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Computer pornography

Congress shall make no law respecting an

establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free

exercise thereof or abridging the freedom of

speech, or of the press, or the right of the people

peaceably to assemble, and to petition the

Government for a redress of grievances.(Wallace:


A statement from a document that a group of

individuals put together to ensure their own ideas and

beliefs would never change. The group of people was

the forefathers of the United States of America and that

document: The United States Constitution. That phrase

was put into the Constitution because our forefathers

wanted to protect their freedom of speech. Something

they cherished and something that in days previous was

squashed by ruling government. Today our freedom of

speech is in danger again.

The Government is now trying to censor what

ideas go onto something we know as the Information

Superhighway. The Internet is now supposed to be

regulated so that it will be "safe" for everyone to enter.

The Government passed a law known as the

Telecommunications Act of 1996. In the TA there is a

part called the Communications Decency Act or CDA.

This part of the bill arose because of the recent surge of

pornography on the Infobahn. The CDA criminalizes

indecent speech on the Internet(Wallace: 1). The CDA

describes indecent speech as anything "depicting or

describing sexual or excretory acts or organs in patently

offensive fashion under contemporary community


First take the word "indecent". This word is used

because of its vague definition. Not only does this word

ban sexually explicit materials, it also bans sexually

explicit words too. If this were applied to the real world

some of the greatest novels would be taken off the

shelf. For example there is the great lesbian novel The

Well of Loneliness by Radcliffe Hall. In that book there

is a line t hat states "And that night, they were not

divided." Clearly that would be a sexually explicit

phrase(Wallace: 2).

Now the words "depicting or describing". The word

"describing" translates into anything with pure explicit

text. That would include any book converted and placed

on the Internet with outspoken words or phrases. This

goes against the first amendment. Henry Miller's Tropic

of Cancer and James Joyce's Ulysses would not be able

to possibly be posted online(Wallace: 2).

"Sexual or excretory acts or functions": This

would relieve anything from sleazy bestsellers to 19th

century classics, such as Zola's LaTerre and Flouber's

Madam Bovary, to nonfiction books on disease, rape,

health, and sexual intercourse from our shelves. This

phrase is again unconstitutional(Wallace: 2).

Another phrase in there is "Patently Offensive".

This is very subjective. These words mean that a jury

can decide on what is offensive and what is not

(Wallace: 2). If there is a very conservative jury you get

a very conservative verdict, but in the same respect if

you get a very liberal jury you get a liberal verdict.

Would that be considered a fair trial?

And last "Contemporary community standards".

There is an easy example to understand under these

words. In 1994 two California sysops [system

operators] were found guilty of putting offensive

material on their BBS [Bulletin Board System]. Their

BBS was accessible by people all over the world as long

as whoever wanted the information called the California

number they had setup. Someone one day out of

Memphis, Tennessee called the number and found

something disturbing to themselves. The two sysops

were convicted because of the community standards in

Tennessee not the ones in California(Wallace: 3).

There is no reason to treat the electronic and

written word different especially because of the big

conversion(Wallace: 3). More and more often people

are looking to the Internet to do reports and research. It

is one of the biggest resources in the world today. If the

TA bill stays in effect many of the books listed will not

be downloadable. Mark Managan co-author of the book

Sex states, " A law burning books by Miller, Joyce,

Burroughs, and Nabokor might also protect children who

might get a hold of them, but would be completely

unconstitutional under the First Amendment (Wallace:


In 1994 a United States survey showed that

450,000 pornographic pictures and text files were

accessible on the Net around the world and that these

files were accessed more than 6 million times(Chidley:

58). This is one reason why the government passed the

CDA. The Government rationalizes the CDA because of

two reasons. One, the protection of children. Two, they

claim it is constitutional because the Internet is like a

telephone or TV and can be regulated.

The protection of children is not an issue the

Government should handle. Proponents of the CDA have

completely forgot that a credit card number is needed

to be given to an ISP [Internet Service Provider] to get

connected to the Net(Wallace: 4). Passwords may be

added security. Parents let their children "veg out" in

front of the TV all day so of course you would figure

that those same parents are going to let them surf the

net when they want to(Bruce: 3).

Donna Rice Hughes, formerly with Sen. Gary Hart

but now a born again Christian and President of Enough

is Enough!, anti-pornography on the Net organization,

states, " Any child can access it . and once they've

seen it, it can't be erased from their minds(Jerome:


First, modem communication on a phone line is

just static. A computer, modem, communications

software, and Internet access is needed. This a child

cannot purchase. Second, there are many securities on

a computer so that a child cannot access certain parts

of the home system(Lohr: 1). If the parent is responsible

enough they should know more about the PC they

purchased than their child. Third, This quote sums up

the biggest argument: " And it is not as if cybersurfers

are inundated with explicit images. Users have to go

looking for the images in the unorganized and complex

network, and even need special decoders" to translate

what is written into a file(Chidley: 58).

Jeffery Shallit associate Professor at the University

of Waterloo in Ontario and Treasurer of Electronic

Frontier Canada, an organization devoted to maintaining

free speech in Cyberspace, says, "Every new medium of

expression will be used for sex. Every new medium of

expression will come under attack, usually because

of." the previous sentence(Chidley: 58). If the

regulation passes there will just be another way of

getting around it. One example is encryption. This is a

form of false information sent to another person via the

Net and translated on the other side. As Internet pioneer

John Gilmore once said, " The Net interprets censorship

as damage and routes around it(Barlow: 76)."

