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Law Requires IT Workers To Report Porn Found On Computers
By Sandra Swanson, InformationWeek
Jul 30, 2001 (12:00 AM)
URL: http://www.informationweek.com/story/IWK20010730S0008

If you're a computer technician employed in South Carolina, be aware that the state 
legislature just expanded your work responsibilities. Techies in that state are now 
required to give authorities the names and addresses of computer users with child 
pornography on their machines.

The law doesn't compel IT workers to search for child pornography, but it does require 
them to report it upon discovery. It's an extension of an existing state law that 
requires film processors to report child pornography when they see it at their 
facilities. The law doesn't establish any penalties for techies who neglect to report 
pornography, but that's "an oversight," says Sharon Gunter, staff attorney for the 
South Carolina Senate. When the state legislature resumes next year, she expects the 
law will be changed to include penalties of no more than six months in jail or no more 
than $500 in fines (or both)--the same as the current penalties for film developers 
who don't tell authorities about child pornography they discover.

The law originally appeared--somewhat incongruously--as an amendment to a bill 
mandating education requirements for daycare professionals. Signed into law on July 20 
by Gov. Jim Hodges, the IT reporting requirement took many people by surprise--most 
notably, one of the amendment's co-sponsors, Sen. Phil Leventis. Most of the amendment 
spelled out computers' roles in criminal activity, making it a felony to send child 
pornography not just through postal mail, but through E-mail as well, for example. He 
missed the IT reporting requirement in the 17-page amendment, and it never came up 
during legislative discussions of the amendment, which was introduced a couple days 
before the session ended. As a result, Leventis says he learned about the reporting 
requirement for the first time on Monday. That's unfortunate, since he disagrees with 
it. "I don't like it. I'm afraid it may generate more problems than it solves." The 
law isn't defined well, he says: "It begs the question, who qualifies as a technician? 
Is it someone who reads a manual?" He also points out that some material would be open 
to interpretation--for example, is a naked toddler in a tub pornographic--and 
questions whether individuals with "untrained, inexperienced eyes" should be forced to 
make that judgment call.

But the law's other co-sponsor, Sen. Thomas Alexander, says that it's consistent with 
updating aspects of other laws to reflect the pervasiveness of technology. "The law 
isn't designed to make them go out and seek [child pornography] on computers," he 
says. "It has to be somebody's responsibility to report it to the authorities.

Not everyone is convinced that mantle should be worn by IT. That includes Donna 
Thorne, spokeswoman for Blue Cross/Blue Shield of South Carolina, which employs about 
1,000 IT workers. Says Thorne, who first heard about the law on Friday: "I don't think 
our computer technicians should necessarily act as law enforcement."

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