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Don’t Click That! Understand What’s Illegal to View on the Internet

The Law Firm of Andrea M. Kolski

Are You Wondering What Is Illegal To Watch on the Internet in the US?

Illegal vs Legal

It’s no secret we live in a connected world. With over four billion global internet users, it seems everyone on the planet is linked via the World Wide Web. Internet, broadband, and high-speed data certainly have their benefits, but there is also a dark side to these rapidly evolving technologies. Many users are unaware of the illegal content and activities flowing through the very same networks they use every day. Like it or not, the internet has a dark side and it’s important to understand the very real dangers lurking just a few clicks away. In this article, we will cover the items that are illegal to watch on the internet here in the US.

Online sexual imagery, videos, pornography, and other illegal content can be easily uploaded and accessed virtually anywhere with an internet connection. While some may intentionally seek out this content, it’s not uncommon for innocent users to unknowingly stumble upon illegal content while online. Unfortunately, the consequences of these mistakes can be devastating.

The phrase ‘online activity lives forever” has never been more true. Whether it’s social media feeds or emails, everything you do online leaves a trail for others, particularly law enforcement, to track down. Few people realize that law enforcement agencies have the latest high tech at their disposal and are capable of hunting down virtually anyone accessing illegal content online. With some of the strictest laws in the nation, Texas law enforcement agencies are quick to arrest anyone viewing illegal content online — even if by mistake.

It may sound scary, but the dangers of crossing the legal line are very real and the penalties can destroy lives. Still, there is a lot of confusion about what is and what isn’t considered legal online. Read on to learn what is illegal to view on the internet and how to avoid breaking the law.


Torrenting is a type of file sharing conducted between different users on the internet. Torrenting usually involves a platform where one individual uploads illegal content, such as a copyrighted film or song, and others are free to download this material.

Torrenting has decreased in the last few years. Streaming powerhouses such as Netflix make entertainment consumption affordable and easy, preventing the need to download pirated material.

The legality of torrenting depends on what you’re sharing and whether you have the necessary rights or permissions to do so. While torrenting legitimate and authorized content is legal, engaging in illegal torrenting activities can result in serious charges and consequences.

Can you get arrested for torrenting? While torrenting is illegal, few arrests have been made. But there are repercussions, even if it’s simply a warning letter or restricted internet access.

Child Pornography

This may seem obvious but child pornography in any form is illegal. Child pornography charges and arrests happen every week in every part of the United States.

Child pornography is defined as sexual and exploitative actions featuring minors under the age of 17. This type of content includes both images and videos. Possessing both can lead to arrest and serious legal consequences.

Child pornography is a heinous and illegal activity that involves the creation, distribution, possession, or viewing of sexually explicit material featuring minors. Engaging in any form of child pornography, whether offline or online, is strictly prohibited by law in most countries, including the United States. The seriousness of these charges cannot be overstated, and they carry severe legal consequences.

Individuals can be arrested for viewing child pornography and may get arrested for merely searching for child pornography online. This also includes searching for such content on the “dark web.”

Authorities keep a record of search terms and track IP addresses that trigger certain keywords. If the search term appears in your browser history and cache, authorities may suspect you of watching child pornography.

Criminals For Hire

We’ve all seen movies or TV shows where a hitman is hired for a criminal job. Sadly, this isn’t just fiction. The dark web is known as the criminal world of the internet. This part of the internet isn’t indexed by search engines, giving users anonymity. This is why you’ll find many examples of criminal activity on the dark web, including hiring someone to conduct an illegal act on your behalf.

“Criminals for hire” refers to the illegal practice of hiring individuals or groups online to commit criminal activities on behalf of others. This includes a wide range of illegal activities such as hacking, identity theft, assault, cybercrimes, drug trafficking, and even more serious offenses like contract killings. Engaging in such activities is not only unethical but also highly illegal, both offline and online.

It’s important to note that law enforcement agencies take online criminal activity seriously, and they have various tools and resources to track down and prosecute individuals involved in “Criminals for Hire” schemes. Engaging in such activities is not only a violation of the law but also a dangerous endeavor that can lead to significant legal trouble and personal harm.

Hiring someone to hurt, injure, or do harm to another person is illegal. If law enforcement catches someone engaging in such criminal contracting, they could be apprehended and face significant charges.


Since 9/11, fighting terrorism has been a top priority for every law enforcement agency throughout the US. Meanwhile, the internet can be used by organizations and individuals looking to cause harm to the innocent. It can be used in any number of ways including spreading of ideas and connecting to individuals from all over the world. Unfortunately, dangerous ideas can be easily spread globally, potentially inspiring others to act out violently.

