Such laws are perfect examples of grandstanding legislation, i.e., laws enacted because they sound and feel good. Sometimes these laws are described charitably as “well-meaning.” I disagree with that nice sentiment because these laws do not truly address a problem. They are not designed to do so. They are designed to let politicians capitalize on voters’ fears about a problem. That is not well-meaning. And (again) “mandatory reporting” is a prime example.
Such a law is about to go into effect in California. Here is what California psychotherapist Leslie Bell has to say about it in a Washington Post op-ed piece:
” . . . the law falls short on three fronts: First, it will not protect children from either the production or distribution of child pornography, which is its intent. Second, it violates therapist-patient confidentiality and decreases the likelihood that people will get the psychological help they need to stop accessing child pornography; if the goal is to undercut production by reducing demand, the law will likely have the opposite effect. And, third, it conflates desire with action.
There is little evidence to suggest that consuming child pornography causes individuals to commit sexual abuse.”