Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Never say “nevermind” when child pornography is involved

You may not know who Spencer Elden is, but you almost certainly know what he looked like as a newborn. Spencer, in all of his glory, graces what is perhaps the most famous album cover of all time, or at least of the last 30 years — Nirvana's iconic grunge masterpiece, Nevermind.

Spencer Elden was also recently a plaintiff, as he sued Kurt Cobain's estate, Krist Novoselic, and Dave Grohl for child sexual exploitation based on their use of naked baby image. (He lost, btw, not once, but twice.)

While the lawsuit and its 30-year-old claim certainly seem like a b.s. money grab, it did get me thinking, do you know what to do if you discover child pornography in your workplace, on your network, or on one of your devices?

Here are four thoughts.

1/ Investigate immediately. Reporting suspected child pornography is a huge deal with huge implications and severe penalties. According to federal law, it is illegal to knowingly possess, or knowingly access with intent to view, any visual depiction of a "minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct." If you have any concerns about whether what you've discovered is, or is not, child pornography, get your legal counsel involved ASAP. 

2/ Get your IT department involved as soon as possible. IT will want to access and preserve user and server logs to retain and protect all potential data related to the suspected child pornography. They'll know what to do, but they can't do it unless they're involved.

3/ Do not forward the material to anyone, and don't delete or erase it. Forwarding the material could create criminal exposure in and of itself. Moreover, while disgust might motivate you to get it off of your computers and systems as quickly as possible, resist that urge for fear of potentially obstructing justice.

4/ Report to law enforcement, without exception. No matter the risk of embarrassment to your company or an employee, no matter how important the offender is to your business, you simply cannot ignore this issue. You must, without exception, report it to the authorities. Courts have made it painfully clear that there are no exceptions for the possession of child porn. Indeed, courts have even made companies liable to victims of child pornography for its failure to investigate reports of such material being viewed or stored on its computers.

With all apologies to companies that prefer to DIY their legal issues, this is one problem that you do not want to go alone. On the issue of child pornography, the feds will drain you.