As the Internet becomes more popular and more accessible through portable and handheld devices, more people are sending sexually explicit pictures in violation of state and federal laws. These pictures are also being sent as attachments to text messages to and from cell phones. What one person thinks is a harmless or funny text or email may actually be a serious felony crime.
Federal law enforcement authorities have noted an increase in such online criminal behavior. One area that is specifically of note is the crime of sexual extortion. Sexual extortion may result when a teenager sends a naked or suggestive picture of herself over the Internet, and someone threatens to expose her behavior to family or friends unless she sends more such pictures or more sexually explicit pictures. One federal criminal affidavit labeled this kind of crime as sextortion, according to an article on SFgate.com. The article provides several examples of recent, high-profile cases involving sexual extortion over the Internet, and the punishments some of these defendants are getting are severe, including lengthy prison sentences. Some people, particularly young people, may assume that sending sexually suggestive pictures over the Internet or via text message is fun or a harmless prank. However, depending on the circumstances, state or federal law enforcement officials may consider it a serious crime with serious consequences. And emails and text messages are often easy to trace back to the sender. The best course of action is to not post any suggestive pictures of oneself or anyone else on the Internet or send them via email or text message to anyone. Once they get posted or sent, they can end up anywhere.