An Arlington man’s blog aimed at adults with pedophilic interest in little girls was taken down this week.
Some legal experts say the man, 45, was in dangerous territory when he took pictures of young girls at public events and then posted the photos online.
“He’s playing with fire,” said Neville Johnson, a privacy attorney based in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Although the site apparently violated no criminal laws, it clearly offended sensibilities and became the topic of national news programs Friday.
The man could not be immediately reached for comment Friday.
For parents of children featured on the site, learning that potential pedophiles were viewing photos of their children has been unnerving.
“It’s absolutely horrifying to know that your child has been targeted by a child predator,” said one parent whose 4-year-old daughter’s picture showed up on the site. The Herald is not naming the parents.
On the blog, the Arlington man shared tips for pedophiles on how to gain access to children. He took photos and recounted local events including A Taste of Edmonds, the Stanwood-Camano Community Fair and Mountlake Terrace’s Tour De Terrace, describing how many girls he saw.
In an interview Thursday, he admitted to KIRO-7 that he is attracted to underage girls.
Network Solutions, the Virginia-based company that hosted the Web site, took down the site Wednesday.
“Our legal department determined (the site) violated our acceptable-use policy and the site was suspended,” said Susan Wade, a company spokeswoman.
Snohomish County sheriff’s deputies have been aware of the man for years.
“We’re very offended by this site, and it’s disturbing to us,” sheriff’s spokeswoman Rebecca Hover said. “But there’s no evidence of a crime.”
In general, taking photographs in public is protected under the U.S. Constitution, legal experts said.
“Just because something is creepy, especially on the Web, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a violation of a particular law,” said Kyu Ho Youm, a First Amendment professor at the University of Oregon in Eugene.
Even so, the use of the photographs does raise privacy questions, he said.
“There’s an unexplored area in the law dealing with photographs taken of minors without their parents’ permission,” said Bruce Johnson, a media attorney with the Davis Wright Tremaine law firm in Seattle.
No judge has ruled on a case with the same issues, but there likely would be an argument that a child’s privacy deserves protection, particularly from sexual predators, said Neville Johnson, the privacy expert from California.
He said laws in other states more clearly protect the use of photos taken in public.
The parent whose child’s picture was found on the site said she’s much more cautious taking her daughter to public events.
“Unfortunately, for most people they probably don’t even know their child is on this site,” she said.
Law enforcement authorities contacted the family about the child’s photo several months ago.
The mother said she was relieved Network Solutions took the site down.
“I wish it would have happened sooner,” she said. “My fear is that he’ll find another host.”
Reporter Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3437 or jholtz@ heraldnet.com.