Imagine a place where you have access to anything and everything one could want. Some would say that is only existent in a utopia, and some would say that describes the Internet. Many adults go on to the net and access pornographic material that would be unsuitable for children. This is called cyberporn. The controversy lies in the fact that children are accessing these materials also. Government, activist groups, and concerned parents are fighting to regulate obscene material found over the Internet to protect children.
The first amendment is the only thing protecting adults from losing their rights to obtain pornographic or indecent material on the net. Under the first amendment the government must not regulate cyberporn. Online sex has been around since the first bulletin boards were available over the computer in the early 1980’s. People would pay to down load pornographic pictures and talk dirty to each other. Usenet groups took control of porn after the Internet came about. They did not charge people to down load picture and to interact with others.
In result, Internet porn grew (Rosen 16). Things have changed drastically since then with over a million different sites available to access porn. Now it is not just for adults. Children are accessing the obscene materials. This brings rise to issues of how to protect them from problems that can arise. The materials they view, could influence children. They could also be subjected to cybersex in a chat room full of people that could be three times their age. Worst of all pedophilias could influence children to meet with them outside of the computer.
The government and the United States citizens must now figure out how to protect our children from the effects of cyberporn, and yet at the same time protect the adults from loosing their constitutional rights. In response to the need to protect children the Communications Decency Act was passed. The first part of the CDA states if you display indecent or patently offensive information on the Internet, in a manner available to a person under eighteen years of age, you are a criminal and have broken the law.
The second part of the CDA reads you have a defense against prosecution if you take reasonable, effective, and appropriate action by restricting access to minors by needing a credit card (verified), debit account, adult access code, or adult personal identification number. This act is to be thought of as a way to legally zone porn behind and electric gate that can only be accessed by those who have adult identification. To receive full access to pornographic materials, one can pay a one-time fee of $9. 95 to an Adult Check service (Levy 54).
Also the Child Pornography Protection Act has been passed. It is to combat the use of computer technology that enables a pornographer to alter a picture of a child to make it seem as though the child engaged in an explicit sex act (Quittner 74). Rulings about child pornography have existed for years and will always enacted whether it is in the cyber universe or in magazine and movies. State laws are also being made against smut found on the inter net. New York passed a law making information found on the Internet that would be illegal if published in a book or magazine, illegal.
People who violate the law could receive up to four years in jail (Rosen 16). The Exon amendment, if passed, will make communication between adults limited and restrict kids from accessing these materials. This is part of the House of Representatives Contract with the American people saying that they need to protect children from the exposure to pornography over the Internet (Rafter A3). The Supreme court is having a lot of conflict with these new laws so until they can be passed parents will need to use the technology that is already available to censor the net.
Children can get into a lot of trouble and bad situations while visiting a cyberporn site. The worst possible situation is if they were becoming a victim of a pedophile while in a cybersex chat room. After visiting some of the sites, …pedophiles will use the materials to arouse themselves and then seek out children…Whether it s simulated technology or it s the real stuff, it arms a pedophile so it s easier to find children and molest them. (Stevens A4). With out needing to identify yourself on the net, it is easy for adults to engage in obscene conversations with children.
Pedophiles also go into children s chat rooms and persuade them to give out information like a telephone number or address so they can arrange a visit. This opens the opportunity for physical harm to be done to a child. Kids are very eager to view pornographic materials. It is to hard to purchase them if you are under the age of 18, but they have no problem finding what they want on the Internet. The only problem is that some of the pictures viewed on the net are worse than what you would find in a typical porno-magazine.
These images also if viewed at an unsuitable age could influence a child the wrong way. When an immature kid views a woman bound and being burned by cigarettes, pierced with swords, and having sex with a German shepherd, can create false images of women and a pseudo reality. It also introduces kids to sex at a much earlier age than ever before (Levy 55). President Clinton expresses, …that our Constitution allows us to help parents by enforcing this act (censorship of the Internet) to prevent children from being exposed to objectionable material transmitted through computer networks (Bray C7).
Many parents are in an uproar since discovering the dangers to children on the Internet. Parents all over have been pulling the plug on their kids after discovering what they have access to and why they spend so much time of the computer. One woman expresses when she found out her sons were viewing pornographic pictures in full color how horrified she was and immediately discontinued their use of the net. When parents view materials accessed by their kids they find that most of the material is not suitable for most adults (Tipton 67).
