With our societal addiction to the internet, smartphones, and computers, today’s teens face growing exposure to new forms of harassment and bullying. These can sometimes lead to criminal charges for those engaging in this conduct, and potentially anxiety, depression and, suicidal thoughts for the recipients.
Electronic service providers like AOL voluntarily and automatically scan customers’ email transmissions and electronic storage spaces using sophisticated image detection and filtering programs to detect viruses, malware, and illegal images like child pornography. When such scanning reveals that a customer has accessed, transmitted or stored child pornography, the service provider is statutorily required to notify the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). The NCMEC is obligated by law to then alert federal law enforcement, which can then lead to government investigation and serious criminal charges in state and federal court. Courts have almost uniformly rejected challenges to the search and seizure of child porn discovered in such instances, relying on the private actor doctrine, which excludes searches or seizures conducted by private actors from Fourth Amendment scrutiny.
There is a saying, perhaps cynical, that "Character is what you are in the dark." In a sense, the Internet is one way in which this notion can find expression, based on the sense of anonymity that it can create. People may be tempted to write or even to do things online that they might not otherwise if they knew that they were being watched.