“Closing the Child Pornography Loophole in Maryland”

-The following article was submitted by Delegates Ryan Nawrocki & Kathy Szeliga (District 7A) and Lauren Arikan (District 7B)-

Streaming child pornography is currently legal in Maryland and not a prosecutable offense.

Yes, you read that correctly. Unfortunately, the law has not caught up with technology.

It is a crime to download or possess child pornography. Yet, streaming and cloud-based services do not require a criminal to possess or download the content.

This child pornography loophole was revealed in bill hearings in early February.

This bill should have been a top priority. Instead, we had to fight even to get a vote on this critical legislation in the House sponsored by Delegate Robin Grammer of District 6 in Baltimore County.

The Senate cross-filed bill sponsored by Senator John Salling eventually passed in the final moments of Sine Day – the very last day of the
legislative session.

Rarely are we as outraged and horrified by Annapolis politics as we were during this debate. The utter lack of urgency to protect children and prosecute criminals who
stream child pornography is inexcusable.

The hearings on HB233 and SB226 were shocking and compelling.

As parents and lawmakers,.we have been haunted and heartbroken by this crime since learning of it.

A pedophile sexually assaulted a six-year-old child from Eastern Baltimore County. That man had been caught watching child pornography at work through a streaming platform.

He was fired from his job but was not criminally charged because of this legal loophole. The victim’s mother came to Annapolis pleading for lawmakers to pass these bills.

Her daughter would have never been
permitted to be around this man had he been charged and known to all that he was a pedophile.

She urged lawmakers to protect future victims and modernize Maryland’s laws.

Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger confirmed this is a child pornography loophole and went to Annapolis to testify in favor of the bill. States Attorneys from across Maryland supported this legislation.

Unfortunately, they cannot prosecute depraved, detestable criminals committing these acts. Pedophiles use technology that does not fall under the requirement of “possessing” these despicable materials. We must make this illegal.

Who could possibly be against closing this loophole? The Public Defender’s office testified against this bill! The concern about people accidentally streaming this content or accessing it through the cloud is a smokescreen that some point out.

To avoid this offchance accidental scenario, the language in the bill mirrors the federal laws that have already been updated to say, “knowingly or intentionally access with intent to view.”

The prosecutors testified that it is
highly improbable to stream and view the content mistakenly since it is only located in the deepest parts of the dark web.

Prosecutors would not have a case against someone who turned it off after a few seconds.

Advocates for the bill from the Coalition Against Pornography and the Coalition Against Sexual Assault testified that they have never stumbled upon these images or videos in almost thirty years of research and work on these issues.

Honestly, this has haunted us since learning child pornography is not illegal in Maryland. We could not leave Annapolis this year and wait another year to stop criminals from participating in this horrid crime.

This bill should have passed in the early days of the legislative session.

Because of pressure put on the liberal leadership in Annapolis, the bill was finally passed in the final moments of the 2023 Legislative Session.

Governor Moore signed the bill into law on May 16th. This law will take effect on October 1st.

We are grateful that many lawmakers came together to close this loophole and protect the children of Maryland.

B.J. Joseph

Benjamin Joesph has covered news in Eastern Baltimore County since 2006. He started as a reporter with the original East County Times in 2006. He started East Baltco News and later Eastcountytimes.com in 2022.