In defense of Wal-Mart in the bath tub photos (a.k.a. child pornography) controversy
Wal-Mart has wreaked havoc upon a family in Peoria, Arizona. In a lawsuit first reported by Courthouse News Service, Lisa and A.J. Demaree seek damages for “defamation and outrage.” Because of Wal-Mart, the Demarees temporarily lost custody of their children, were placed on a sex offenders’ list, and Lisa Demaree lost her job as a teacher.
It all started with a trip to Wal-Mart to get their photos developed.
Of 150 photos on the memory stick, about seven showed the girls “with a towel around and in various portions of nudity,” Treon said…
as an “unsuitable print policy” by which it decides “(without telling the customer that it had this policy) whether any photographs supplied by a customer on a computer ‘memory stick’ contained nudity of a minor of any kind and, if so, Wal-Mart would then decide whether to turn those photographs over to the police,” according to the complaint in Maricopa County Court…
According to the complaint against the state, Wal-Mart reported the photos to the Peoria Police Department, then Arizona Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Hunter “published defamatory remarks to more than 35 family members and friends of plaintiffs, falsely stating that plaintiffs Lisa and A.J. Demaree ’sexually abused’ their children.”
In what universe are bathtub pictures mistaken for child pornography?
Wal-Mart ruined the lives of this family and will likely be paying them big bucks for it. But won’t anyone stand up in defense of Wal-Mart’s policy of monitoring photos for criminal behavior?
In an interview on Good Morning America, Lisa Demaree says:
“You need to have an awareness before you go to have anything printed or developed what the policies are… There was nothing that was displayed for us that someone would be censoring our photos at Wal-Mart.”
The Wal-Mart lab technician who mistook bath tub photos for child porn makes me worry about what’s in the water in Peoria. That misinterpretation of innocence for molestation troubles me.
But I’m not troubled by someone looking at photos being developed and raising a red flag when there’s something disturbing in them. Had these photos actually contained sexual abuse rather than innocent bathtime fun, this technician would be a hero instead of a laughingstock.
The episode reminds me of a scene from Robert Altman’s Shortcuts, a film tracing the intersections of nine groups of strangers in Los Angeles. One group goes fishing for the weekend and discovers a dead girl in the water at their fishing spot. Her body is included in the photos they take on the trip. Another group in the film is a couple — a make-up artist and his girlfriend. He practices his “beat-up-woman” make-up on her, and then takes photos.
When the two groups drop off their photos for development, they get mixed up. The fishing buddies get the photos of an abused woman, while the couple receive the photos of a dead woman.
Both are disturbed by the content of the photos. Yet, if I remember correctly, they just trade photos and everyone goes their own way at the end. I found that tremendously disturbing at the time.
If Wal-Mart were to develop photos and ignore scenes of sexual abuse, violence, and criminal destruction, that would be even more reprehensible than misinterpreting the innocent nature of a bunch of bathtub photos.
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