sexual group, with its own form of expression explicitly involving fantasies and imaginings about sex with children.

Reidenberg states that: The Internet is a complex, anarchic, and multi-national environment where old concepts of regulation, reliant as they are upon tangibility in time and space, may not be easily applicable or enforceable.