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What does federal law consider child pornography to be?

U.S. and Washington legislators enact many criminal statutes to protect people from harm. In the case of children, some of those harms are sexual in nature. In Washington, as with every other state, laws are enforced to keep children safe from crimes, such as assault, trafficking and online child pornography. Unfortunately, many more children are now victimized by such criminal activities because of our new digital age.

Online child pornography not only victimizes and endangers the children depicted in pornographic sexual activities, but also puts other children at risk of being similarly victimized by predators, who are often inspired to look for vulnerable children who can also be exploited. Child pornography thus can have devastating emotional, social and physical effects on children. For this reason, anyone facing child pornography charges is likely to face severe consequences, if convicted in either state or federal court.

Federal laws consider any image that depicts a minor engaging in explicit sexual conduct to be child pornography. The definition of child pornography is not limited to photographs. It also includes videos and computer-generated images showing sexually explicit conduct of anyone under 18.

Mere photographs of naked children may be considered child pornography, if they are sexually suggestive. Federal child pornography laws also ban the production, distribution and possession of such images. It is also illegal to entice, persuade, induce or coerce a minor into engaging in sexual activities for the purpose of producing such images. Any individual who conspires to violate these laws may face sex crime charges.

The federal child pornography law applies to any instance of child pornography, whether it occurs inside the United States or outside of the country's borders. However, images that are downloaded from the Internet automatically fall under the jurisdiction of local or state authorities where the downloading occurred.

Source:, "Citizen's Guide to U.S. Federal Law on Child Pornography," accessed on Oct. 7, 2014

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