The Internet has transformed the knowledge of the past into the information of the present. Our lives revolve around Facebook and Myspace. Watching television has transformed into surfing YouTube, and with a search engine like Google, who needs the library? The blogosphere rivals the newspaper, and photo-sharing Web sites like flickr.com document family outings and athletic events.
However, the advantages of the digital realm have a price tag: lack of protection and loss of privacy. On Jan. 20, 2008, photographs of male high-school water polo players were reportedly placed next to pictures of nude young men on gay pornographic Web sites. The photos are credited to Scott Stanford, a pseudonym used by Henry Cornelius, a dispatcher with the UC Irvine Police Department. The Orange County Register found that five of these Web sites contained dozens of photos of players from at least 11 Orange County high schools.
A photo of a well-known Southern California high-school water polo player adjusting his trunks was featured on a gay-oriented Australian Web site. The site contained explicit sexual content and boasted that it drew 50,000 hits in just two months. This demonstrates how easily photos of unsuspecting high-school athletes are transmitted to tens of thousands of people in cyberspace. It also illustrates how difficult it is for parents and coaches to monitor photos of unaware athletes on the Internet.
Parents have confirmed that some of the photos discovered on the gay porn sites were reposted from flickr.com, where they were displayed solely for the players’ families and friends. It is not known who reposted the flickr.com photos. The Orange County District Attorney’s office is conducting a review to determine whether posting the water polo photos on gay porn sites violated any laws. Meantime, Cornelius has been placed on paid administrative leave.
The question of whether posting the photos is legal should not even be considered. It is sad to see our nation’s eager-to-sue mentality reduce everything, even moral issues involving children, to legality. It is shocking to think that with a few snapshots and a little photo-cropping skill, sexual predators can exploit photos of unsuspecting athletes on pornographic Web sites.
One can only imagine how these students felt once the photos were discovered: violated, humiliated and angry. During a game, a high-school water polo player shouldn’t have to worry about whether his picture will be posted on a sexually-oriented Web site that demeans the student’s athleticism. Even worse, it will be difficult to eradicate these photos from the Web sites. Once something is posted on the Internet, it can spread like wildfire, be it gossip on Facebook or pictures from an event. These kids had a right to privacy, and the photographers obviously ignored it. The photographers need to face legal consequences because the photos were posted without permission.
The widespread use of the Internet makes the need for privacy in our daily routines more pertinent. Internet safety and privacy have only recently begun to necessitate regulation and legislation from state and federal governments. The right to privacy is guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 12, which states, ‘No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honor and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.’ In this case, the right has been jeopardized by the convenience and anonymity of the Internet.
At last week’s on-campus event ‘Porn Nation,’ ex-porn addict and public speaker Michael Leahy described how America has become the largest producer and consumer of pornography. This has been attributed to our culture’s obsession with exploiting anything and everything that can be interpreted as the least bit sexual, whether it is record companies exploiting untalented but mildly pretty adolescents or pedophilic photographers taking pictures of unaware high-school water polo players.
Not only is it unfair that children have to grow up in a country that thrives on hypersexual media, but now they question whether it is okay for them to involuntarily be a part of it. If Mr. Cornelius or Mr. Anybody does not see anything wrong with this case, then he is not respecting every human being’s basic right to privacy, let alone parents’ right to protect their kids. Children’s physical and intellectual immaturity makes them particularly vulnerable to human-rights violations. If we don’t consider the privacy of children and adolescents, then we cease to keep the future in mind.
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