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Essay/Term paper: Computer pornography

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Information Technology

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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: 3)

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 standards."

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: 4)."

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

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: 51)."

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:

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 strangers.

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:

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 force.

Works Cited

BigGuy. Online Personal Interview. washington.dc.us.undernet.org/port=6667 (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.
(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.
(18 Jun.

GMoney. Online Personal Interview. washington.dc.us.undernet.org/port=6667 (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. 1996).

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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