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The Problem With Scout Willis' Topless Protest On Instagram: Child Pornography

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Scout Willis has been wandering around New York City topless to make a political point. This is fine, political speech is protected: as is women wandering around with no tops on in that place. For, rightly enough, equal treatment of the sexes means that if men can trot around with no shirt on then so can women. However, the reason she's doing this doesn't make quite so much sense.

Scout Willis is protesting about the manner in which every time she posts a picture to Instagram which shows a nipple or aureola then that picture gets taken down or her account gets deleted in its entirety. And her topless protest in New York is to point out that it's apparently not allowed to do on Instagram what is entirely legal in New York.

All of which is true: but it doesn't, sadly, get to the heart of the matter. Which is that Instagram does not know, cannot know, whether the nipples and aureolae being shown on the service are actually legal to show. And thus for that reason, being unable to check whether something is child pornography or not, they won't show any.

We can approach this through those famous "bush" shots of her mother, Demi Moore. Very much softcore, cheesecake even, her mother posed when young for a series of pictures in the French magazine "Oui". Topless, yes, and also in some other shots revealing that she was, in the French style, au naturelle and not subject to the tortures of waxing or shaving. By the standards of the time all jolly good fun and no harm was done. However, to show those pictures today (and this is why we are not showing them here) would be child pornography. For Ms. Moore was 17 when they were taken. And that means that, crazy though this may be, to publish them today is to publish child pornography. And so is possession of them, even in your browser, possession of child pornography. And people really do get long jail sentences for this sort of thing.

Which brings us back to the daughter, Scout Willis. She is 22 so images of her embonpoint are not said child pornography. But Instagram has no way of knowing that. Instagram doesn't know whether Scout Willis' Instagram account contains pictures of her or of any other woman: all it can tell from looking at the pictures themselves are that they are of a part of the female anatomy which, if they belonged to someone under the age of 18, would be child pornography.

And yes, it really is true that a topless picture of a 17 year old girl is such. Doesn't matter even if it's of a young mother nursing her baby: obviously a woman not a child, that's still classified as child pornography. And Instagram would be liable for the transmission of such images too.

So, they do the only sensible thing which is to ban all such pictures from their service. It's absolutely nothing to do with Scout Willis nor her nipples, it's not to do with free speech or what is legal and is not in New York. It's all to do with the hysteria the society has whipped itself up into over child pornography.

A pity as Ms. Willis is a rather fetching young woman but, you know, "It's for the children!".

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