Florida Case Involving Computer-Generated Child Pornography

October 5, 2023 Criminal Defense, Sex Crimes

When a person is charged with possessing child pornography, it is usually assumed that the individual had incriminating evidence like an image or a video sexualizing a minor or minors. However, technological advances are providing offenders with new ways to create and distribute illicit content. It is important, then, to be aware of the State’s full definition of the offense.

Florida Statute Section 827.071 defines child pornography as either:

  • Any image depicting a minor engaged in sexual conduct; or
  • Any image that has been created, altered, adapted, or modified by electronic, mechanical, or other means, to portray an identifiable minor engaged in sexual conduct.

This definition indicates that a person can be charged with possessing child pornography even if the image was created using technology. As artificial intelligence (AI) continues to become more prominent, it has changed the way offenders create, and therefore will change the way law enforcement investigates, alleged child pornography offenses.

This page will provide a local example of a person charged with possession of child pornography after creating the images, how AI could potentially create child sexual abuse material (CSAM), along with the challenges and current methods used by Florida law enforcement.

Case Details

Detectives with Hillsborough County Sherrif’s Office (HCSO) arrested a custodian with a local charter school after finding evidence of child pornography in his possession.

According to the report, HCSO detectives received a notification on August 21, 2023, which led them to the residence of 40-year-old Mark Jordan. After being questioned by detectives, Jordan admitted to creating and possessing numerous computer-generated images depicting child pornography. Jordan also admitted to deleting evidence from his cell phone while on the way back home to speak with the detectives.

Jordan has since been charged with the following:

  • 22 counts of Possession of Child Pornography, 10 or More Images and Content of Images;
  • One count of Unlawful Use of a Two-Way Communications Device; and
  • One Count of Tampering with Physical Evidence.

HCSO Sheriff Chad Chronister issued the following statement following the defendant’s arrest:

“It is a reprehensible betrayal of trust that someone employed to ensure the safety and work with children at a school would engage in such repugnant behavior. We will not rest until every corner of our community is free from the reach of those who seek to harm our most vulnerable.”

Is AI Generating Child Pornography?

Artificial intelligence (AI) is on the rise, but with the potential downside of providing programs capable of generating and distributing realistic images of CSAM.

One report identified how individuals are using evolving techniques such as editing a genuine image into a nude image. In one case, a 15-year-old posted a shirtless picture on an online network, which was later edited into a nude used to blackmail the teen.

Further, an analysis by The Washington Post claimed that AI-generated images or videos of minors engaged in sexual activity could disrupt the central tracking system that blocks CSAM from the internet. The reason is that the current system is only designed to detect known images of CSAM. This could cause an issue for investigations and police who as a result, spend more time trying to determine whether an image suspected of CSAM was real or AI-generated. 

Another article addressed how AI-generated photos rely on the likeness of real people of real children as its starting point. This is an issue of another form of abuse. Some believe that within a year AI will be capable of generating images that are indistinguishable from real images. However, this could be an area where AI could be used to distinguish the differences, therefore becoming an aid to law enforcement.

Study on Technical Challenges in CSAM Investigations

A 2020 study titled “Understanding Challenges and Facilitators in Investigating and Prosecuting Child Sexual Abuse Materials in the United States” explains that one of the main procedural challenges to investigating potential CSAM comes from the ever-changing technology. Further, participants in the study identified that their knowledge of technology was limiting due to its continuously changing nature. The following is a statement provided on technological issues:

“The technology is clearly the biggest thing. I mean there’s a new app, new program, new security, just about every day, let alone every month, or year. So as an organization…we’re always kind of playing catch up and trying to figure out what the next thing is.”

The prevalence of CSAM is increasing, with it being next to impossible to destroy the explicit content once it enters cyberspace. Any time CSAM is viewed, collected, or redistributed, the child’s abuse is perpetuated. Since there is little to no control over the continued sharing and public access, it becomes one of the most challenging aspects for alleged victims. Even years after abuse occurred, adults may still fear that the CSAM they were depicted in will reappear or become recognized by someone else.  

FDLE Cybercrime Office (FCO)

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) established the FDLE Cybercrime Office (FCO) in March 2023, to provide technological assistance to other law enforcement agencies who require assistance with cyber-related investigations.

The FCO’s mission is to help investigate complex cybercrime cases, disseminate information to the public, and work to identify potential cyber criminals to prevent any future cybercrimes. Example cases that the FCO handles include:

  • Network intrusions;
  • Denial of service attacks;
  • Child pornography; and
  • Other internet-related crimes.

One of the ways that FCO aids investigations is with their Evidence Collection for Technical Operations, with provides mobile digital field forensics. The mobile platform was created by computer experts to provide analyses of digital media. Some of the capabilities include:

  • Imaging of computer hard drives;
  • Forensic previews of computers and other digital media for files of evidentiary value;
  • Cloning of cell phones and tablets; and
  • Analysis of Wi-Fi networks.

To find out more about the training, research, or prevention by the FCO, refer to their page here.

Tallahassee Sex Crimes Defense Attorney

Accusations of possessing any form of CSAM should not be taken lightly. Sex crimes against children will be harshly prosecuted in the state of Florida. In addition to paying the statute-specific fines and potential prison sentencing, a conviction will also require you to register for life as a Florida Sex Offender. This can seriously impact your ability to work, where you can live, and your social status among friends and family.

While every case of alleged CSAM should be taken seriously to protect innocent children, there are ways in which child pornography can appear on your devices without your knowledge or consent. If you hire Pumphrey Law Firm to represent your case, we may advise working with digital forensic expert witnesses. An expert may be able to prove that the illicit content was downloaded through a computer virus or other means that were out of your control. To receive a free consultation regarding your case, contact Pumphrey Law at (850) 681-7777 or leave us a message on our website.

Written by Karissa Key

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