A state prosecutor who handles child pornography cases wants sexually explicit drawings of children -- even computer-generated cartoons -- to be as illegal as photographs of actual abuse.
The idea is supported by the chair of the House Judiciary Committee and others in the State Legislature.
Laws criminalizing possession of sexually explicit photographs of children have long been an exception to the First Amendment, which protects Americans' right to think and read whatever they want. Supporters of the existing laws successfully argued that children are hurt in order to produce the photographs.
That argument does not apply to drawings, particularly not to computer-generated cartoons, and the move to extend the law to include them threatens to pit free speech advocates against child protection advocates.
"The fight needs to happen," said Aaron Sperbeck, the crimes-against-children prosecutor in the Anchorage District Attorney's Office who is behind the idea. "(The images) are almost as graphic and disturbing as real children. We need to get the conversation going."
Traffic in online child pornography has exploded in recent years. In Alaska, a task force arrests about two dozen people a year on possession charges, although investigators say they are only reaching a small fraction of the state's offenders because of limited resources. Police try to target the worst of the worst, said Sgt. Ron Tidler, head of the Cyber Crimes Unit at the Anchorage Police Department. Turning up more and more in the illegal collections are the cartoon, or anime, images.
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