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March 7, 2003 8:07 AM   Subscribe

I believe this is a blow for the First Amendment. Today, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the Child Online Protection Act. Also, read COPA's report online. In related news, the Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments regarding a law which requires "filters" to be placed on public library computers. Can any of these laws be written to satisfy constitutional requirements? Julie Hilden of Findlaw.con has already contemplated this issue. Will the U.S. follow Canada's lead by enacting similar anti-porn laws? Despite support in the U.S. for such laws, the Indianapolis model pornography law was struck down as unconstitutional nearly ten years ago. It seems even Canada is rejecting the Dworkin/MacKinnon point of view. Is there any middle ground in this showdown of liberty and equality? Which value should prevail? Are these values really at odds with each other?
posted by Bag Man (75 comments total)

 
I'm having problems parsing your statement. To me it looks like striking down COPA is a good example of protecting the first amendment. If COPA were held up and enforced it could be used as a sledge hammer to completely shut down any web sites that might publish materials that could possibly harm minors. Porn is the obvious one, but dissenting opinions could easily be construed as potentially damaging to children.
posted by substrate at 8:23 AM on March 7, 2003


substrate, I think you and Bag Man are actually in agreement. As am I. The only filter that belongs on library computers is MetaFilter.
posted by soyjoy at 8:30 AM on March 7, 2003


I'd have to agree with substrate.. I was looking for the law to be struck down, and view it as a re-affirmation of a strong Free Speach support in the country (regardless of the current anti-"anti-war" crap going on).
posted by rich at 8:31 AM on March 7, 2003


That's what I'm wondering. Did you read your own link? The court STRUCK DOWN restrictions on speech not strengthened them!?! How is this a "showdown of liberty and equality?" Liberty and equality go hand in hand and the court just upheld both!
posted by Pollomacho at 8:34 AM on March 7, 2003


I think we are just going to have a long list of statements of agreement for this post. I know I agree.
posted by dazed_one at 8:36 AM on March 7, 2003


To me it looks like striking down COPA is a good example of protecting the first amendment.

substrate, good point. But as the court was worried that protected information would be barred from adult viewing too. While I have no problem with intending to protect children, the effects of this law are unconstitutional. As the court asserted: in practice, the law made it too difficult for adults to view material protected by the First Amendment, including many non-pornographic sites.

How could such a law be written better?

How is this a "showdown of liberty and equality?" Liberty and equality go hand in hand and the court just upheld both

Not according to Dworkin/MacKinnon.

To them:

Liberty = Viewing anything one wants to view (including porn).

Equality = Redressing past discrimination against women by a banning porn. (This is their one their main arguments)

That's how the debate has been framed.
posted by Bag Man at 8:40 AM on March 7, 2003


(This is their one their main arguments)

Sorry, wanted to say "This is one of their main arguments"
posted by Bag Man at 8:45 AM on March 7, 2003


Equality = Redressing past discrimination against women by a banning porn.

Seems to me if they are going to redefine words to suit their own needs I might as well declare that Liberty now means, "free tacos for the first 30 callers." Equality means making all things equal or the same, in regards to people that means we give all people equal rights including gays and women and pornographers. I don't really care how a couple of Canadian politicians want to redefine words in the dictionary, Equality does not conflict with Liberty they are mutually uplifting. This decision is both a victory for liberty and for equal rights.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:49 AM on March 7, 2003


OK, sorry about that, I just read it as "this is a blow against the First Amendment".

Anyway, I don't really see how there are any technical means to prevent underaged people from accessing pornography. You can put warning signs that say "Don't click here if you're under the age of 18" and a youth can still click on the link and access the pornography. You can require credit cards to access pornography but kids can get their parents credit cards, some even have their own. Filtering software can't possibly keep up with the speed in which new domains pop up and most groups who make filtering software can't resist the urge to filter out other things they find questionable that aren't actually pornographic.

So, technically speaking preventing determined youths from accessing pornography is not possible. It's also impossible to find a definition for pornography that is acceptable for everybody. Any definition will be too narrow for some peoples tastes and too broad for others. How do you define pornography to prevent smut but not restrict the dispersion of information on pregnancy, venereal disease prevention, sexual abuse or homosexuality? For some people at least 3 of those 4 topics would be considered harmful to minors incidentally. From a social perspective there's no way to define pornography that doesn't restrict information to non-pornographic material.

The honest to goodness best way to make sure children don't view pornography is to make sure there is always a responsible adult present or at least who makes random but reasonably frequent appearances. At home this is mom and dad. At a library this probably means putting the monitors in plain view of the librarians desk.

Still, even with that kids will find pornographic material if they want to, maybe dad's girlie magazine stash or if worse comes to worse they'll make do with moms glamour magazines or the good old lingerie section of the Sears catalog.
posted by substrate at 8:52 AM on March 7, 2003


I believe one has to accept your arguments of Equality and Liberty in order to even understand your post, neither of which I seem available to do.
posted by four panels at 8:54 AM on March 7, 2003


Will the U.S. follow Canada's lead by enacting similar anti-porn laws?

The US can't, we don't have a clause in our constitution like this:

[Title 1] Guarantee of Rights and Freedoms
Section 1 [Limitation of Rights]
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

posted by Pollomacho at 8:58 AM on March 7, 2003


Is there any middle ground in this showdown of liberty and equality? Which value should prevail? Are these values really at odds with each other?

I think that The price of freedom is eternal vigilance is appropriate here; the statement doesn't just refer to Bad Guys Who Might Take Freedom Away but also to Good Guys Who Want to Protect Us From Ourselves. Liberty, true liberty is only possible in a culture of responsibility; one must be willing to do the necessary work of exercising self-control if one wants to maintain liberty. Once we decide that liberty = "freedom to do whatever we want" then we've lost true liberty - because we've become willing to take it away from others. Child porn necessarily involves the sexual enslavement of children, which is definitely a blow against liberty. A culture that produces the kind of people who are willing to produce child pornography hs already lost its freedom - when it agreed to teach its members that it was acceptable to expliot some members for the profit of others.
posted by eustacescrubb at 9:01 AM on March 7, 2003


Civil libertarian though I am, I can't see that adding filters to library computers amounts to a 1st Amendment issue. Libraries are under no obligation to provide Internet access. They do it as a public service. As such, they have the right to block whatever they see fit, especially if there's a chance that little Suzie can go in and look at donkey porn and then have her parents sue the city for emotional torture.
posted by vraxoin at 9:13 AM on March 7, 2003


vraxoin, it sure as hell is a constitutional issue. It's the government mandating that the filters be added, not the libraries deciding that the filters are a good idea. Most librarians are against the filtering so they're not even trying to hide behind the governments requests to make their personal decisions easier. They do not want to filter the internet.
posted by substrate at 9:16 AM on March 7, 2003


I believe one has to accept your arguments of Equality and Liberty in order to even understand your post

Sorry if I was not clear. These of course are not my arguments; they are the augments of Catherine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkim. I personally find their argument intriguing, but ultimately reject them. I have hoped the link to their views would help the discussion, and still do. There is plenty on the net outline their view, a quick google will do one good to learn more.

rich, I hope that it is clear that I support what the court did. Perhaps before insulting me you should read the thread more carefully, as well as, subsequent posts.

Child porn necessarily involves the sexual enslavement of children, which is definitely a blow against liberty.

No one here is supporting child porn; I hope that is clear. The state has a strong interest in protecting kids. The real question is: does that interest overcome the right to access material that is protected? And has the state narrowly tailored its laws to resolve such a conflict? The 3rd Circuit has said no, at least to second question.
posted by Bag Man at 9:16 AM on March 7, 2003


A culture that produces the kind of people who are willing to produce child pornography hs already lost its freedom - when it agreed to teach its members that it was acceptable to expliot some members for the profit of others.

eustacescrubb, COPA is about limiting the access of children to view porn. The decision to strike down COPA has nothing to do with the illegal status of child porn. Or maybe I mis-understood your comment.
posted by jsonic at 9:17 AM on March 7, 2003


Equality = Redressing past discrimination against women by a banning porn. (This is their one their main arguments)

Some porn opponents argue that pornographic material objectifies women's bodies. I've never heard anything about "past discrimination" though.

