After threatening the Communications Decency Act with a vetos of the past versions, President Bill Clinton signed the bill into law on February 8, 1996. 1 Before hand, congress approved the largest change of the nation’s communications laws in 62 years. One of the largest controversial topics included in the bill is the censorship of pornography, which now is a strenuously enforced crime of distributing knowingly to children under 18. The congress overwhelmingly passed the bill with a landslide 414-16 House vote and a 91-5 Senate vote.
It seems now that the wide bill might not be what it racked up to be, as it stands now, anyone who might upload James Joyce’s Ulysses could be placed in jail for two years and have up to a $250,000 fine. 3 Representatives of on-line services industries were concerned about the bill, and feared they could be held criminally responsible for Internet conversations. 4 “We face a unique disturbing and urgent circumstance, because it is children who are the computer experts in our nations families,” remarked a concerned Rep. Senator of India Dan Coats.
Although in reality, censorship would do little to stop the pornography problems. The bill is a nation legislation trying to control a international network, which is virtually impossible. According to the First Amendment, Americans were granted to write anything they please, whether it’s indecent or not, several series of judicial decisions also helped the freedom down the road. 6 Nebraskan Democrat James Exon, put together an informational binder known as the Blue Book to show the Senate about the goings on within the Internet.
Along the pages of the Blue Book were pictures of people bound and being burned by cigarettes, people pierced with swords and people involved in sexual ctivities with animals. 8 The Senate, acknowledging their ignorance of the Internet, passed Exon’s proposal after seeing the pictures in the Blue Book. 9 Along with distribution of pornography, a person carries the chance of two years in prison and a $250,000 fine which is a good reason to restrict much of the flow. 10 The Internet is extremely massive, filled with usenet newsgroups, web pages, IRC channels, ftp sites, gopher sites and much more.
The Internet is the last and largest frontier of uncensored speech, anything from friendly chat to child porn to bestiality goes on. Pictures of anything that can be imagined are most likely available to the searcher. Some estimate that over 30 million people are on the Internet. On IRC(Internet-Relay-Chat) a live time conversation can be held along with trading files from illegal computer game trading called warez to illegal picture trading goes on. ‘Cybersex’ is also a occupance that happens more in live chat areas then others.
MUDs or Multi-User-Dungeons, live chat like IRC was first started for Role Playing uses like online Dungeons and Dragons, now among the MUD servers there are sexual MUDs for people interested n S&M along with other fetishes. Usenet newsgroups account for 11. 5% of total Internet traffic and is a major distribution of smut pictures. 11 The WWW also known as the World Wide Web is today’s largest portion of the Internet as well as the fastest growing with well over 12 million pages accessible. Despite its gargantuan proportions, it still remains fairly clean from hardcore smut comparative to its size.
BBSs seem to be the major uproar of censorship, although BBSs are NOT part of the Internet, many of their pictures found in them later become available to users via someone uploading them. 2 Electronic Bulletin-Board Systems(BBSs) require a user to dial that computer directly thought the phone lines resulting in long distance charges and often monthly access fees. In late December of 1995, a prosecutor in Munich struck a devastating blow to Compuserve and the larger picture of freedom of expression. 13 This prosecutor was able to prevent the flow of information for 4 million people in 140 countries.
By merely informing Compuserve that it was breaking Baravian law by giving German residents access to sexual newsgroups, Compuserve removed any ewsgroup that had titles with “sex”, “gay”, or “erotic” which in turn denied access to not only Germany users but all its users. 15 On June 12, 1996, three federal judges in Philadelphia, PA, ruled that the 1996 Communications Decency Act violated the First Amendment to the Constitution. The panel comprised of three dedicated judges Stewart Dalzell, Dolores K. Sloviter, and Ronald L. Backwalter.
They voiced their opinion about the censorship and say that the bill is unconstitutional. The panel believes that the Internet must be protected since it is an important form of expression and free speech. The judges enacted a restraining order preventing enforcement of the unconstitutional act. “It’s virtually impossible because of the global nature of this communications device. It would mean monitoring every phone call , which is impossible to do,” stated David Ellington, the C. E. O. of NetNoir. “My boss supports First Amendment Freedoms, but is also supportive of protection of decency,” the legislative assistant to Rep. Ed Towns (D-NY), Khalil Munir responds. 17 “As the most participatory form of mass speech yet developed, the Internet deserves the highest protection from overnmental intrusion,” judge Stewart Dalzell offered. 18 Dalzell believes that the Internet is a good place which allows its users the largest environment for free expression and speech.
Dalzell assure that the Decency Act is not required to protect children from pornography. The July 3 report, “On a Screen Near You: Cyberporn,” was based on a Carnegie Mellon University study. Led by student Martin Rimm, researchers said they found more then 900,000 sexually explicit images and text files online, but neglected to point out that most came from privately owned adult bulletin oards with no connection to the Internet. After hitting the newsstands, the magazine quickly found its way to the floor of the U. S. Senate. Sen.
Charles Grassley (R-IA) asked to have the entire article entered into the Congressional Record in support of his bill S. 892, the Protection of Children from Computer Pornography Act of 1995. “There is a flood of vile pornography,” Grassley told fellow senators, “and we must act to stem this growing tide, because . . . it incites perverted minds. “ In a seven week period the Smithsonian Institution’s web site gathered a total of 1. 9 million visits, and in a seven day time during June, Playboy took in 4. 7 million visits.