I decided to try "trading" myself and was startled

when I completed two online interviews with some

known traders. The two persons "nicknames" I talked to

were GMoney and BigGuy.

First I needed to get on the chatlines. I downloaded

a program called MIRC [My Internet Relay Chat]. This

program is free. It downloaded in a matter of minutes. It

was very easy to setup and before I knew it I was on an

IRC channel. If a child new of this program it would

have been very easy for them to access the channel I

was on. The channel I was on was called !!!!SEXPIX!!!!.

The side bar noted: " All the pics you want from horses

to grandmas. " I decided this would be a good place to

start. Inside the channel there were 27 other people.

You can talk to each one individually or talk as a whole

if you like. It's like sitting in a circle in a room full of


The first of the two interviews I did was with

GMoney. I first asked how often he traded pictures. He

said usually once or twice a day. He told me he tried to

do it fast so his mother wouldn't catch him. So I

immediately asked how old he was. He replied, "13/M I

guess I shouldn't be doing this but I just think these

things are cool. Once I started I can't stop now. People

are so f_cked up it's unreal." I then asked why he

traded and he responded, " I think its just to see what

screwed up things are really going on." I also asked if

he would try anything he saw in the pictures. He wrote,

"God no you see what goes on. I would never do any of

that weird sh_t. Now some of the things I see being

done to girls. I think I'll enjoy... I don't think that's

that bad though."

The other interview with BigGuy was not much

better. BigGuy was a 25 year old female. She said that

her husband was the one who usually did it and he ran a

web page with pornography on it. When asked what she

thought of the CDA she typed," It's ridiculous how

could anyone think that censorship could stop the

trading of pornography on the Internet." I later asked if

they some how had a check to see if minors would

access their web page. She responded," No I wont let

him. We have a theory. We ask for their email address.

They must have one. We then email them and tell them

the password to get into the board. We figure that the

children won't let us email them in case their parents

find the letter. It's not fool-proof but it stops some of

it. "

The CDA hits smaller ISPs harder that the larger

ones because of the different types of users on each

system(Emigh: 1). The bill has good points and bad

ones. Steve Dasbach, Libertarian Party Chair, states

that, " This bill is censorship. This bill threatens to

interrupt and curb the rapid evolution of electronic

information systems. This bill isn't needed. This bill

usurps the role of parents("CDA: LP calls new bill `high-

tech censorship'.": 1)."

Clifford Stoll, a renown Internet scientist and

author of the 1989 bestseller The Cuckoo's Egg, when

asked "Are you concerned about the abundance of

pornography on the Net?" said:

Well, I can't get worked up over it. Some people

say, `Oh no, my kid just downloaded this image

that has explicit sex in it.' Yeah, sad to say, it's

true. Sad to say that just like every place in

society, there are reptiles who will exploit children.

Certainly, the child molester will find a way to use

the computer networks to find victims-just as

child molesters take advantage of cars and ordinary

roadways to get around. But the concerns with

cars and roadways go deeper than simply the fact

that child molesters use them(Chidley: 59).

The computer industry describes the CDA as

unconstitutionally vague and it subjects computer

networks to more restrictive standards than any form of

written work such as books, magazines, and other

printed materials(Chidley: 59). When it comes to

anything basic ethics are broken everyday whether it be

in business, on the Internet, or in your own home

(Lester: 1). There will always be someone who finds a

way around the rules. The CDA, as written, gives no

guidance but instead tries to ban Internet pornography

(Wallace: 1). As stated by Steve Dasbach, "The

Communications Decency Act is a case of 20th-century

politicians using 19th-century laws to control 21st-

century technology("CDA: LP calls new bill `high-tech

censorship'.": 1)."

Two easy cures for this unorganized, uncensored,

uncontrollable Internet are: First, Promoting the use of

child safe Internet Service Providers and second, the

use of local screening software(Wallace: 5). The

Government should not be responsible for censorship. If

so they must do it as a whole and this would be

unconstitutional. Eliminate the problem by choice not by


Works Cited

BigGuy. Online Personal Interview. (20 Jun. 1996).

Bruce, Marty. "Censorship on the Internet." Censorship on the

Internet. 1996. <>

(29 Jun. 1996).

"CDA: LP calls new bill `high-tech censorship'. " Libertarian Press

July 1995. <

decency.html> (29 Jun. 1996).

Chidley, Joe. "Reality Check." MacLean's 22 May 1995: 59.

Chidley, Joe. "Red-Light District." MacLean's 22 May 1995: 58.

Emigh, Jacqueline. "Computers & Privacy - Telecom Act Hits ISPs

Hard 04/02/96." Computers & Privacy. 02 Apr. 1996.


_550.shtml> (18 Jun. 1996).

GMoney. Online Personal Interview. (20 Jun. 1996).

Jerome, Richard and Linda Kramer. "Monkey Business No More."

People Weekly 19 Feb. 1996: 51+.

Lester, Meera. "What's Your Code of Ethics?"

_VJF_Library_Career_Resources: What's Your Code of

Ethics? 1996.

<> (29 Jun.


Lohr, Steve. "Censorship on the Internet: Pre-emptory Effort At

Self-Policing," New York Times 13 March 1996, sec. C: 3.

Wallace, Jonathan and Mark Mangan. "The Internet Censorship

FAQ." The Internet Censorship FAQ. 1996.

<> (29 Jun.


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