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This week, our criminal defense team addresses one subscriber’s worry over Googling child porn.

The Question: Is googling child pornography illegal?

“I told a discord bot to Google “child porn” as a (failed) edgy joke, possible repercussions?
Location for bot is Maryland.

The title sums it up pretty well, I was in a Discord server that is home to a lot of edgy content and jokes in general, and on a whim I decided to tell the bot to search “child porn.” The bot returned an image of what I’m pretty sure was a mugshot of some really ugly guy, but that’s irrelevant. I knew in my head that because the bot just trawls Google images, that there was no way that it would ever conceivably post child porn.

I am now being told by multiple people that:

1. I am in immediate legal trouble

2. I should wipe my computer (this seems like a bad idea, as it makes u look like you’re trying to hide something, right?)

3. That I am now on some sort of FBI list

4. and that my local police station has been notified.

I don’t recall googling “child porn” ever being illegal, and in reality I never actually physically googled it.

I totally understand what I did was dumb, I get that, but I just wanted to make sure that I am not “gigaf#@cked” as someone put it. The way I see it, if police do show up and want to look thru my PC, they can have at it because I don’t have anything illegal on it.

Am I in trouble?”

The Answer: Googling the term “child pornography” is not illegal, but viewing or possessing any images or depictions of children in sexual situations very much is.

To state it plainly, googling a term is not illegal.

Search engines, such as Google, do not allow criminal activity to be easily searchable or found on their indexes. With it being illegal to view or possess child pornography at the federal level and in all 50 states, Google in turn doesn’t allow that material to be searched on their site.

However, there are instances where the phrase “child porn” would be used in digital content that itself was not pornographic in nature, so if you were to google “child porn,” you’d be shown various news stories about child pornography arrests, investigations, and attorney webpages. Additionally, this warning would appear at the top of your results page:

Since having child pornography in your possession is illegal, most illegal imagery is hosted on what’s known as the “dark web,” and is only accessible through anonymously encrypted browsers such as Tor, a browser notorious for being practically untraceable by law enforcement.

This doesn’t mean that child pornography is exclusive to the dark web, rather that it’s not easily found or searchable on a browser like Chrome, Firefox, or Safari.

No trouble will come from a simple search of the term “child pornography;” only the direct possession and viewing of material depicting children in sexual situations will.

Now, keep in mind that if someone were to be caught by law enforcement with child porn on a device, the authorities will conduct a forensic search of their browser history for terms that show intent to procure that illegal content, in order to strike down the common defense of “I had no idea that was on there.” So, there is a possibility that that search query of “child porn” could come back to haunt someone in the future.

To sum things up: your attempt at humor, while inappropriate, is unlikely to bring the authorities to your doorstep.

Anyone who’s contacted by law enforcement about child pornography – or any other alleged crime – should immediately contact an experienced attorney. Luckily, that’s where we come in. Our expert team can be reached at [nap_phone id=”LOCAL-CT-NUMBER-1″] or via email. Your first consultation is free.

Our automatic disclaimer: We’re lawyers, but not necessarily your lawyer, and do not represent the individual who asked this question. We’re providing this information for general educational purposes based on the publicly available information provided by the anonymous Internet user. Any number of details may change how this individual’s attorney may pursue this legal situation, differently from how we suppose above. If you have a similar question, then you should consult with a lawyer about your specific situation to get a “real” response!