STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
A video that went viral in Denmark three years ago is now the basis for a wave of prosecutions. More than 1,000 young people, many of them teenagers at the time, are now charged with the distribution of child pornography. Sidsel Overgaard reports from Billund, Denmark.
SIDSEL OVERGAARD, BYLINE: The video shows two 15-year-olds engaged in sexual activity at a party in 2015. The two boys who filmed it were prosecuted several years ago, but now, 1,004 young people who shared it on Facebook Messenger face charges that could haunt them for years. One of the defendants is Mira Bech, now 19 years old. She told Denmark's TV2 that it seemed everyone was sharing the video at the time.
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MIRA BECH: (Through interpreter) The video was just spreading all over the place, and people wanted to see what it was. So they were writing to each other, will you send it to me? And then suddenly, I had it too.
OVERGAARD: In the fall of 2017, Facebook became aware of the video and notified authorities in the U.S., who then passed the information to the Danish police. This case may be playing out in Denmark, but Tania Dethlefsen with the Danish Family Planning Association says it could be happening anywhere.
TANIA DETHLEFSEN: A culture of young people spreading videos and photos of each other without consent and without being fully informed and aware about the consequences is a global phenomenon.
OVERGAARD: Dethlefsen's organization is trying to change that by making digital rights a part of Denmark's annual sex ed campaign, which happens to fall this week. As a teachable moment, the timing could hardly be better. On Monday, the first defendants in the sex video case appeared in court. Prosecutors say they want to set a precedent for the many trials still to come. The first few convictions have resulted in suspended prison sentences of 10 to 40 days, but perhaps more seriously, their conviction on child pornography charges means these young people will be prohibited from working as teachers or coaches for at least 10 years. But Dethlefsen says it's important to make a statement.
DETHLEFSEN: This is illegal. It's illegal to destroy other people's lives by spreading material in an intimate situation without consent. It's illegal.
OVERGAARD: Teens are unlikely to stop sharing photos and video anytime soon, and Dethlefsen says that's why society needs to make the rules clear. She predicts that unless teens and adults start talking more openly about the importance of consent when sharing images on social media, this will only be the first of many similar cases to come. For NPR News, I'm Sidsel Overgaard in Billund, Denmark.
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