I think you'll find that the people behind these bills usually aren't feminists, however; they're conservative religious folk.
posted by hyperizer at 9:25 AM on March 7, 2003


What are we talking about here? 1) Stopping adult pornography? or 2) Stopping minors having access to adult pornography?

For 1), What about the liberty of the woman and/or man to allow themselves to be photographed in flagrante delicto and as a result make a little extra cash?

I've had several friends who have been involved in pornography. Some have regretted the decision, but none of them feels they were forced into it, and they all spent the money.

If they had been forced to do it, great--we have lots of laws for that. String the bastards responsible up.

And for 2), did I grow up in an alternate universe or something? All of my friends had some level of access to pornography--either through brothers/fathers/having friends who worked in corner stores etc, and this was well before the internet.

Adults have a right to see it. Adults have a right to sell it. And as long Adults keep exercising their rights in this regard, teenagers will eventually find it, regardless of how many laws are passed. The only folks I see in any position to minimize their exposure to it are.... their parents.

Did I hear a laugh? Well sheesh, if parents can't do it, how is the government supposed to?
posted by Swifty at 9:26 AM on March 7, 2003


Or maybe I mis-understood your comment.

Or more likely, I wasn't as clear as I could've been. We're talking about protecting children from porn, of which child porn is a subset. Thus, in talking about liberty as it relates to people's freedom to view porn, we're talking about people's freedom to view child porn, since it preys on children, which means we're also talking about people's freedom to produce child porn. That the law in question adresses only the possibility of protecting children from viewing porn (as opposed to be being made its objects) is kind of beside the point, since both pertain to the fpp's question about the tension between liberty and equality.

I'm saying that so long as we have a culture that finds the profit motive an acceptable justification for exploitation, we will constantly face laws designed to protect us from the effects of that meme. If we had a culture which did not find profit an acceptable justification for exploitation, then we wouldn't have to worry about too many people growing up to become pornographers, because most would recoil from the idea on the grounds that it was evil.
posted by eustacescrubb at 9:30 AM on March 7, 2003


Exploiting people for profit is the American Way, ya fackin' commie.
posted by jpoulos at 9:55 AM on March 7, 2003


Some porn opponents argue that pornographic material objectifies women's bodies. I've never heard anything about "past discrimination" though.

As the argument goes, objectifying women's bodies or showing women in subservient positions contributes to discrimination by fostering the idea that women are inferior to men. I have no problem with is idea in general, although the causal link is somewhat tenuous. While believing that women are inferior is totally wrong in my book, it's the not providence of a free society to enforce that idea by law, nor do I believe that speech should be banned for such a purpose. I think its ok for the government to enforce bans on employment and service discrimination (because that bans harmful action, not speech) and should take a pro-active role in woman's health care. However, the government should not tell one how to think nor go so far as to make otherwise protected speech illegal. Further, the Dworkin/MacKinnon doctrine violates several constitutional notions about state action and who has the right to define the scope of the 14th Amendment.
posted by Bag Man at 10:01 AM on March 7, 2003


glad to see copa struck down. whether or not it ever protected american children from porn i don't know, but one side effect of it was that, because my domains are located on a server in kansas and not in canada where the law wouldn't apply, it barred a lot of girls from joining my all-ages geekgirl-centric webrings and community. it's been a pain in the ass saying no to a lot of really talented kids.
posted by t r a c y at 10:07 AM on March 7, 2003


I don't really see how there are any technical means to prevent underaged people from accessing pornography. You can put warning signs that say "Don't click here if you're under the age of 18" and a youth can still click on the link and access the pornography.

And now, pray tell, do you distinguish between pornography and non-pornography? The web changes so fast that the only financially practical approach is to use automated filters. The filtering companies could employ thousands of human censors, and still not keep up; these firms have to automate. Setting aside the problem of defining where the boundaries around pornography are, filtering technology just isn't anywhere near there yet, despite what the Marketing droids of the filtering firms would have you believe. So far, nobody has found an automated filtering approach that doesn't mis-classify lot of non-pornography. Some of the examples that have made it into the press are unbelievably stupid: chicken recipes getting banned because they contain the word "breast", government web pages getting banned because they mention "pornography" in the context of discussing upcoming bills, resumes getting banned because someone graduated "cum laude". And then there's health information, full of naughty, naughty words. The filtering firms wave their hands and mutter about minor technical difficulties, but the truth is that filtering technology hasn't advanced much past handing a trained monkey a list of naught words and a rubber "BANNED" stamp.

Do you really want to live in a world where the information available in libraries has been reduced to whatever some stupid automaton has deemed to be safe for children?
posted by dws at 10:08 AM on March 7, 2003


I reread the article, substrate, and on second thought, I spoke too soon. As much as I dislike the idea of my daughter going into a library and looking at goat porn, I like slightly less the idea of the government bribing libraries into moralizing. I think the intention is right, but it smells a little too much like book burning at second glance. I would be thrilled if the library offered an under-17 bank of computers and then let parents decide whether or not children should be forced to use them. But I don't want the solicitor general telling me what my kid can and can't look at.
posted by vraxoin at 10:11 AM on March 7, 2003


Further, the Dworkin/MacKinnon doctrine violates several constitutional notions about state action and who has the right to define the scope of the 14th Amendment.

States do not have the right to define the scope of a constitutional amendment, that is the job of the federal judicial system and ultimately the Supreme Court. The constitution is the highest law of the land and supercedes all state laws and constitutions, last I checked, since Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Court House, no one was disputing that claim.

What confuses me is if say I wanted to do a blackface show or take some fem-dom pictures that's not depicting discrimination, but if I pay a woman for pictures of her breasts or I paint a nude I'm subject to Dworkin/MacKinnon (in Mass.)? There's your inequality. D/Mac is neither about liberty nor equality.

Sorry about the confusion Bag Man, now I'm starting to understand what you were talking about, but I'm still not sure about where the "blow to the 1st" comes in?
posted by Pollomacho at 11:43 AM on March 7, 2003


blow for the first amendment?
posted by tolkhan at 12:30 PM on March 7, 2003


Ah, is that it then, that was confusing me greatly! Makes more sense now, I guess I'm not used to seeing the word blow used FOR a cause, usually it is a blow to I think I need coffee, anyone else while I'm up?
posted by Pollomacho at 12:41 PM on March 7, 2003


*snicker* isn't this case all about a blow for the First Amendment? *snicker*

[/fark]
posted by Vidiot at 12:59 PM on March 7, 2003


Thanks tolkhan...I though for a moment I made a typo in the thread (I’m glad that I did not), which I have been known to do. When posting I imagined the 3rd Circuit throwing a boxing glove in the face of censorship advocates. As for what Vidiot said, you can use your own imagination for that....

What confuses me is if say I wanted to do a blackface show or take some fem-dom pictures that's not depicting discrimination, but if I pay a woman for pictures of her breasts or I paint a nude I'm subject to Dworkin/MacKinnon (in Mass.)? There's your inequality. D/Mac is neither about liberty nor equality.

Pollomacho, I couldn't agree with you more about Dworkin/MacKinnon. It’s not their ideas (fighting against discrimination is a noble endeavor) I dislike, but it's how they propose to implement them. In fact, I think MacKinnon is more of Nazi that anything else. There is a fine sometimes between using government to liberate and using government to oppress, and believe that the laws Dworkin/MacKinnon propose cross that line. This is the greatest irony/hypocrisy about their stance. They use the freedom to say what they want and to redress past wrongs by denying others the same freedom.

I also want to make the point that the causal connection Dworkin/MacKinnon make between porn and crime is fairly week. While there is some connection, I don't think that porn makes people rape and so on (its more like that those who rape also like to look at porn). In the end does porn degrade women? There is no question that is does. Does it cause rape? I not sure, but I'm strangely inclined to say no.

But then again, there is nothing wrong with a little tasteful donkey-midget-three-way-anal action at the end the day.
posted by Bag Man at 1:49 PM on March 7, 2003


now there's a tagline..
posted by Vidiot at 2:36 PM on March 7, 2003


>In the end does porn degrade women? There is no question that is does.

I think there's question about that. If you ask me, female porn causes me to appreciate the female figure. Why is that degrading, that porn allows me to appreciate something about women that normally one doesn't get the opportunity to?