Most of the pictures available on the Internet were at some point in time scanned from a magazine or other places which photos as such are found. Many private BBSs do business in taking free photos to scan for people then keep a copy of the picture for their site. Pornographic images only represent about 3% of all messages on the Usenet newsgroups although Carnegie Mellon found that 83. % of Usenet newsgroup pictures were pornographic. 22 The Usenet itself is extremely small compared to other portions of the Internet and only consists of 11. 5% of overall traffic.
The Carnegie Mellon team surveyed 917,410 sexually explicit pictures while doing their research on the Internet. 23 98. 9% of the online porn seekers are men according to private BBS operators, the same operators which require fees to gain entrance. 24 Researches say that even though the 83. 5% of images in usenets were pornographic that still only represents less the one-half of one percent of all traffic on the Internet. 5 Only nine out of 11,000 Web pages contained anything obscene yet Time still said, “There’s an awful lot of porn online. “26 “ is a safe space in which to explore the forbidden and taboo.
It offers the possibility for genuine, unembarrassed conversations about accurate as well as fantasy images of sex,” said Carlin Meyer, a professor at New York Law School. 27 “It is clearly a violation of free speech and it’s a violation of the rights of adults to communicate with each other,” House speaker Newt Gingrich shared. 28 In a Time/CNN poll conducted by Yakelovich Partners, 1000 people were involved nd 42% were for FCC-like control over sexual content on the computer networks, but 48% were against it. Towns supports the effort which Reps. Christopher Cox (R-Calif) and Ron Wyden(D-Ore) are working for.
Cox and Wyden encourage development of smart programs such as SurfWatch, which restricts access to files at home. The Cox-Wyden proposal would make individuals responsible for censorship, this would prohibit the governments interaction. Based on a poll takes in Black Enterprises 32% of those in the poll think the a new Internet governing body should control online services while another 32% say the users hould followed by 16% saying a private enterprise should, and 15% saying none should, then lastly 6% believe the government is the right system for the job. The MIT media Lab’s Webhound project allows World Wide Web users to assign a number which rates each Web page seen. Webhound can then point someone toward Web pages of their own interests.
The Home Net project which started February and goes until June 1997, gave computers to 50 Pittsburgh families and monitors their use. Out of 157 people surveyed, less then 20% viewed anything sexually oriented more the twice. 0 “Places that provide erotica on the Internet are wild about the idea of voluntary ratings, they don’t want to sell to kids,” Nathaniel Borenstein the designer of Kid Code stated. The government itself is the largest buyer of pornograp! hic magazines in the form of sales to military bases and also requires sex education on children in public schools. A new development being worked on now is Kid Code. This would allow a rating system for each web-page, the user then would be allowed to set the ratings of the pages allowed to their children.
Other protective programs are also vailable such as The Internet Filter, which sends e-mail to the parents if a child enters a sex site. Cyber Patrol is time sensitive and allows restraint on certain times of use and total time online can be set by parents not wanting their kids be on the Internet all day instead of doing their homework, or not allowing them to be on after 9pm. 34 SurfWatch comes with a list of sites containing sexual material that may not be changed.
With CyberSitter, parents can add to the menu to unwanted sites but not remove any. 35 SurfWatch denies access to sites such as Hustler automatically, it also restrains newsgroups ith words like “porno”, “xxx”, or “sex” in their topic. Microsystems Software’s CyberPatrol program filters 12 content subjects such as sex, violence, and hate speech, then parents can add sites to a “CyberNet” list. 37 Indecent material is protected by the First Amendment, much of the materials printed in America including articles from Cosmopolitan magazine or James Joyce’s Ulysses could be called indecent. Many civil-rights groups were involved in calling the bill unconstitutional and prevents the citizen’s rights to free speech and privacy. If the U. S. succeeds in censoring the Internet, hey will be in a position to mediate much more then just porn.
Anything they wished could be controlled such as private conversations to each other. Porn, sex, smut isn’t only found on the Internet, it can be found in books, magazines, films, television, music video, newspapers and many other places. People can walk into a corner video store and walk out with a pornographic video at only $4 a night. A team at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, conducted an extremely detailed study of online porn. 38 Some of their findings resulted in their conclusion in which the trading of sexually xplicit pictures is one of the largest recreational past times of Internet users.
At one unnamed university, 13 of 40 most frequently visited newsgroups had names like “alt. sex. stories”, “rec. arts. erotica,” and “alt. sex. bondage. “40 71% of sexual images on the Internet originally can from the thousands of privately owned BBS’s whose operators sell their contents at a mere $10 to $30 a month(long distance call not included), the largest of these take major credit cards and make up to an excess of $1 million a year. 41 The team found consumers in more then 2,000 cities in all 50 states and 40 ountries, also in China, where possession of pornography can be a capital offense.
The censorship of the Internet should be the responsibility of the child’s parents and not the governments responsibility. There are many options for a parent to use when restraining their child such as informing themselves better about what’s in the Internet and taking precautions before hand. The average adult with children on the Internet might very well likely not know as much as the child. Perhaps a reason people want the government to censor it is because they don’t ant to take the time it takes to learn about the Internet and find a private censor program.
A parent’s laziness is no reason to restrict others who enjoy spending their time collecting ‘indecent’ pictures or reading medical documents about sex. The government admitted to being Internet ‘dumb’ and not knowing of the goings on held within a person’s computer screen, when one person could be skimming for subjects like fantasy role-playing games, another person might be secretly trading child porn. With over 30 million users on the Internet, no one can guarantee that no pornography will stray down from someone.