The 'Send' button is forever.
That's what Saratoga County District Attorney James Murphy told a group of students, educators and parents at Shenendehowa High School on Monday, May 4, at a presentation geared at teaching about the realities and consequences of "sexting."
Sexting is the practice of sending racy or pornographic photographs via cell phone or the Internet. It's thought to occur mainly amongst teens and is increasingly becoming the subject of public scrutiny as more cases of sexting gone wrong pop up around the country.
According to one survey by the National Campaign, 20 percent of teens with a camera-equipped cell phone have sent or posted nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves, and the practice is even more popular among slightly older age groups.
It's "21st century flirting," said Murphy, whose office handles 30 to 40 sexting-type criminal cases per year, a number that has only increased over the years. With the prevalence of cell phones and their tiny cameras, teens are communicating in a more disconnected manner, sometimes with disastrous conclusions.
In a case in Saratoga County " Murphy would not say where " a high school girl sent a nude picture of herself to her boyfriend at his behest. Later, in the heat of an argument, he forwarded that image to friends in an act of retaliation.
Soon the image was on the Internet, and it was picked up by a pornography site in Holland. It then proceeded to bounce around the globe, hitting almost every continent and visiting dozens of computers within a single day. And after the image left the borders of New York and the U.S., the chances of ever recovering it became infinitesimal.
"It had devastating consequence for her," said Murphy, who added that the girl eventually dropped out of school from the embarrassment. "She pushed 'Send,' and it's gone forever. She can't get it back. I can't get it back."