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View Full Version : Court strikes down Internet porn law


Ned
03-22-2007, 05:11 PM
I personally think this was a good ruling by the court. While I think true porn sites need some kind of control to keep children out of the sites to the extent possible, I don't think that this law was technologically or practically well written. It was extremely vague to start. It would have added huge barriers to web sites with porn, but also to web sites which handle sexual health issues, art involving nudes, etc. which should not have difficult entry. At the same time the law almost completely neglected usegroups which have some of the "worst" porn (unbelievable stuff actually) which can be found anywhere, on and off the Internet. I think it would have had a very negative effect on the free exchange of ideas by adults on anything having to do with sex and sexuality. The law went too far in some ways, and was neglectful in others.

Furthermore, if I were the parent of a young child or teen, I would be much more concerned with chat rooms, Internet meeting places, personal blog sites and networking sites like MySpace, on the Internet, where sexual predators frequent, than worrying about the kids seeing dirty photos. Those kind of sites were unaffected by the law.

Finally, the biggest shortcoming of the law was that it only applied to web sites physically located in the United States. When it comes to porn, the vast majority of sites are hosted off shore, especially in eastern Europe, the Phillipines, and Southeast Asia (Thailand mostly), than in the US, making the law even more ineffective than most people would have believed.

Court strikes down Internet porn law
(http://www.cnn.com/2007/TECH/internet/03/22/internet.blocking.ap/index.html)
PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (AP) (Via CNN.com) -- A federal judge on Thursday dealt another blow to government efforts to control Internet pornography, striking down a 1998 U.S. law that makes it a crime for commercial Web site operators to let children access "harmful" material.
In the ruling, the judge said parents can protect their children through software filters and other less restrictive means that do not limit the rights of others to free speech.

"Perhaps we do the minors of this country harm if (free speech) protections, which they will with age inherit fully, are chipped away in the name of their protection," wrote Senior U.S. District Judge Lowell Reed Jr., who presided over a four-week trial last fall.

The law would have criminalized Web sites that allow children to access material deemed "harmful to minors" by "contemporary community standards." The sites would have been expected to require a credit card number or other proof of age. Penalties included a $50,000 fine and up to six months in prison...

clarkef
03-22-2007, 06:22 PM
I'm going to have to take the counter point

I agree that there are other issues such as chat rooms which need to be considered. However, the fact that a law does not address every instance or even the majority of an instance is not a good reason to strike it down.

However, I believe that a porn site is fairly easy to identify. Somehow every horny 16 year old male can identify a porn site, but yet somehow lawyers, legislators and jurists are unable to.

I don't think that a credit card is an unreasonable requirement.

My biggest problem with the law is that in the internet age, the entire concept of community standards needs to be scrapped as it is meaningless.

Ned
03-22-2007, 07:20 PM
Your counter point was fine except that I thought the court was right to strike down the law because it was vague and would have a chilling effect on valid free speech, not because the law was ineffective and didn't strike at the entire scale of the problem.

I also said I thought a law is needed, but I'd like to see a law that would be actually effective in combating porn accessible on the Internet by youngsters, unlike the law struck down. I pointed out that a law on porn photo sites which could only reach US hosted sites, would be largely ineffective.

In addition, I offered advice to parents of young children and teens that if I were them, I would worry a whole lot more about Internet attractions like usegroups, and social-networking sites like MySpace, than the access of dirty photos on web sites.

You're definitely right about "community standards" in the Internet age.

clarkef
03-23-2007, 05:14 AM
That brings up a good point. How do you regulate a porn site in Germany or Thailand, or elsewhere were the US does not have jurisdiction?

There are some back door approaches such as preventing the credit card from doing business with porn sites, or making internet porn charges unenforceable.

I'm still not convinced though about this chilling effect on free speech.

Kairho
03-23-2007, 07:30 AM
That brings up a good point. How do you regulate a porn site in Germany or Thailand, or elsewhere were the US does not have jurisdiction?

There are some back door approaches such as preventing the credit card from doing business with porn sites, or making internet porn charges unenforceable.

I'm still not convinced though about this chilling effect on free speech.
But we are America and we can control the world. Can't we? Aside from the free speech issue, I am not happy with us trying to regulate industries in other countries, regulating shipping (our Coast Guard is all around the world, not just in our own territorial waters), and even trying to impose political systems on other countries.

What I do like about this decision is that it puts responsibility back on to the parents, not on the providers and at least here free speech is being supported.

pezmanffx
03-23-2007, 07:51 AM
I think a safeguard is needed but it is almost impossable to regulate the internet. Laws are location specific and the internet is not. Why not look at this the other way around. How about some kind of control on public computers where children would have access. How about holding parents accountable if they don't take steps to monitor or control the content their under age children view? Don't we hold parents accountable when they provde underage children with booze?

Kairho
03-23-2007, 08:24 AM
Actually, it is possible to 'regulate' the internet, at least insofar as blocking access to sites originating from certain places such as countries. China does this on a grand scale, down to the domain level, but at great cost (like throngs of clerks surfing and blocking).

It could be done, but the downside (blocking legitimate sites, total cost to run the machinery even if automated, and the slipperiness of the porn operators) is huge and speaks against it from a practical standpoint.

pezmanffx
03-23-2007, 08:35 AM
Yes, to regulate it you would need something like a firewall for the entire country. It would be costly and not very practical. I also think that there is nothing wrong with porn when all party's involved are consenting adults.

Ships 'N' Trips Travel
04-08-2007, 01:38 PM
...when all party's involved are consenting adults.
the operative word there being the word "adult." :rolleyes: