I always thought the "To Catch A Predator" type stuff was pretty ridiculous, apart from the obvious entertainment value. If they just want to embarrass people on national television, I have no problem with that. But none of those people actually committed a crime, they just had some potential 'intent' to do so. Now this drops the bar for 'intent' to vastly lower levels. You don't even have to get in your car and drive somewhere, you can have sufficient intent apparently just by clicking on a link. At any rate, this story combines three different aspects of the law that just completely piss me off.
1. The entrapment of people for 'intent' to commit a crime. Obviously there's nothing illegal about chatting with adults online. But if that adult lies about their age and claims to be under 18 at any point, then it suddenly becomes a crime of 'intent'.
2. The false assumption that IP addresses can be associated with specific people. You just can't. You can make a decent guess sometimes, but you can never ever be sure about it. If you have a wireless router in your house, then you REALLY can't tell who was using that IP address. It could be a neighbor, or just someone sitting in a car on your street.
3. The fact that anyone convicted of a crime like this will be continually harrassed by sex offender registration requirements and other restrictions for the rest of their lives. If you bash someone in the head with a shovel, you can serve your time in jail and move on with your life. Not so if you were caught chatting with an adult online who claimed to be younger than they were. You'll be treated as a social pariah for many years to come. You may not be allowed to continue your chosen profession, because it involves coming into contact with children. You may be forced to move, because your house is too close to a school. The cops might suddenly decide that you're not allowed to even be at your house on Halloween, because kids might come to your door. There's no end to the amount of abuse for anyone tagged with the term "sex offender", regardless of the circumstances. You're branded for life apparently.