LOS ANGELES—Just because it’s Gawker doesn’t mean it gets to violate child porn laws, but that is what the site did today when it posted a sexually explicit scene to gawker.com, which does not acknowledge the existence of the federal labeling and record-keeping law, 18 USC §2257. The scene is taken from Vivid’s new release, Sydney Leathers: Weiner and Me, and features a romp between Anthony Weiner’s sexting pal and Xander Corvus.
Astonishingly, Gawker grabbed and embedded an entire five-minute clip from the movie, apparently from Pornhub. That contains its own ironies, but it is the brazenness of Gawker to think that child porn laws that were only recently upheld by a federal judge in Philadelphia do not apply to them that boggles the mind. Specifically, Gawker posted porn without including a §2257 link on the site directing the feds to where the required §2257 records are kept. No one who uploads porn to a public website is immune from the requirements of the law, period, even on sites that claim to be exempt.
The point to remember here is that §2257 is a child pornography statute that should have nothing to do with porn featuring adults, but which does. It is one of a slew of federal laws designed to combat child pornography, which is clearly among the worst sort of content that can be produced and disseminated. Both the government and the presiding judge in Free Speech Coalition v Holder could not have been clearer that §2257 is a child porn statute, and for its part, the government lawyers who argued its case in court were absolute in their insistence that the public dissemination of 2257-triggering content must comply with the requirements of the law.
Gawker, however, appears to believe that child pornography laws in the United States are there to be ignored, at least for people like them. Let’s not forget that Fleshbot, when it was owned by Gawker, also took the legal position that it did not have to comply with the §2257 child porn statute. Now that it has been bought by its former editor, however, that foolish stance has been corrected.
This is not the first time AVN has mentioned the willful violation of this federal law by entitled mainstreamers. In 2010, gossip blogger Perez Hilton tried the same thing, posting an explicit clip featuring his little-person sidekick, Chuy Bravo. In short order, however, he pulled the clip down, probably after his lawyers got through reading him the riot act.
We’ll see if something similar happens with Gawker. If it doesn’t, and Gawker (and others) get away with disseminating porn outside the regulatory framework, the government will have all but conceded that it was lying when it claimed again and again in court documents and in person that §2257 is an essential tool in the fight against the proliferation of child pornography—and that the adult content production industry is not its sole target. If that is so, it cannot allow highly trafficked sites like gawker.com to willfully violate that particular law without calling its recent defense of the law into question.
Gawker, of course, is just one such violator, though a highly visible one. In the adult world, there are many who act with simlilar willful neglect, including any number of adult tube sites and Pinterest-style sites that lay cynical claim to Section 230 exemptions that may protect them—and I have my doubts on that one—but which certainly do not protect their allegedly non-professional uploaders. Unless an appeal of §2257 is successful, they too will one day have to come into compliance.
[Ed Note: The author is a plaintiff in Free Speech Coalition v Holder, which explains in part his lack of empathy for anyone outside (and inside) the industry who willfully flouts a law that may be particularly illogical, usless and unconstitutional, but which is still the law.]