Apple recently announced its next iPhone update will include a feature that warns U.S. users under the age of 18 before they send or open text messages with nude photos.
That’s all well and good but why is Apple allowing users to send children under the age of 16 nude photos?
Sexting is the taking, sending or receiving of nude or sexual photos or videos by electronic means, whether through a text message, social media or email.
Why doesn’t Apple understand that it may be a party to sexting to minors when it knowingly transmits nude photos to minors? Apple should block such material if it has notice, which it is admitting that it has when it warns a child who is about to open or send a nude photo.
Apple declined to respond to an email request for comment.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice:
“Federal law strictly prohibits the distribution of obscene matter to minors. Any transfer or attempt to transfer such material to a minor under the age of 16, including over the Internet, is punishable under federal law.”
U.S. Code Section 1466A states it is illegal for any person to knowingly produce or distribute a “visual depiction” of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct and is obscene unless it has serious literary or scientific merit.
Sexting involves inherently sexually explicit conduct because the photos are distributed for the express purpose of sexual titillation.
Sexting also violates state and federal child pornography laws.
But Apple isn’t alone.
The Wall Street Journal, which is one of America’s largest daily newspapers, recently reported that Apple made a decision not to notify parents when their children under age 13 view or send nudes. The Wall Street Journal fails to note that it is illegal to send nude photos to minors.
The Wall Street Journal then quotes Stephen Balkam, chief executive officer of the nonprofit Family Online Safety institute as applauding Apple for taking steps to protect children online, though he said parents shouldn’t be left out. “I think they’re 85% there with this,” he said.
Instead of applauding Apple, shouldn’t the Family Online Safety Institute be concerned that Apple is permitting minors to send/receive nude photos?
A recent study by Thorn, which works to protect children online, found that 14% of children aged 9 to -12 shared sexually explicit images of themselves in 2020, a six percent increase.
Apple’s new feature is expected to be released this month in iOS 15.2.
The Canadian Centre for Child Protection has concluded that expecting the tech industry to voluntary invest in resources to prevent the availability of child sexual abuse materials is an ineffective strategy, and points to a need for governments at a global scale to impose meaningful regulation that prioritizes the protection and privacy of children and survivors.