An even bigger fear than viewing the material is finding out that their child has an older cyberpal. There s a lot of sick people out there and those people think they have a right to these things, complains an angry mother (Stevens A4). Parents can not always be there with their children to make sure that they can see that they are not accessing smut. It is too easy for kids to get around the electronic gates that the need for a credit card to access sites when they can steal their parents.
There are a lot of uncertainties and risks that go along with allowing children to use the Internet. The Supreme Court has struck down almost all of the new laws concerning regulation of the Internet on the grounds that they violate the first amendment. The first amendment says that the citizens should be exposed to a diversity of views, whether they want to or not (Topaz A2). The CDA was struck down because it was a clear violation of free speech. All of the proposals do protect children, but trample on the rights of adults to communicate with each other freely.
The Supreme Court ruled that the new technology …would receive the highest level of protection. Internet speakers will not be shackled with the regulations that limit content on television and radio; instead, they will enjoy the freedom granted to printed matter. And it will be up to the parents, not the government, to keep kids from accessing smut (Miller and Mauro 84). Newt Gingrich has spoken out against the Exon amendment saying that it has no real impact because it is in violation of the first amendment for restricting the rights of adults (Rosen 17).
When congress tried to pass a law making it a crime to let make indecent material be available to children on the Internet, Justice Paul Stevens wrote, It is true that we have repeatedly recognized the governmental interest in protecting children from harmful materials. But that interest does not justify an unnecessarily broad suppression of speech addressed to adults (Tipton 12). So far they have not figured out a way to be able to regulate cyberporn and the Internet with out violating the constitution. If the government had successfully regulated cyberporn, there is no telling where the censorship would stop.
Government tried to regulate adult-oriented words with the CDA. This would mean that topics such as safe sex could not be discussed over the Internet. This is not protecting children, but depriving them of material that could be very useful and valuable (Bray C7). Many of the proposals would have outlawed information including AIDS, Pulitzer Prize-winning plays, museum exhibits and, the Vanity Fair cover showing a picture of pregnant Demi Moore (Levy 20). Another reason they should not regulate cyberporn is the overwhelming number of volunteering business people making millions of dollars.
Many of strippers have decided to stop working at strip joints and start their own web sites because of the safety it offers. Right now the Cyberporn business is in demand, so why not give the people what they want? Some customers spend anywhere from $150 to $6,000 a month just to interact on videophone sex web sites (Rafter A1). Cyberporn has opened up a whole new job rhelm, in which our economy can not say no to (Rosen 15). There are means of controlling material that parents do not want their kids to view (Levy 21).
Several devises already exist for parents that will help them filter out what they do not want their children to see. Surfwatch, a software package, allows parents to have a list of forbidden sites that can not be reached. It also always parents to program it to watch for any kind of obscene language (Miller and Mauro 85). PICS are rating and filtering technology. Parents or a third party can set up a self-censor program to their values for any document online that is PICS compatible. This always each household to censor out information found to be offending (Quittner 74).
RSAC is another devise that allows self-censorship through a parental rating system or based upon age appropriateness. We re going to get the V-chip for the Internet (Stevens A4). All of these devices and all of the others that are now available make personal choice possible with out government censorship. All of the proposed acts to censor the Internet had to do with objectional materials and offensive language. The danger in allowing this to happen is that not just sex and foul language is diminished, but information on topics that are sex related like STD s or AIDS would be censored.
Most medical web sites would need to be cleaned up for publishing material on how to put on a condom and how to protect your self while having intercourse. Stories and new paper articles about rape would no longer be able to be published over the net. The Internet would become completely PG 13. One of the biggest dangers to regulating cyberporn would be the increase in strip clubs and adult movie theaters. Many strippers have left the clubs because of the safety that the Internet provides.
It also is a great way for them to make more money and promote their body with out getting diseases or raped (Levy 24). Internet providers are expressing an increase in concern for censorship because of a fear of becoming the thought police. Acts and bills being passed to further regulate the Internet and particularly cyberporn talk about fees of $100,000 for violators that annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass other consumers over the net (Quittner 74). Most of the censorship plans not only violated the first amendment, but discriminated against people in other ways.
People spend thousands of dollars on web sites and more money on servers and high-speed phone lines to become more accessible to the public. They make their money back and then some millions extra, but the government would have to shut down these businesses if they were aloud to censor because the product they sell is sex. Cyber porn businesses would be denied their right to free enterprise because their product is so taboo. It is loved and hated, but making them millionaires filling the demands of the public (Rosen 15).
