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Child porn arrests made in Rehtaeh Parsons cyberbullying case

Two 18-year-olds face charges of distributing child pornography for allegedly posting online a photo of a sexual assault of Nova Scotia teenager Rehtaeh Parsons. She killed herself in April after what her parents describe as relentless taunting. 

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A woman holds a photo as several hundred people attend a community vigil to remember Rehtaeh Parsons at Victoria Park in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, in April. Police said Thursday that they have made two arrests in the case of the teen who died after a suicide attempt, after a photo of her allegedly being sexually assaulted was shared online.

Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press/AP

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The arrests of two young men on child pornography charges, announced Thursday in Nova Scotia, bring renewed attention to the case of Rehtaeh Parsons, a teen who killed herself last spring after what her parents describe as relentless taunting prompted by the circulation of a photo of her being sexually assaulted.

The case, along with similar situations in the United States in which teens have circulated online images of sexual violence, has prompted soul-searching discussions across North America – and even new legislation – aimed at preventing such behavior.

Child pornography laws are not a perfect fit for dealing with such images, legal experts say, but they are one tool, along with laws against sexual harassment and cyberbullying, that prosecutors can use at their discretion to hold teenagers accountable and sometimes to impose education or counseling.

Rehtaeh’s parents say the assault took place in November 2011, and police originally brought no charges. Now police say that new evidence prompted more investigation in April and led to two men, now 18, being charged: one with making and distributing child pornography, the other with two counts of distributing. Because the men were minors at the time, they will appear in youth court, on Aug. 15.

Police say there was not enough evidence to bring sexual assault charges. The original police investigation is under review by the Nova Scotia government.

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