The women in pornos usually are there because they want people to look at their bodies. Let me ask you: If you believe all porn degrades women, did Lolo Ferrari degrade women by just existing?

What degrades women is the removal of anything that allows people to appreciate them. Just like telling women they aren't allowed to vote degrades them, so does telling women they aren't allowed to show off their bodies.

Why would a rapist want to watch porno, anyways? It doesn't make sense. Rapists have a control problem, sex is only used as a device to force their control over a woman. Unless it's S&M porn, the women in the pornos I've seen are normally quite in control of the situation.

So, in conclusion, in my opinion porn actually aggrades women. It allows them freedom in showing off what they've got, and, more importantly, removes another now long past control men put on them. Plus it allows others to appreciate the womanly form. Everyone wins.
posted by shepd at 3:21 PM on March 7, 2003


> In the end does porn degrade women? There is no question that is does.

Eh? What? I fail to see how the fact that pornography is made, and exists, somehow degrades all of Womankind. If in fact there is no question that it does, please point me to a study/source that explains this.

I don't mean to be snarky, I'm just a little tired of the "Porn is degrading to women" thing. I mean, even if this could be shown empirically, what about gay porn? Doesn't that degrade men? Why wouldn't the two opposing sides of said degradation just cancel each other out?

If Porn is "degrading" to anyone, it's degrading to the women and men who choose to star in it. And, in compensation for this, they get paid money.
posted by Swifty at 3:53 PM on March 7, 2003


So, in conclusion, in my opinion porn actually aggrades women. It allows them freedom in showing off what they've got, and, more importantly, removes another now long past control men put on them. Plus it allows others to appreciate the womanly form. Everyone wins.

Shepd, despite the fact that I agree with your conclusion, your logic is bizarre. I like porn. The primarily male-run porn industry, I generally like less. The fact that one of the easiest [if not only] ways poorly-educated women can Make Money Fast is in the porn industry I like even less. However, letting free women do whatever they want with their bodies seems to be a good idea, and making porn-coercion and kiddie porn illegal also seem mostly okay.

As far as CIPA [the act being currently argued before the Supreme Court, not COPA] that act is doomed from the start by trying to ban all material in libraries in order to nominally protect one class of library users -- children. Most libraries offer filtered terminals for children. They also offer unfiltered terminals for adults. They even offer privacy screens so that librarians don't have to look at all the patrons' raunchy porn, which pleases many librarians.

The other main issue with CIPA is the language. They try to ban [or filter] material that isn't even legally defined. And they hold up library funds for non-compliance which just seems like bullying for a cause, not really trying to fix the problem. If filters were perfect, perhaps using them to keep kids away from porn is a social good. Since they're not, requiring them seems like a way to line vendors' pockets while not providing any actual protection for children. Remember, all the courts are trying to do is determine if this law is constitutional, not if its goals are any good.
posted by jessamyn at 3:59 PM on March 7, 2003


Hmm. I know of a perfect way to ingeniously 'filter' out objectionable information on the internet: Turn the computer off in the library, and use the card catalog to locate the books which may then be read.
posted by hama7 at 4:07 PM on March 7, 2003


Turn the computer off in the library, and use the card catalog to locate the books which may then be read.

Which, however, requires that the card catalog still be there. And worth using. Libraries that have switched to web catalogs often do two things: 1) cease updating the card catalogs; 2) remove same in order to make space for, well, more computers. The same goes for reference works like the National Union Catalog, which several libraries have simply thrown out in favor of WorldCat. (Much to the annoyance of academics like myself, I must add, since WorldCat overlaps the NUC but doesn't duplicate it. My own college library cheerfully admits to owning a microfilmed NUC, but my devotion to the life of the mind comes to an abrupt halt at several hundred folios poorly reproduced on microfilm.)
posted by thomas j wise at 5:13 PM on March 7, 2003


I wouldn't have a problem with the government banning hard core porn myself. Porn is more like a commodity than a communicative device. It doesn't add anything to the so-called marketplace of ideas--the primary justification for free speech in the first place. Besides, the government can already regulate advertizing. Why not porn as well?

I actually do take MacKinnon's views pretty seriously. Liberty and equality can be in conflict with each other, as is obvious to anyone who cares about civil rights. Every meaningful civil rights law takes away liberty in pursuit of equality. The Civil Rights Act, for example, takes away the liberty of hotel owners to choose who they rent rooms to in order to address racial inequality in public accommodations. Thus, to the extent that hard-porn porn does lead to a culture in which women are degraded and commodified, it seems perfectly reasonable for the government to do something about it.

As to the point about the problem of state action and the 14th amendment, I agree that it is a huge problem, practically speaking. But I think MacKinnon is arguing more from a normative persective (i.e. this is how it ought to be) rather than a practical persective. Also, there is some law out there suggesting that, in the context of civil rights, the government may have a 14th amendment duty to prevent private actors from doing bad stuff. Not that the current court would go anywhere near those (admitedly outlier) cases, except maybe to laugh derisively at them.

Interestingly, a lot of the porn out there actually is illegal under the current obsenity laws. It's just that the government isn't interested in prosecuting those cases anymore. (There was a facinating Frontline episode on this very issue.
posted by boltman at 10:13 PM on March 7, 2003


>Besides, the government can already regulate advertizing. Why not porn as well?

I don't enjoy rap music, either. It doesn't add anything to the marketplace of ideas, and since I don't like it (I believe the swearing contributes to the degradation of society), I have no problem with it being regulated either. Hell, ban it for all I care.

>Shepd, despite the fact that I agree with your conclusion, your logic is bizarre.

It always is. Maybe I should explain my logic better, since it's usually really abstract and stupid. Did I just say that?

Okay, I'll break it down to something more simple:

I believe that the human body is an artform itself. I also believe in the distribution of art to as many people as possible because I believe that means more people can appreciate it.

Therefore, looking at naked people shows your appreciation for them. And normally a positive appreciation of something is related to the improvement of society, not the downfall of it.

Catch where I'm coming from? :-)
posted by shepd at 12:07 AM on March 8, 2003


I don't think anyone is talking about pictures of naked people or even soft-core porn here. We're talking about the hard-core stuff.

As far as your analogy to rap goes, it doesn't really work because rap does generally express ideas, offensive as they sometimes may be. Porn is nothing more than a product. Yes, there are difficult line-drawing issues, but that can be said about almost anything in the law.

Without appealling to metaphysical concepts of liberty or slippery slope arguments, can anyone really provide a concrete argument as to why a society with freely available hard core pornography is a better one than a society without it?
posted by boltman at 12:37 AM on March 8, 2003


>Porn is nothing more than a product.

And there's the problem. That's _your_ opinion.

My opinion is that rap doesn't really express ideas. It simply mirrors all that is wrong in society. But just because I believe that doesn't mean I would tell anyone they can't listen to it.

It is (IMHO) wrong to force your opinions on others in an attempt to create a victimless crime (which is, in itself, wrong), and it seems that is exactly what these laws intend to do.

>can anyone really provide a concrete argument as to why a society with freely available hard core pornography is a better one than a society without it?

I hope what I just said is it. Society is better when people are not allowed to let their personal beliefs forcibly influence others unless a provable victim can be shown. Who is the victim when someone watches a hardcore porno? Jesus? Mohommed? Buddha? Because it certainly isn't the lady in the picture, who got paid for her time, and, at least if the porno was made in the US, wasn't forced to be in a porno, and I am sure the viewer isn't a victim (that is, unless they get sick watching it -- I'd say that's caveat emptor, though). In fact, there are many people that benefit from the porno. The person delivering it, the person watching it, the people involved in creating it, and the store that carries it.

So, there you go. No appeal to metaphysical concepts, and no slippery slope argument. Just an appeal to the original concept of law in most free countries. That no crime should exist where there is no possible victim. At least with speeding (the most victimless crime I can think of) one can suggest that by speeding too much you will lose control and kill others. I doubt one could find a way to use a hardcore porno to kill others, apart from beating them on the head with the videotape.

And even if society isn't better with the porno, does that matter? Does everything have to improve society to be legal? That's would be crappy. I mean, me having an escher picture in my room doesn't improve society, so therefore it is bad and must be banned. Bleh.
posted by shepd at 1:49 AM on March 8, 2003


Therefore, looking at naked people shows your appreciation for them.

Well, maybe not in a public library or in an elementary school classroom. Let's be honest: porn is not exactly "looking at naked people" as in viewing Michelangelo's or Reubens' artwork, also known as "appreciating the beauty of the human form" . Porn is porn, and it's just not appropriate for children.

If the 'filter' aspect is not possible, (as even the most cursory google search for "porn" shows) then limiting public use of computer use to those over 18 years old might be an idea. The movie ratings system may also be an option.

A nine-year old cannot rent a R-rated video, why should the internet be any different?
posted by hama7 at 2:28 AM on March 8, 2003


Who is the victim when someone watches a hardcore porno?

I disagree that there must be an identifiable victim before something can be regulated. Pollution generally does not usually create identifiable victims, yet nobody has a problem with regulating companies that pollute the environment because we have come to a consensus that we want to live in a society reasonably free of pollution.

Well, at the risk of sounding like Gen. Ripper from Dr. Strangelove, hard-core porn can be seen as a kind of cultural pollution that contributes to a culture in which women's bodies are objectified, fetishized and degraded. Violence and degrading treatment toward women is sexualized, etc etc. This, in turn, may lead some viewers of porn to develop unhealthy and even dangerous attitudes toward women (not to mention in many cases a psychological addiction to the porn itself). Banning it and going after the producers of it would go a long way toward entrenching social norms against it and would contribute toward creating a society that treated women as people rather than objects to be possessed by men.

Yes, all this is just my opinion. But the democratic process is supposed to be about exactly that--coming to a consensus about what kind of a society we all want to live in, based on everybody's opinions. Of course you do have to protect the rights of minorities, but I just don't see viewing hard core porn as falling into that category of essential rights that must be protected against a social consensus to the contrary.
posted by boltman at 2:43 AM on March 8, 2003


...teenagers will eventually find it.

Still, even with that kids will find pornographic material if they want to, maybe dad's girlie magazine stash or if worse comes to worse they'll make do with moms glamour magazines or the good old lingerie section of the Sears catalog.


You know, I always hear this as an argument against any kind of restriction on porn. It seems like it makes sense, but it doesn't.

When I was 12, in 1982, I obtained my first Playboy. It was given to me by an older kid, the son of some friends of my parents. It was an old issue, tattered and abused. I looked at it everyday for a week (I would guess) and then one day, it just never surfaced from its hiding place again.

I suppose if I really wanted it, I could have found it and enjoyed it again. If I wanted to take it even further, I could have tried to steal a new one from the local Crown Books. But I didn't, for whatever reason.

The difference today is, if a kid DOESN'T want to find porn, it doesn't matter. The PORN COMES TO HIM (or her). Pop-ups, exits, and porn spam are rampant.

The honest to goodness best way to make sure children don't view pornography is to make sure there is always a responsible adult present or at least who makes random but reasonably frequent appearances. At home this is mom and dad. At a library this probably means putting the monitors in plain view of the librarians desk.

Again, that sounds good, but it's just unreasonable... and you know it. A parent or adult can not be there every time the child is on the internet; every time the child checks his/her email.

And we're not just talking about Playboy type porn here. A Hustler was about as raunchy as it got for a 12 year old kid. But those were TOUGH to come by. The stuff that shows up in pop-ups and emails is unbelievably over-the-top. I probably wouldn't be too worried if my kid was going to see an occasional breast on the internet. But I DO NOT want him to see an asian girl tied up so violently that her breasts are engorged and purple with blood, blindfolded and dangling from the ceiling, while her mouth is stretched open by a couple of meat hooks, her face smeared with feces and 12 guys with masks on shooting off all over her.

If that shit just showed up in your mail box on the street or was slipped under the front door of your home everyday, or handed out to school children by some guy waiting for them at the bus stop, you would be enraged. This is exactly how we conservative religious folk feel about porn on the internet (although I am hardly religious).

So I hear ya when you say that the government shouldn't make that decision for us. In theory I totally agree. I agree that filters are all but useless. I can't agree that the total responsibilty be put on the parents, teachers, or librarians because that just isn't possible. what are we left with? What choices are left?
posted by Witty at 3:33 AM on March 8, 2003


>I disagree that there must be an identifiable victim before something can be regulated. Pollution generally does not usually create identifiable victims, yet nobody has a problem with regulating companies that pollute the environment because we have come to a consensus that we want to live in a society reasonably free of pollution.

If there is no victim, then how can it be "bad"? I can think of no crimes where there is no victim, although at times the victim is many times removed from the crime, and sometimes the victim is never actually victimized, there is always some sort of victim. Even with hated laws as the DMCA we have an intended "victim" to protect, the companies whose stuff this law is supposed to protect (hahahaha).

The victim of pollution are the people whose lives are affected by the crappy air (for example, asthmatics that have to go to hospital during smog times).

>But the democratic process is supposed to be about exactly that--coming to a consensus about what kind of a society we all want to live in, based on everybody's opinions.

That's true, but that's the downfall of the democratic process. It's because of democratic process that science in Kansas was outlawed. This is not a reason to suggest that democracy is a good thing, IMHO. It's one of the (very few) arguments against it.

I query you this: If I watch a hardcore porn, how does it affect you, boltman? Expanding this, how does this affect anyone not directly involved in making the porno part from possibly offending their belief systems?

Unless the porno was made in already illicit circumstances (which we already have sufficient laws to cover) then I just don't see the argument agaist such porno, apart from the "It's offensive" argument, which is weaker than a firestone tire on an SUV.

>Well, at the risk of sounding like Gen. Ripper from Dr. Strangelove, hard-core porn can be seen as a kind of cultural pollution that contributes to a culture in which women's bodies are objectified, fetishized and degraded.

This is exactly the argument made for any kind of censorship. And the counter argument is simple:

If the culture is so fragile that this "pollution" would destroy it, then it is fundamentally flawed to begin with, and as with anything that is fundamentally flawed, will die out no matter the level of protection afforded. I don't think society is that poorly designed, though.

>Banning it and going after the producers of it would go a long way toward entrenching social norms against it and would contribute toward creating a society that treated women as people rather than objects to be possessed by men.

Ahem, entrenching social norms? Don't take this as a personal attack, but that's the argument made by the Chinese government against religion. That religion perverts social norms and that the removal of all extreme religions from the country by any means necessary is the only way to cleanse it of evil.

>Violence and degrading treatment toward women is sexualized, etc etc. This, in turn, may lead some viewers of porn to develop unhealthy and even dangerous attitudes toward women (not to mention in many cases a psychological addiction to the porn itself).

So, let's say we take out the violence in hardcore porno, and replace it with something healthy, like a fruit fetish. Using the logic that tying A (violence) with B (sex) causes an addiction to A, replacing the A with fruit should cause all Americans to become slim, or at least full of fruit.

Sounds like a weight loss plan to me! And you wanted to ban hardcore porno... just think of the healthcare savings alone! Porn could be more valuable to America than curing AIDS!

Sorry if I took the wind out of those sails a bit... I do get a little mouthy on subjects like this. :-)

>If that shit just showed up in your mail box on the street or was slipped under the front door of your home everyday, or handed out to school children by some guy waiting for them at the bus stop, you would be enraged. This is exactly how we conservative religious folk feel about porn on the internet (although I am hardly religious).

A form is available at your post office to force mail porn to stop. Fill it out and the company will never contact you again (guaranteed).

[From here in by filter I mean whitelist, which is the best way to assure that only "age-appropriate" material is available on the 'net]

So, since the opting out of mail porn is optional and is keeping people happy, why not simply make such library filters available and totally optional. At most libraries kids are given cards as well as adults to borrow books. The parent simply asks the library to enable the filter for their child's card, and voila! Everyone wins! If you as an adult want the filter, then just ask!

This is how it works for movies, after all. My parents took me to see Robocop on it's opening day, thinking it would just be another robot movie. I was 8, IIRC. An usher came out to the lineup outside where I was with mom and dad, and suggested to my parents that the movie was inappropriate. Had my parents told him to go away, they would have let me in the theater (although, it seems, the laws say differently, I know under-18s that have been to restricted movies with their parents where I live).

Hell, I watched return of the jedi in the theater without being kicked out by anybody.

Having seen it a few years later (robocop), I was disappointed that I didn't see it on opening day. :-) Best movie ever made, bar none. I guess I have as bad taste in movies as I do in art, though.

BTW: I'm pretty sure that handing out porn specifically to minors would make you an accomplis should the minor seek more...
posted by shepd at 4:02 AM on March 8, 2003


A form is available at your post office to force mail porn to stop. Fill it out and the company will never contact you again (guaranteed).

You're missing the point. That's great that there is a form to fill out for snail-mail. How about one for the net? No? Not available for email? Hah, we all know what happens when you click on "unsubscribe". Snail-mail porn is relatively rare, while email porn is outrageous. Snail-mail porn is fairly easy to stop and can be reasonably controlled by a parent. Anything on the internet is NOT easily controlled by the parent. That's the point. In my first post, each example can be manipulated by an adult in an effort to help make the right choice for a child. When it comes to the web, those options aren't available... short of just not having the internet at home at all (which wouldn't help if it's also available at school, libraries, etc.).

BTW: I'm pretty sure that handing out porn specifically to minors would make you an accomplis should the minor seek more...

The internet does it all the time, indiscriminantly.
posted by Witty at 5:10 AM on March 8, 2003


A nine-year old cannot rent a R-rated video...

No, but depending on the library, they may be able to check one out [even though this is rarely the case, it is a weird side effect of the library bill of rights.] And this also brings up an interesting point in that MPAA ratings are entirely voluntary. The movies choose to put them on and the theaters choose to enforce them. There are no laws about this -- though there is a lot of pressure to comply -- it's merely an industry standard. Now the question is: is the library/porn analog having everyone agree that kids don't get to use computers [doubtful] or only in the company of parents [more likely] or only filtered [often] or with parents with filters [generally].

Then you have the next level of issue which is kids using the adult computers or otherwise seeking out racy/hardcore/raunchy material. The fact used to be that you could stop them by confiscating all Hustlers and generally making porn in the house difficult to maintain if not obtain. The issue now is that parents can't do that. Library studies have tended to show that if kids come across pornographic material when they are really young, they mostly ignore it and look for something more their speed [seriously] it's the older kids who are mure curious that worry people, and who might be seeking out sexual content before adults think the kids are ready for it but when the kids feel ready for it. Then what?
posted by jessamyn at 8:56 AM on March 8, 2003


Who is the victim when someone watches a hardcore porno?

First, I want to make clear that I'm not a dork or something. I like to look at porn, what guy doesn't?

However, there is a "victim" in porn if it teaches people that women are some how inferior. To some extent porn does, to some extent it does not. To the some extent that it's a healthy expression of sexuality, fosters a love of the human body or spices up a love life those are things which are all just fine. But at least in some instances porn can be degrading and hurtful, that's the only part of Dworkin/MacKinnon I buy into. But their ideas for a remedy are totally offensive to me. There are other ways to help women achieve an equal place in society without banning porn.
posted by Bag Man at 9:33 AM on March 8, 2003


"I DO NOT want him to see an asian girl tied up so violently that her breasts are engorged and purple with blood, blindfolded and dangling from the ceiling, while her mouth is stretched open by a couple of meat hooks, her face smeared with feces and 12 guys with masks on shooting off all over her."

Exactly.

I do not want my 12yr old daughter developing distorted ideas of her sexual role. Nor do I want my 10yr old son, when he starts becoming interested in looking at sex pictures, developing distorted ideas of what it is to be a man.

Their self-image is going to be influenced by their environment, and if their environment includes receiving spam email containing images of bizarre sexual practices, they are going to develop the idea that these practices somehow constitute normal sexual behaviour.

I don't want that for them. They deserve far better. And I deserve to have my parental wishes upheld, not arbitrarily thwarted by some bastard spammer.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:09 AM on March 8, 2003


I would like to point out that I surf the net many many ...well hell most of the day every day, (mostly for studying). I have no problems with porn what so ever. I have nothing against it personally. I however do not visit porn websites (have seen it...been there...done that...got the T-shirt...boring). I am forced to view all sorts of popups and such all the time like everyone else. I have NEVER had a problem with being forced to view popups or banner ads to porn sites. It just doesn't happen. Nor do I receive offers of porn in my email. It just doesn't happen. Now I have a boyfriend who uses this same computer to surf the net. He has his own email account. He does however have his email account flooded with such offers. Why you ask? Because he does visit porn sites. My point is Witty, if you are having a problem with this.....you yourself have been viewing such material and you are part of the target audience. Porn does "NOT" just come to you on the Web. You must seek it out.

I presume Witty that if you had your way...the Internet would be reduced to a G rating and we all would be surfing for Sesame Street. There is always going to be someone who is offended by something. "My word shouldn't Big Bird be wearing trousers or something?"

I do not feel that the world should be designed solely for the needs of children. There are people in the world like me who chose not to have children (a decision more people should make). I also do not appreciate having other peoples children's bad behavior forced on me in public (thats another completely unrelated issue though there is not much I can do about that). If someone wants to protect their children from viewing certain material that is their right. But do not infringe upon my rights to achieve that goal. If having separate computers for children in the library makes you feel better I would find no problem with that, just do not limit my access just to address your needs. I also pay taxes that fund that library and the education that your children receive for that matter. If for some reason I loose my ability to access the Internet from my home do not limit what I can and cannot view at my public library
posted by SweetIceT at 10:29 AM on March 8, 2003


if it teaches people that women are some how inferior. To some extent porn does, to some extent it does not

Darnit, Bag Man, that's an opinion and nothing more, please present it as such. You've said that twice, and both times made it out to be some sort of objective fact.

The idea that porn is degrading to women, seems to me, to assume a moral position on pornography itself. Whereas some moral positions are universally agreed to be useful--such as, murder--pornography doesn't as easily fit the mold due to the lack of a clear victim.

So, where's the victim? All of womankind everywhere ever? Just some women? How about women in other parts of the world who don't even know the stuff exists and are married to men who don't watch it in societies that already outlaw it? The woman who freely agreed, and got paid, to be in the video? I refuse to see a way that the mere existence of pornography has a direct relationship to the status of women in our, or any other, society.

The argument that porn is degrading to women seems based more on the concept that the consumer is actually an unwitting victim. You said yourself "if it teaches the people". So, the consumer, upon viewing pornography, will suddenly view women as objects and treat them differently. I suppose then, the idea goes on that if lots of men watch pornography, they will all be unsuspecting victims of this phenomenon, leading to a general decline in women's respectability on a societal level. Thus, the women actually become indirect victims.

But, that's the key, isn't it? The consumer as unwitting victim. Personally, since watching porn isn't ya know compulsory, that adult men who seek out pornography to look at for sexual gratification probably aren't actually going to be changed much by actually seeing it.

Pornography, or its existence, doesn't degrade women. Men who view all women as sexual objects do. Pornography is, in my opinion, a symptom of the problem for some men--not the cause itself.

I watch porn, I don't view women as sexual objects... has porn turned you into a man that does? It sounds like it hasn't... so... where's the victim of pornography?
posted by Swifty at 10:39 AM on March 8, 2003


Witty:

When it comes to the web, those options aren't available

Yes they are. I surf all day at work, everyday, without running across porn. Unless you go looking for it, 99.999% of the time you aren't just gonna run into it. Of course, this assumes kids won't go looking for it.

But, if they're actively looking for it, it's needs to be dealt with at the parental level, in my mind, because no amount of government intervention short of an outright ban is gonna stop it. Didn't stop me when I was a teenager, and I didn't even have the internet as a tool.

The internet does it all the time, indiscriminantly.

Yeah, and I don't like getting hog sex bukkake spam in my Inbox either. The focus here should be on outlawing spam--the one way kids likely are indiscriminately exposed to porn--instead of all of pornography.
posted by Swifty at 10:51 AM on March 8, 2003


SweetIceT:

1) Whatever your opinion is, fine. But there is NO place for porn in a library. Someone MAY be able to pull off some sort of "research" excuse, perhaps. But that's bull. Otherwise, none.

2) You don't know what 'my way' is at all. To presume that I'm THAT conservative that I want the internet to be G rated is rather insulting. I don't need extreme examples from the other side of the coin to understand your point - "My word shouldn't Big Bird be wearing trousers or something?".

3) I'm not asking, nor trying to infringe upon your right to do whatever you want with the internet.

4) Only a person who doesn't have kids carries this constant "my rights" attitude... children be damned. So quite frankly, YOU don't know.

5) You're a lucky woman that you manage to work the internet without ANY spam, without ANY offensive pop-ups. I can only congratulate you. But it's simply naive to believe that the ONLY way you will ever be exposed to porn is if you seek it out in the first place. A trusted friend sends you a link... BAM, porn. You sign up for some kind of service with your email address, they sell it... BAM, porn. For a long time, I too was pretty spam-free. But somewhere along the line, I messed up and now I'm riddled with it everyday. Not all porn, mind you, but some.

The point is, if you mess up one time, it's all over. And a kid WILL mess up at least one time.

Didn't stop me when I was a teenager, and I didn't even have the internet as a tool.

May not have stopped you, but it sure did slow you down. I'm not trying to ban porn, or stop it. But, I don't want it in my house or available at the library. The library doesn't let kids watch 9 1/2 weeks in the media room. Why should the internet be any different. If I don't want the Playboy channel, I simply don't order it. If I don't want Penthouse, I don't subscribe. I don't have to throw out my unwanted copy everyday I pick up my mail. But internet porn is just right there, a click away. A parent shouldn't have to be there for every click of the mouse.

You people are so used to just screaming "my rights, my rights". There has got to be some boundaries at some point. Parents can't set them all.

I also do not appreciate having other peoples children's bad behavior forced on me in public.

Poor you.
posted by Witty at 11:06 AM on March 8, 2003


Swifty, you can concede (as I do) that a social problem doesn't have readily identifiable victims and yet is still a problem that should be regulated. Clear-cutting forests doesn't cause specific people measurable harm, yet we ban it because we like having forests. Even the fact that it measurably harms loggers doesn't change the social consensus. Arsnic in the water supply doesn't have identifiable victims. We have no idea whether anyone has ever died as a result of the small levels of arsnic in the water. Yet we make homes, businesses and munipalities buy extremely expensive equipment to filter it out.

Of course, porn does have at least some identifiable victims -- the men who become addicted to it and lose wifes, girlfriends, jobs, and social status as a result of it. As for women being harmed by it, it should be obvious that the fact that there are some people that can watch it without being influenced by it does not prove that nobody is affected by it. I strongly suspect that many viewers are affected, although of course none would admit it, or even necessarily be aware of it.

Porn has no social value, does not contribute to the marketplace of ideas, is created by an extremely sleazy industry, has ruined the marraiges and relationships of many thousands of men, and probably (although not provably) negatively affects men's attitudes toward women and increases the amount of violence directed toward women. Plus, the internet makes it readily available to children (by the way, I've never visted a porn site in my life and I probably get 20-30 porn ads--many of then highly offensive--in my box a week). I'm just not seeing a case for keeping it around, if a majority of citizens want it banned.
posted by boltman at 11:21 AM on March 8, 2003


Witty: You people are so used to just screaming "my rights, my rights". There has got to be some boundaries at some point. Parents can't set them all.

It's against the law to sell cigarettes to minors, but I had loads of friends in high school who smoked--well, so did I actually. The problem is, as long as the stuff exists, determined children will get access to it.

The government is just not gonna be able to stop this, and this COPA law certainly doesn't stop it. And yes, interfering with "my rights" just to pay lip service to an idea is something I won't stand for. Even if this law were upheld, it certainly doesn't apply to sites anywhere else in the world, thus allowing a potentially highly slippery slope... what's next, adults have to give a credit card number to prove their of age to access any site not under the jurisdiction of US law?

And well, even then, a friend of mine who's a parent had a son that swiped his credit card a couple of times to sign up for porn sites. Since said friend, likewise, had used this same card for the same purpose, it took him a while to figure out there were extra charges on his bill. He asked if he could sue the website operator. Then he realized his son has "proved" his age, even if it was a lie, based on the appropriate laws, so no grounds for lawsuit. The son is now simply grounded from the Internet until he's 30.

Either way, I do think of the children--I would like to see a solution to this, I just don't know what it is short of an outright worldwide ban, and we're not gonna see that.

Now, if we wanna talk about children being exposed unintentionally, let's talk. I think it's a travesty that 12 year olds get raunchy spam, and further would agree that it's completely and utterly wrong.

For everything else, though, parents will have to be more involved and more informed, plain and simple. Television, when it first appeared, was jokingly referred to as the "electronic babysitter". The Internet is quickly becoming the Electronic Babysitter v2.0.
posted by Swifty at 12:04 PM on March 8, 2003


Darnit, Bag Man, that's an opinion and nothing more, please present it as such. You've said that twice, and both times made it out to be some sort of objective fact.

The idea that porn is degrading to women, seems to me, to assume a moral position on pornography itself


1) I did not state this as fact. It should be obvious that this opinion. At best it based anecdotal evidence, but I never stated as the result of an empirical study. I have qualified my critique of Dworkin/MacKinnon’s views with statements such "I believe" and "I think."

2) There is NO moral imperative at work here. I am looking no further than how many men treat women as nothing more sex objects and how our society reinforces the ideas women are not thinkers, not people, but things to used and abused as sex toys. I feel this is wrong, because people should be treated with respect and things that run counter that idea is degrading.

3) I will state again, I will that there are non-degrading uses of porn (as I stated before). I do not hate or take a stance all porn, but under stand that is some cases it can harm women in general.

If I was morally against porn, why would I post a thread celebrating a federal court down striking a law banning porn? That just doesn't add up.
posted by Bag Man at 12:13 PM on March 8, 2003


Boltman: Swifty, you can concede (as I do) that a social problem doesn't have readily identifiable victims and yet is still a problem that should be regulated.

I will certainly concede that in a highly complex world such as ours, such things certainly can and will exist, yes. However, I do think it's important that we find the correlation, lest we start outlawing things based on a perceived harm.

In the cases of porn addiction, there are victims--both direct and indirect, this I do likewise concede. But we have people who do unspeakable things with tiger and squirrel costumes and such in their bedroom, and I know of at least one relationship that's broken up because of this--they are the exception rather than the rule, and I think this needs to be remembered.

As I said in a post above, I think the real problem here is that some men naturally view women as sex objects, and for them, porn addiction is a symptom of this. For others, though, I'm just not sure I see the correlation.

Likewise, I'm not sure a majority of society actually wants porn banned--I do think a majority of society wants to protect children/teenagers from being exposed to it before they're mature enough to handle it responsibly. And this, I agree with completely.

My disagreement here centers rather around the fact that I don't see a way that this law, or other similar laws, will accomplish that though. The Internet is global. Even if the US bans porn, there is still a whole world of raunchy sites out there. Parents are the only people who can help here, even if that's unfortunate.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to put all the responsibility on the parents just because I don't wanna slow down my access to porn sites--I just don't see how it can work any other way.
posted by Swifty at 12:17 PM on March 8, 2003


As I said in a post above, I think the real problem here is that some men naturally view women as sex objects, and for them, porn addiction is a symptom of this. For others, though, I'm just not sure I see the correlation.

I think the problem reciprocal. However, I want to make clear no matter the harm, the law should not take an active role to combat this problem. It can accomplished by other means that don't violate the First Amendment.
posted by Bag Man at 12:28 PM on March 8, 2003


Bag Man: From a single post above
I did not state this as fact
but under stand that is some cases it can harm women in general

You just did it again. ;) I'm sorry, I know it sounds like I'm splitting hairs here, but I'm not. Either way, it's probably not really worth arguing about either way, since you said you meant it as an opinion. I just have too many women friends of mine argue this, and then get all offended when I won't concede that it's a known "fact".

If I was morally against porn, why would I post a thread celebrating a federal court down striking a law banning porn? That just doesn't add up.

I didn't say you were, I said the statement you were making seems to rest on a moral imperative and the idea that viewing porn makes men objectify women. I then, at the end of my post, said that your viewing of porn doesn't seem to have turned you into a bad man--why can we assume that it does it to others?

Some men are assholes with or without porn. I know a lot of really great men that still enjoy the titty bars and porn from time to time, though.
posted by Swifty at 12:36 PM on March 8, 2003


And by the way, definitely a good post, Bag Man.
posted by Swifty at 12:37 PM on March 8, 2003


>But at least in some instances porn can be degrading and hurtful, that's the only part of Dworkin/MacKinnon I buy into.

No problem, but I've said before, overindulgence in anything is harmful.

It's up to the user to control this, lest we start regulating how much water you drink, how much food you eat, and how much TV you watch.

Anyways, what swifty said is right on the button.

>Clear-cutting forests doesn't cause specific people measurable harm

It does, though. Greenpeace would argue that it increases global warming and therefore kills (insert arbitrarialy large number here) people per year.

>Arsnic in the water supply doesn't have identifiable victims.

People drinking it would be the victims. If the water is labelled "non-potable" then it doesn't count...

>We have no idea whether anyone has ever died as a result of the small levels of arsnic in the water. Yet we make homes, businesses and munipalities buy extremely expensive equipment to filter it out.


Because we know a larger amount will kill...

>Of course, porn does have at least some identifiable victims -- the men who become addicted to it and lose wifes, girlfriends, jobs, and social status as a result of it.

There are also conditions such as internet addiction. Would you suggest companies limit internet access to a maximum amount daily to protect people from themselves?

This is the same as the argument made for single occupant vehicles where the driver is expected to wear a seatbelt. Exactly who are you protecting from what? The person from themselves? That's your own job, not the government's!

>Porn has no social value

I disagree. Porn keeps us from treating women as many middle east countries would treat their women where the mere sight of anything more than a woman's eyes is offensive.

>does not contribute to the marketplace of ideas

Take a look around ya! How much advertising uses sexuality as a method of selling product? How many video games include some form of pornography? How many good books have a sex scene? It contributes mightiliy to the marketplace of ideas -- some would even go so far as to suggest it is one of the cornerstones of it.

>is created by an extremely sleazy industry

Only because certain people have forced it to be so. Plus there's the whole fact that people enjoy it so much more because it's "taboo". I mean, would something like tarot card reading or using a ouija board with friends be any fun if it weren't considered "sleazy"?

>has ruined the marraiges and relationships of many thousands of men

Men who clearly had psychological problems to begin with. A good couple would have already worked this out: Limits for pornography should have been clearly laid out before you got married. If the man or woman chooses to be unfaithful after that, you as the spouse should consider yourself lucky that you got out of the relationship before they were unfaithful with another person.

>and probably (although not provably) negatively affects men's attitudes toward women and increases the amount of violence directed toward women.

I've never hit a woman, but I do enjoy some pornography. Apart from S&M movies, which are a totally different bag of nuts, I've never seen a single video that encourages men to act violently towards women. Generally, if there were a stereotype, it would be that women are easy to convince to do all sorts of things. Any man who believes that to be true would find out differently in no time, though.

S&M movies are a little different, though, and as I have no experience in that culture, I can't make comment on such things.

>Plus, the internet makes it readily available to children (by the way, I've never visted a porn site in my life and I probably get 20-30 porn ads--many of then highly offensive--in my box a week).

Myself also. It is disturbing, and any filtering applied I would support, assuming it is optional. I know there are many parents who believe their children are mature enough to decide for themselves after 14 or 16.

The only way to go is with a whitelist. You gather a list of sites that are handpicked as kid-safe from a group of people, and simply make it so that only sites and emails on that list are accessible. Anything outside of that list would require parental supervision, which isn't all that different from the way things work today, anyways.

Heck, I'll even go so far as to suggest that my taxes pay for such a whitelist if it keeps all the anti-porn people in the world from affecting my rights! It already sucks enough that my government siezes physical porn at the border. Don't make it apply to ethereal things as well!

Keep the government's fingers out of my eyes!

>I'm just not seeing a case for keeping it around, if a majority of citizens want it banned.

A majority of US citizens were in support of slavery, as well, at a time... That isn't a good enough argument against porno, IMHO.
posted by shepd at 12:38 PM on March 8, 2003


Either way, I do think of the children--I would like to see a solution to this, I just don't know what it is short of an outright worldwide ban, and we're not gonna see that.

And that's where the evil lies. As tubular and amazing as the internet is, it is literally a life of it's own and envelops us all. So you're right, there is little any law could do. Banning porn outright is also an absurd idea. But that's why I'm NOT against some kind of attempt, on some level, to curb it's accessibility... to at least try. Why is it such a bad idea for people to just accept that porn is NOT available at the library, for example? What is so wrong with a government making it a "rule" that porn is something you're going to have to find somewhere else It's not like book burning or banning? There's nothing to learn from viewing porn. It has no place there.. or at school, etc.

Another problem you have is the technological/generation gap. Until there people who "grew up" with the internet become parents, there will be a void there where parents feel rather helpless in keeping tabs on the internet habits of there children. I was already over 18 by the time the internet as we know it came out. But if I wasn't, my parents wouldn't have had a CLUE how to monitor it. and I don't blame them.
posted by Witty at 12:46 PM on March 8, 2003


{grammar, punctuation, preview much?}
posted by Witty at 12:54 PM on March 8, 2003


Why is it such a bad idea for people to just accept that porn is NOT available at the library, for example?

I think it's more a matter that the federal government is involved in mandating this. Personally, I'd be creeped out if the guy next to me was surfing bukkake porn while I was doing a research paper down at the library, however, the filters the government is forcing upon the libraries are far from perfect.

I think that's the key here, Witty. I doubt anyone is saying folks should be able to pull up hard core porn at the library for "casual viewing purposes" [cough], they just don't want the libraries to be forced to install filters that are likely to stifle unrelated free speech on AIDS, prison rape, breast cancer, etc etc.

The rational argument to this is that people doing research on these issues should request the filter be turned off--but, frankly, say I was a terrified gay 16 year old looking for legitimate sites to help me deal with coming out or self esteem, I might give up before risking the embarrassment of asking the library lady to turn the filter off for me. Especially since, as a 16 year old, I'd likely have to explain why I wanted to filter turned off in the first place.

The libraries want to, and will, control internet access through policy, instead of just being forced to cast a wide net. Even without laws of this nature, they're still not gonna let 14 year old boys huddle around a computer and surf porn.
posted by Swifty at 1:09 PM on March 8, 2003


Witty- No one ever said that pure out and out porn belonged in a public library. Apparently you have missed some of the previous comments. If filtering takes place (to presumably protect the children) then some sexual, though, non pornographic material will be withdrawn as well. My point about the G rating was merely presented to point out...who decides what is pornographic, (hence the big bird comment)...everyone has differing tolerance levels. You also mentioned

"Only a person who doesn't have kids carries this constant "my rights" attitude... children be damned. So quite frankly, YOU don't know."

I never said children be damned...but you are apparently saying because you have children and they need protecting...my rights be damned, as after these restrictions are placed in the public libraries, I may not be able to read Lady Chatterly's Lover or find out the latest statistics on sexually transmitted diseases because a banned word or image may come up. I also stated that I see no reason not to have separate computers for children's use that could be monitored.

I have one question though, have you done some research into how this kind of filtering is technically accomplished? Take a look at how corporations are currently handling it. I think if everyone understood the details about how this currently takes place they would agree that its not an appropriate way to handle the situation on the library level. Also, sorry Witty if I insulted you with my method of getting my point across. I actually love children and that is why I chose not to have them myself and why I point out that far too many do that should not. People with children, do sometimes forget however, that there are other kinds of people in the world and since you have children "YOU don't know".
posted by SweetIceT at 1:12 PM on March 8, 2003


But if I wasn't, my parents wouldn't have had a CLUE how to monitor it. and I don't blame them.

Yep, couldn't agree more, and this is a huge problem. I've got a younger brother, and my Mom asked me how the internet knows he's only 14 and keeps him from getting on porn sites and stuff. I told her it didn't, and I pointed her to a Cyber Sitter like program and explained that A) it's not gonna be 100% in blocking everything, and B) there are legitimate sites that it will block as well, so if he asks to have the filter disabled temporarily, don't go nuts on him.

If she's going to let him have unrestricted access to the internet, it needs to be viewed as risky in and of itself unless she wants to sit there with him while he surfs.

She's lucky, though, as she's got me as a cheat sheet--most parents out there likely don't have an Internet Systems Architect as a son to ask these kind of questions. And, as such, most parents let their kids get away with all sorts of unfortunate things on the internet.

I just, like I was saying, take issue with the idea that the as-yet-proposed solutions will actually help at all, and further, will likely only give the uninformed parents a false sense of security.
posted by Swifty at 1:18 PM on March 8, 2003


I'm not saying your rights should be damned. What I am saying is that you should give a little. You're an adult. you have the ability as an adult to help yourself get any and all the information you need, from multiple places. A kid can't necessarily. The library is his/her only shot. As an adult, I don't why you ("you" in general) have to take a selfish stance and bring your right into it. Just know that porn in the library is filtered, sometimes causing legitimate sites to be wrongly filtered as well. Know that there are better places to surf the web. If the library can not provide you with the quality of internet access you desire or need, then look for it elsewhere. It's not the only option.

The filters are indeed flawed. But so is my new car. That doesn't mean they shouldn't make a car unless it's absolutely 100% problem free. The filters will get better over time. Sure, they might block some material that wasn't intended. But that's why the library has multiple media sources.

Why can't the government mandate it? Why is that so bad? What's the big fear? Why can't that just be something you get used to and accept? I just don't get that point of view. If it's policy, it's ok. If it's law, it's the government infringing on your rights? YEA... at the library. I would agree that filtering content at the ISP would be wrong.

I don't think it's quite the slippery slope that you fear. If you want to read Lady Chatterly, then check it out.

I don't have children. So I do know. And I care for my nephew often, so I know that too (perhaps not as well, but good enough to what's good for him).

I just, like I was saying, take issue with the idea that the as-yet-proposed solutions will actually help at all, and further, will likely only give the uninformed parents a false sense of security.

They may not, but at least it puts the issue on a path. Right now, there is no path... it's just out of control. Uninformed parents are doing any good right now anyway.
posted by Witty at 1:36 PM on March 8, 2003


BTW Witty - Lady Chatterly was merely used as an example to cover all types of literature that may be deemed pornographic on the Internet Filter level. I did not mean that book in general; only that quality reading material of that caliber, that might be found in books currently available on the shelves in libraries, would also not be made unavailable to me on the Internet. Sheesh... of course I could check that out... To me this is far too close to book banning to be a real alternative. The way this technology works, I may not be able to read medical information because the words penis or vagina may be included. I may not be able to view Michelangelo's David or even images less provocative then that, as this kind of technology would scan for any type of naked flesh regardless of its nature. Is that what you want? This is what I meant by the G rating. I wish a Network Admin would chime in and explain just how all this works on the corporate level. My only true knowledge is from research for an Ethics class and if I am wrong I would most humbly apologize. But from my understanding, it is a slippery slope.
posted by SweetIceT at 2:14 PM on March 8, 2003


I completely agree that the technology, as it exists, is flawed. But it will get better. Of course I don't want legitimate material being wrongly filtered. But if SOME of it is, as a result an attempt to make the internet (at a library)more "user friendly" for all, then I think it's worth the risk. Slowly, the technology will improve and less material that shouldn't be filtered will cease to be.

Yes, some material might be blocked because it has the word 'penis' in it. If it were my filter, I wouldn't block the word 'penis', for that very reason... risking the chance that some porn may get through. I may block it if it were found in conjunction with, 'huge cock', 'schlong' or whatever. I wouldn't block vagina. I may block pages with vagina AND cunt AND pussy on them. It's not perfect, but what is?

I know you used that book as an example. I was merely replying that, if there is a book you want to read, check out the book, if it's not available online. I mean, you're taking every possibility to the extreme, coming up with possible exceptions rather than looking at the overall picture. If someone needs information on vaginas, the internet is not the only source. Hell, I graduated from college without the internet.

The key is, the person in charge of filtering has to have a friggin' brain. Not always easy to find.
posted by Witty at 2:29 PM on March 8, 2003


The key is, the person in charge of filtering has to have a friggin' brain.

Or a right-wing agenda, not always easy to find.
posted by Bag Man at 2:40 PM on March 8, 2003


Or a right-wing agenda, not always easy to find.

Wanted to say: Or does not have a right-wing agenda, not always easy to find.
posted by Bag Man at 3:20 PM on March 8, 2003


Looks like we have a volunteer.

The only agenda I have is wanting to do the right thing (I often fail). If you need to stick me into some category to make you feel more comfortable, then have at it. But if hoping to create an environment for children that's a little less fucked up than the way things are now is right-wing, then I'm proud to be a part of it. I'll wear the badge with pride.
posted by Witty at 4:49 PM on March 8, 2003


>I may block pages with vagina AND cunt AND pussy on them. It's not perfect, but what is?

I have a book that I was given as a child by my parents who had a tough time discussing sexuality with me as they came from repressed families. It discussed pretty much all issues young kids would have on sexuality, and one of the pages explained the list of words commonly associated with sex.

That book would be blocked by any filter trying to pick up on language.

And, of course, this page would be blocked, thereby ensuring that the discussion of underage pornography rights is limited to those whom the discussion doesn't directly affect. And thus, the 1984 scenario that all people like me blather on about when confronted with censorship is complete.

The majority of blocking software isn't done by keyword, although that is an option. From my personal experience, the keyword filtering will cause a false positive for about 25-30% of all sites I visited. It is done by blacklist, however. If your site is reported as having porno on it, the site is added to a giant blacklist and you are blackholed. Since most of these reporting services are really lazy at checking, a concerted effort by slashdotters got Microsoft listed at one of the reporting sites as having "criminal skills" on their website. :-)

>But if hoping to create an environment for children that's a little less fucked up than the way things are now is right-wing, then I'm proud to be a part of it. I'll wear the badge with pride.

What's so fucked up about kids lives right now? 100 years ago parents were forcing what we now consider child labour on their children, and were making girls feel worthless if they weren't popping out babies by the time they were 18. Kids today live in a panacea devoid of "nasty" stuff, which, unfortunately, often leaves them unprepared for later life.

It is a parent's job to decide when their child is growing up, not the job of the government. If it were the government's job to decide, my parents would have faced charges for letting a minor read that book. Thank God they had the choice. As a generally outcast kid in high school, it was information I wasn't likely to gather from the schoolyard.

BTW: Before you suggest the government (aka the people) would never try to stop me reading such a book, read the reviews. Fortunately, while some might not think I can write coherently, I was reading at a university level when I got that book, and the entire thing made a hell of a lot of sense.

But heaven forfend that some right-wing religious nut might think my parents should have been protected from being such "horrible" parents by banning the book from my eyes instead!
posted by shepd at 6:21 PM on March 8, 2003


"But there is NO place for porn in a library. "

Define porn, please, because in my local library, porn is at 779.28 MAD  (Madonna's Sex book). It's also at FICTION BES (Best of American Erotica, 2001 and 2002 editions). And FICTION NIN (Anais Nin's Little Birds).

In some people's minds, this stuff is the rankiest pornography. Yet it's in my library. What say you?
posted by five fresh fish at 7:22 PM on March 8, 2003


(I wonder is some sort of Bayesian filtering would do the trick? "Cunt" would certainly be a blocker if it also appears on pages with "verification" and "credit card", while it probably wouldn't be a blocker the surrounding text included "rash" and "doctor."

For this to succeed, someone would need to go through a whole bunch of sites and classify them as ham/spam. I suspect one could do this as a sort of SETI-style project, so that no one person would be entirely responsible; rather, one would tally the results of a hundred people's votes on any given site, thereby getting a "societally acceptable" vote.)

and i just noticed that 'rankiest' was supposed to be rankest, in the post above. preview? what preview?
posted by five fresh fish at 7:38 PM on March 8, 2003


But if hoping to create an environment for children that's a little less fucked up than the way things are now is right-wing

This sems to be the underlying assumption of the right wing's "family values" argument. Accordingly if one is on the left, one does not care about helping children. I know, it must be that if you oppose the war you want to hurt kids in Omaha, Nebraska who live in a spilt level home and have 2 cars and go church on Sundays. Please...and while I'm on the topic, politicians shamelessly use the "I'm for kids" argument as b.s. straw man. I know Bush is for kids because he stole their funding. And what shepd said.
posted by Bag Man at 1:22 PM on March 9, 2003


You're right. I'm really against porn in libraries because God told me so. When you get a chance, please visit my website wild-cherries.com. Thanks!
posted by Witty at 11:50 AM on March 11, 2003


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