Many of the restrictions that would be put on adult sites due to censorship would be to have a credit card as a form of adult identification. This is clear discrimination against those adults with out a credit card. For whatever reason that an adult does not have a credit card, they should not be denied access to pornography. Restricting cyberporn to user that are of eighteen years of age or older discriminates against those who are mature enough to handle the information, but not legally of age. Seventeen-year-old kids are not much different in maturity than eighteen-year-olds.
Movie theater ratings for pornography or indecent materials are NC-17, so why should the Internet not be also. Bruce Ennis speaks out against the CDA … this court has repeatedly and unanimously ruled that government cannot constitutionally reduce the adult population to reading and viewing what is only appropriate for children. That is what this law does (Tipton 13). But it is not just the government that is making laws that discriminate, the state are also. Virginia has made it illegal for state employees and college professors to access sexually indecent materials online.
Georgia is trying to take away the reason that people love communicating over the Internet so much by making it illegal for users to remain anonymous while interacting over the net. All forms of discrimination are present when the Internet is regulated and censored. The issue that struck up this whole conflict, family values and how to protect our children, is being re-evaluated by the courts. Justices of the Supreme Court side with the words of Bruce Enniss in the decision against censorship, …it will be up to the parents, not the government, to keep kids from accessing smut (Bray C7).
Why must everyone suffer because parents do not want to do their job? The courts are giving the rights to the families to decide for themselves what is inappropriate for the children by striking down government regulation on the grounds that there are plenty of self censoring devices already on the market (Quittner 74). It is the responsibility of the parent to either censor the materials themselves, or teach them about what they are viewing to bring them up to the maturity level of the Internet.
If parents are that concerned about the materials that their children have access to, then they should chaperone their children while on the Internet (Levy 24). We should help our children learn how to deal with the information on the Internet and then allow them to expose themselves to it already having previous education. Kids need a way to discover their selves as sexual people. One would think that with all of the diseases out there that a parent would rather their child experiment with sex over the Internet instead of learning the hard way with other kids.
People do not get pregnant or contract the AIDS virus by having cyber sex. Also viewing pornography is a way of letting children and teenagers explore their sexuality with out embarrassment. If kids go into the real world with more exposure to sex, when thrown into a relationship they will be more knowledgeable, than curious. A kid can discover sexual identity by themselves with out all the pressures having a physical relationship. If we teach our children about cyberporn and cybersex, then they can use it to their advantage as an educational experience (Rafter A3).
Family values are being regarded in the highest manner by ruling that concerned parents must keep the family intact and educate their kids to truly protect them against the information of the Internet. To see the true effect of the government regulating cyberporn, one must look into the future. If the government successfully censors cyberporn, the results may not have an immediate or apparent effect that would be detrimental to society, but the opportunities given to the government could redefine our democracy that our founding Fathers nether intended: constitutional rights would be diminished.
First, the government censors cyberporn that leads to censorship of the entire Internet. If the judicial branch aloud this to happen the American public would have to fear what could be censored next. If the most technologically advanced form of media can be censored, why not books and magazines? Free speech would be no longer. The right to say what you want and express yourself in any manner you want with out infringing on the rights of others would no longer protect the citizens. It would be like our society would be going back in time before the eighteenth century when government had free reign over its subjects.
Imagine growing up in a world where self-expression was stifled and sex was once again a taboo topic. As far as the censorship of cyberporn s effect on sex and pornography could take two different paths: either sexual behavior would increase, or it would slowly become more conservative. Many strippers and hookers have turned to the net as a form of safe sex and in result of that sex became more popular and is spreading to children at a younger age. If the sex businesses lost their addresses in cyber space, they would relocate to the streets and bring the consumer to the sex.
Just like during prohibition, they found a way to keep it alive. Or it could go off on the other tangent of slowly the government instilling thoughts that its indecent to express yourself sexually and slowly taper off into just an act of procreation. The effects of the government regulating cyberporn are unpredictable, but definitely not positive and destructive. The main result off the government being able to censor cyberporn would be that government decided for everyone person what their values are. Government said that the materials you could access in cyberspace were not appropriate for you and your family.
It is a known fact that people love and crave it so if they con not get it over the net, they will get it some how unless the government cracks down on that also. So far the victories over censorship of the net have been very promising that our constitutional rights will never be taken away from us. These victories are not just for cyberporn but for the future of free speech on the Internet, and quite possibly the future of free speech period. In order to preserve our constitutional rights the government must not censor cyberporn, not only for the immediate infringements and discrimination, but for the future.