While searching for news articles or information about terrorism is usually ok, these searches can alarm the authorities and result in further action if they suspect these searches have the potential to do harm.

Certain online activities are closely watched by law enforcement along with certain suspicious groups. Activities that get the attention of authorities include joining online terrorist organizations, making threats, or encouraging others to engage in terroristic acts. Even some searches about weaponry or explosive devices could draw the attention of authorities. And even if these searches are legal, they still live forever on a server somewhere that could be dredged up at a later time.

Explosive Terms

One of the easiest ways to track down someone suspected of a terrorist attack is by tracking weapon-related search terms, such as making homemade explosive devices.

This is especially true if you’re searching for homemade bombs disguised as everyday items (such as a backpack).

Even if an arrest isn’t made, law enforcement can put you on their watch list and will track your IP address closely. You may even have law enforcement officials showing up at your door.

Modifying Weapons

While owning weapons such as guns are legal in many parts of the US, Certain modifications are against the law in some areas.

Bump stocks are the perfect example. They combine two different parts: a plastic stock and a firearm. The bump stock harnesses the recoil of a rifle to accelerate trigger pulls.

Searching for weapon modifications such as bump stocks can put you on a watch list. Weapon modifications can result in hefty fines and serious jail time.

Murder She Wrote

Not every search for murder will result in an arrest.

For example, let’s say you’re a fan of murder mystery films and novels or you’re searching for more information about a recent murder in your area. These usually aren’t a reason to put you on a watchlist.

But certain murder-related terms will alarm authorities. These include how to commit a murder, how to clean up after a murder, and other related terms.

Illegal Drugs

Buying drugs online is more common than you think. If you try to buy drugs online, whether on the surface or deep web, you’ll attract attention from the authorities.

Keep in mind, that searching for terms related to illegal drugs likely won’t put you on a watchlist. These terms include “how to detox from heroin” or “how many people use cocaine.”

But terms relating to finding or purchasing these drugs may raise alarm bells.

Another Individual’s Property Uploaded Without Their Permission

Did you know sharing another individual’s property online without their permission is illegal? “Property” can be defined as images, videos, and words. For example, it’s illegal to film someone without their knowledge and upload it online.

What if you view this content, not knowing it’s illegal? You might not get arrested — however, the uploader could face serious charges.

What Is Illegal To View On The Internet? BE CAREFUL

it’s ok to ask what is illegal to view on the internet. Some laws and rules are obvious while others may be questionable. For example, everyone knows viewing and downloading child pornography is illegal and will likely result in an arrest. But it’s important to know that even searching for specific terms can put you on the internet watchlist and potential legal hot water.

That’s why it’s important to be extra careful when on the internet. This includes viewing “free” or seemingly legal sexual content. Users may be unaware that minors were involved in the pornographic content produced and viewing such content is illegal.

If you or a loved one are facing charges involving online crime and need a top criminal defense lawyer, we’re here to help. Please contact us today for a review of your situation.

FAQ About What is Illegal To View Online

Can I watch adult content legally on the internet?

The legality of adult content varies by state, but generally, watching adult content with the consent of all parties involved is legal. However, explicit materials involving minors, non-consensual content, or revenge porn are illegal.

Are there any legal consequences for watching extremist or terrorist content online?

Yes, watching or sharing extremist, terrorist, or hate speech content online can have legal repercussions. Authorities monitor online platforms for such materials, and individuals engaging with them may face investigation.

What should I know about online gambling laws in the US?

Online gambling laws vary by state, so it’s essential to research and understand your specific state’s regulations. Engaging in unauthorized online betting or gambling activities can be illegal, so make sure you comply with local laws.

Is cyberbullying and online harassment illegal?

Yes, engaging in cyberbullying, harassment, or online threats can lead to criminal charges, especially when it involves minors. Many states have laws against cyberbullying and harassment to protect individuals from online harm.

Can I get in trouble for accidentally stumbling upon illegal content?

Accidentally encountering illegal content may not lead to legal trouble, but deliberately engaging with or sharing such content can result in consequences. It’s crucial to report any illegal content you come across and avoid participating in unlawful activities.

How can I ensure I’m watching content legally on the internet?

To ensure you’re watching content legally on the internet, use reputable and licensed streaming services. Avoid downloading or sharing copyrighted materials without permission, and be cautious about the content you access online to uphold ethical and legal standards.

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