December 11, 2008 - 11:36AM
Page 1 of 2 | http://www.smh.com.au
Police say it is a crime for anyone to even watch a viral video of a man swinging a baby around the room.
Their comment comes after uproar over 60-year-old Chris Illingworth, a father of four from Maroochydore, was charged with posting the video on Liveleak after he stumbled across it on YouTube.
The video, which shows a man swinging a baby over his head by his arms, was broadcast on US television and has been viewed by hundreds of thousands of people on the internet.
But, despite that, Mr Illingworth's home was raided after he posted the clip on Liveleak and he was charged with using the internet to access and publish child-abuse material.
The charge has proven controversial because the baby - reportedly part of a Russian circus family - is laughing and smiling at the end of the clip.
Online rights activists and academics say the case has far-reaching implications for individuals sharing content online, as it is now clear they can be held just as liable as traditional publishers.
Online users' lobby group Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) has contacted Illingworth to provide him assistance with fighting his case.
EFA vice-chair Colin Jacobs said the law was a blunt instrument and no blunter than when applied to the internet.
"Any internet user could stumble upon these sorts of 'viral videos', which are a far cry from the organised child abusers against whom the laws are targeted," he said.
"I think that now, Australians could justifiably feel very afraid that casual internet use might bring the police to their door."
Australian laws around the publishing of such material are far stricter than overseas.
Here, news stations have shown only the beginning and end of the clip, while this website has been advised by lawyers not to show any of the clip at all.
In a statement, Queensland police said the term "child abuse material" even extended to clips where the child "appears" to be a victim of cruelty.
The clip, criticised by child-welfare advocates because of how vigorously the man swings the baby by its arms, was created without any involvement of Illingworth, who has published hundreds of other clips on the Liveleak site.
Queensland Police from the anti-pedophile squad, Task Force Argos, raided Illingworth's home on Sunday November 30 and subjected him to a thorough forensic examination of his home and office computers and a gruelling interview over several hours, complete with finger printing and mug shots.
Asked to respond to claims by Illingworth that he was targeted unnecessarily and unfairly labelled a child abuser, QLD Police said it was a crime "to participate in the exploitation and abuse of children by seeking to view, possess, make or distribute child abuse or child exploitation material".
It provided a definition of "child abuse material", which was any material that shows a person under the age of 18 who "is, or appears to be, a victim of torture, cruelty or physical abuse".
"Task Force Argos are continuing to work with international law enforcement partners to identify the child depicted in the video clip to remove him or her from further harm," QLD Police said.
David Vaile, executive director of UNSW's Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre, agreed with QLD Police but said many people were not aware that they could be held liable for content they re-published online.
"If something you upload and republish on the internet is a video of what appears to be abuse of a child, you can't be that surprised when it is caught by laws trying to suppress the publication and distribution of 'child abuse material'," he said.
"Publishing capability has been democratised and de-centralised, but so has liability and responsibility."
Illingworth, whose reputation has been tarnished after the incident was featured in a story in his local Sunshine Coast Daily newspaper, said he was meeting with his Liberal MP, Peter Slipper, this afternoon in an attempt to pressure police to drop the charges.
Illingworth said it was unfair that he was being labelled a child abuser over a video he didn't make, when Steve Irwin was let off for dangling his baby near the open jaws of a crocodile.
"This thing started because they were looking for a pedophile, it didn't work, so [police decided] 'lets just take him for something else, make it look like we're doing our job'," Illingworth said.
He said if police proceeded with the case he was certain he would be exonerated, after which he planned to "take the Queensland Police Force for every penny" for damaging his health, reputation and business.
Earlier this week, Illingworth said that since being charged he could not eat, sleep or work and was worried his children and people in the local community would think he was a pedophile.
"I've had to go down to the hospital, my blood pressure is 160/108 and I'm on blood pressure pills and valium - all because of this," he said.
"Do they realise what pain they put someone through? I could fall over dead over this. I can't even get the office work done. I'm just a zombie."
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