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Is “sexting” child pornography?

The increasingly common practice of “sexting” could be considered a crime in Canada if the people depicted in the content are minors.

Some studies have found approximately 20 per cent of Canadian teens have sent nude or partially nude photos or video of themselves electronically, and if they’re under 18, that sexual content fits the legal definition of child pornography. 

But it can still be legal, under one exception established in a 2001 Supreme Court of Canada decision. The “personal use” rule allows two youths to consensually record sexual activity as long as the content is kept private. It’s still technically child pornography, but it’s not illegal to possess.

When it goes beyond “personal,” it becomes a problem.

In some cases, teens in Canada faced child pornography charges for sharing risqué content they’ve received among their friends.

Others have posted the material online, either on social media, a plethora of “revenge porn” websites or even sent it directly to the sender’s friends, family, and co-workers after ugly breakups.

That non-consensual distribution, whether malicious or not, takes the material beyond the realm of personal use and into criminal territory.

The rules for adults are different, in that there are no rules. As long as the people depicted in “sexts” are over 18, it’s perfectly legal to create and share. Under current law, there’s even little legal recourse against people who distribute maliciously, although that may be changing: a 2013 government report recommended changes to the Criminal Code when it comes to non-consensual distribution of intimate material.

Read more:

CCSO Cybercrime Working Group report on Cyberbullying and the Non-consensual Distribution of Intimate Images: