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Porn, it’s everywhere! Go to any major search engine and you are well on your way to viewing some of the finest cyber porn around. No age verification, no credit card required, all it takes is just a couple of clicks on the mouse. But wait a second, why is it so easy, was it always like this? Not really, as we have seen, the Internet and the pornography industry have come together to make quite an explosion that has brought many issues to the surface.
It’s a scary fact to realize that 83.5% images available on the Internet are pornographical. And it is even more of a problem when the Internet’s pornography is available to curious children that happen to bump onto them. One of the more drawing freatures of the young Internet was its freedom. Its “… a rare example of true, modern, functional anarchy… there are no official censors, no bosses, no board of directors, no stockholders.” Its an open forum where anyone can say or post anything, and the only thing holding them back is their conscience.
In this paper I am going focus on some of the fundamental issues regarding porn on the net. Also, because there has been a lot of controversy over an adult web site called “thewetlands.com” I’m going to use it as case study throughout this paper. Lastly, I am going to conclude with some possible solutions that I think will contain this explosive issue while preserving individual liberty.
First of all, why is porn so bad? In trying to answer this question it will benefit us to look into the perspective of Catherine MacKinnon who has taken a strong public stance against pornography in our society. Because our government considers pornography as a form of speech, MacKinnon argues that our free speech amendment brings about more inequality in a society and causes more problems then it fixes.
The First Amendment protects those people who produce pornography and distribute it because it is considered a form of speech. Although it is not words, the message is being conveyed through pictures. MacKinnon argues that this speech is causing many women to be discriminated against and degraded, not just the ones in the pictures but all women. “Words and images are how people are placed in hierarchies, how social stratification is made to seem inevitable and right, how feelings of inferiority and superiority are engendered, and how indifference to violence against those on the bottom is rationalized and normalized” (MacKinnon 31). Men view images of women performing degrading acts in order to gain pleasure. They will then act on these sexual desires with their partners. In other words, men begin to look at women purely as sex objects and less like people. This will cause more instances of rape and harassment in our society which, without a doubt, is not going to bring us closer to equality.
I don’t think this is new news to many folks, but I think now with the Internet more people becoming alarmed because pornographic material is becoming so widespread. 10 years ago pornographic material was confined to the walls and magazine racks in adult stores. If you looked young, the clerk would check your I.D to make sure you were over the age of 18. If they failed to do this then the business would be held accountable and took the risk of being forced to shut its doors to the public.
However, with the Internet, the porn industry is slowly easing away of having to face any kind of accountability. Right now, all a webmaster has to do is put a 25-word disclaimer on his home page and he is legally released from the liability of minors viewing material on his site. Is this right? Further more, making a porn site is not rocket science and being Internet driven it has a low cost entry. So, if you want to make some money and have low morals why not make a porn site?
Thinking along these lines, the founder of “thewetlands.com” turned a simple idea into a multimillion-dollar business. He began by posting pictures of him and his wife having sexual intercourse on the web. Then he came up with the idea of getting other couples to do the same thing. He stated, “So…using my razor sharp skills as a salesmen, I convinced local housewives and couples to come and screw for the camera. Simply saying, Hey you’re gonna have sex anyway…why not do it here and make some money in the process.” It’s scary to think that this man made millions of dollars with an idea such as this, but I guess that is where are at as a society. Needless to say, “thewetlands.com” success story has had many people up in arms. However, before I get to the idea of government regulation I want to talk about an even scarier component of porn on the Internet, which is addiction.
I really was not aware of this problem until I began looking for information on the Internet. When going to noteworthy search engines and submitting queries I kept noticing “support sites” for people who are “addicted” to porn on the net. This I could not believe and of course being the curious person that I am, I decided to see what these sites had to offer. The Majority of these sites provide discussion forums and I would like to quote one that I found.
“ I, like yourself, am 28, married with one child, and I constantly fight with myself over the urge to view pornography. Sometimes are better than others, but I have never been able to get rid of the desire. I wish I had better news for you, but I grew up in a non-Christian home where porn was accessible. And for as far back as I can remember, porn has shaped my desires to one extent or another. I really wish I could kick it, I’ve tried going *cold turkey* too, but not with any lasting success. And unfortunately, the “net” is proving to be a daily battle for me, since the availability of porn photo’s and text is so high. In fact I got out for awhile, but came back and told myself that I was strong enough to abstain… I was Wrong” – look at footnote for source
To me, this is really scary, here is a middle aged man with a family who can’t stop looking at pornography, what kind of message will this send to his child? Furthermore, he states the fact that he his having even a harder time kicking the habit because of its availability on the Internet. This is where it came clear to me that porn on the net is an issue that we need to deal with.
Traditionally, the distribution and sale of pornography has been illegal in most countries. Only in Denmark have all restrictions on pornography been withdrawn (since 1969). Censorship of pornography exists in movies, books, and even in stores that make their profit from selling such materials. These stores are limited to their small parameters of what they can and cannot offer. Defining this enemy is an essential tool in the removal of children from this scenerio. An article in Time magazine recently triggered a major push to initiate governmental regulation on the Internet. Time portrayed the pornography on the Internet as something that is so common that the user could not go anywhere without finding these pictures. Statistics were given concerning the number of sites and then amount of visitors these sites attract. For the past two years, I have been quite active on the Internet and I disagree with the statement that pornography can be found accidentally. I am not saying that pornography does not exist on the Internet, but rather it could more often be found if one looks for these kinds of pictures. I do agree that there should be better restrictions for children so that they cannot access the kinds of material which they would not be able to access in the video media
. For instance, there are several ideas that have been proposed in order to place safeguards to prevent transmission of X-Rated material onto the screens of the child’s computer. Self-regulation through responsible parenting is encouraged by vendors of “minder” software such as Net Nanny and SurfWatch, however there are no official watchdogs for these programs that will tell users exactly what sites are filtered. The minder software Cybersitter was claimed to censor access to the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission and the National Organization for Women due to their references to lesbianism, as well as cites containing the phrase “Don’t buy Cybersitter”. Organizations devoted to protecting children from online criminal abuse but still promoting free speech have a high on-line presence. They Promote a responsible policy of fighting against activities such as child pornography while still retaining Internet standards of etiquette. SurfWatch is the leading content filtering solution, having founded the industry in 1995 and having distributed more than 7 million copies of SurfWatch. Features include, Simple installation. Install and run SurfWatch in five minutes ? even if you?re a computer novice. Powerful filtering. Block 16 topics across the four core categories of sexually explicit material, violence and hate speech, gambling, and illicit drugs and alcohol. Easy customization. “Fine tune” Internet access by customizing your SurfWatch filtering and creating custom filters of your own preferences. Daily filter updates. Update your filters daily with the click of a button. SearchWatch, restricts searching for objectionable material in all search engines. ChatBlock, blocks access to Web-based chat sites and all Internet Relay Chat servers. Prices for these software packages range from twenty dollars to fifty dollars and offer updates at additional charges. For every method of physically restricting access to Internet sites there is at least one Internet user breaking the rukes, what few substantial rules there are, or finding ways around it. Regulating the Internet is not cheap and is not completely proven to even be effective with the infinite ways there are to disable and to circumvent these software packages. These packages are regulated by private companies and offer their ?synthetic? regulation without any government sanctions. The government must first resolve squables within it?s ranks and define ?pornography? in a universal sense. The politicians must mobilize against the enemy of ignorance with some tough legislation. Despite a statement made by Andrew Kantor’s, senior editor of Internet World, that pornography represents ?less than one percent of the Internet? (Lloyd 39), The Internet has a serious image problem with regards to pornography. It is generally accepted that pornography has psychological effects on the behavior of people. Last year, a University of Michigan student was arrested by the FBI for posting a story to the newsgroup, ?sex stories? describing an “encounter” with a female student, which he named. His story was a “violent narrative of rape and torture” and he later e-mailed his friend that “just thinking about it his fantasies doesn’t do the trick anymore. I need to do it” (Diamond 24). The government is mobilizing but without a clear enemy attidute, legislation and progress toward a final solution will get lost in beaucratic lag. As a result of the accessibility of the “adult” material on the Internet, the United States government is getting involved in the fight to stop pornography. Senators Jim Exon (D-Neb.) and Dan Coats (R-Ind.) pushed a bill through the House of Representatives, the Senate, and eventually to President Clinton, that would require certain material on the Internet to be removed. In February, 1996, President Clinton passed this bill into law, making it a crime to send or receive pornographic material over the Internet. The intent of this law is that it is supposed to prevent the vile and hateful material on the net from being transmitted to the screens of computers being operated by children. Computer networks have special qualities of their own that are not captured by analogy to any other medium. In some respects, network exchanges resemble the sorts of exchanges people might have with one another in face-to-face meetings. Conversations among strangers in chat rooms are completely unlike the traditional point-to-point communication in a telephone call. Where one would be unlikely to converse with a total stranger for no particular reason, and much more like the casual mingling that one would see in a real-life social gathering. This new censorship law marks an extraordinary extension of “decency” regulation to casual encounters. “Anything as massive as the global system of interconnected networks that is the Internet can not be ‘regulated’ in any meaningful manner. The very nature of the Internet precludes its effective regulation. It was designed to be a self-healing network of diverse platforms capable of operating under the most adverse of conditions – nuclear holocaust.” (Albert Gidari) Creating an effective roadblock on the “Information Super-highway” is technically difficult and practically impossible. ISPs (Internet Service Providers) cannot easily prevent the flow of information due to the enormous quantity of network traffic and hundreds of different protocols by which it is transferred. News items the equivalent to the storage space of thirteen CD-ROMs is posted to the Newsgroups every ten days, 37 megabytes per minute. It is technically difficult, expensive in both computer-time and cost, and inaccurate for an ISP to attempt to censor the content of Newsgroups, unless they block access to particular newsgroups completely. Studies show Internet pornography only represents a small portion of Internet traffic. ?Less than one percent? (Lloyd). Getting pornography is quite effortless. Basically the only thing one needs to do is select any of the search engines and simply type: sex. This will pull up a host of different sites where one can easily click on any of them and view pornography. What is happening is that the term pornography is which a broad word used in many different contexts and is difficult to determine what should be censored. Pornography is defined in Webster?s dictionary as pictures, film, or writing which deliberately arouse sexual excitement. Well one thing might sexually excite one person but not another person. So by this definition one can understand why there is a lot of room for discrepancy. Until there is a universal definition of what is meant by pornography there will continue to be heavy debate on what exactly needs to be done. If you cant define the problem you cannot solve it. The fact is that down-loadable pornographic images are in existence on the Internet and are extremely popular. “It doesn’t take a magnifying glass to find hard-core pornography on the Internet … and since many youngsters can navigate circles around their elders on the Net, some adults are in near panic” (Diamond 30). There is no doubt that any reasonable person would want to keep pornography out of the hands of children. The only question is by what means should our society take these steps. ?As the most participatory form of mass speech yet developed, the Internet deserves the highest protection from governmental intrusion.? ( Judge Stewart Dalzell, United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, 12 June 1996) How much of the Internet is freedom of speech and how much should be protected and what part should be defined as pornography and censored. This question is one that is at the heart of this debate. Most people believe that the government’s intervention will do nothing to stop the problem. “It’s virtually impossible to regulate the net because of the global nature of this communications device, It would mean monitoring every phone call into the Internet which is impossible to do” (Lloyd 39). This is a serious social problem that will do nothing but grow and multiply into a monster that will become uncontrollable. The infinite ways to attempt to block such action and the infinite ways to circumvent such actions create a paradox of effort and leave one perplexed as to where their efforts have gone. The twenty first century will pose problems that have never been dealt with before and some extremely innovative solutions will be produced. Will these innovations be enough to keep our children safe from predators and pedafiles? Software, better regulation, expanded monitoring of servers these things will do very little for the protection of our children. ?Children are very impressionable and do not realize the implications behind the pornographic materials: without censors on the material, they will be able to freely access information that will corrupt their morals?(Caleshu 4). Children will only be safe if they are informed by their parents on the perils of this new ?virtual? world before they enter it. This means better education for parents as well as children a win-win situation all the way around. The topic of pornographic censorship will continue to be heavily debated as long as people have such strong views. Censorship will forever be in debate since it deals with the First Amendment rights so closely. If the issue is important to you as an individual, then take action, get involved and make a difference
Works Cited Albert, Gidari. “Bringing the Law to the Internet”, Time, January 1995
Caleshu, John “Flame On: The State of Nature and the First Internet War,” (April 1996) pp. 28, 31
Diamond, Edwin. “Five Difficult Issues.” Technology Review. October 1995: 24-33
Dworkin, A., and MacKinnon, C. A., Pornography and Civil Rights (1988)
Gates, Bill. “Support Freedom of Speech on the Internet.”
Catherine MacKinnon – “Only Words”