Internet Pornography: Freedom of Press or Dangerous Influence?


The topic of pornography is controversial many times because of the
various definitions which each have different contexts. Is it nudity, sexual
intercourse, art, or all of these? Is it magazines, videos, or pictures? For
the purposes of this paper, pornography will be defined as any material that
depicts erotic behavior and is intended to cause sexual excitement. With all of
the arguments presented in this paper, it seems only a vague definition of this
type can be applicable to all views on the subject. Pornography on the Internet
has brought about difficulties pertaining to censorship. All of the arguments
in this paper can be divided into one of two categories: those whose aim is to
allow for an uncensored Internet, and those who wish to completely eliminate
pornography from the Internet all together.
All arguments for an uncensored Internet all cite the basic rights of
free speech and press. While arguments in this paper are international, almost
everyone of them cites the First Amendment of the United States. In many of the
papers it is implied that the United States sets precedent for the rest of the
world as far as laws governing the global world of the Internet. Paul F. Burton,
an Information Science professor and researcher, gives many statistics showing
that presence of pornography on the Internet is not necessarily a bad thing. He
gives one example that shows that "47% of the 11,000" most popular searches on
the Internet are targeted to pornography. This fact shows that pornography has
given the Internet approximately half of its clientele (2). Without this, the
Internet would hardly be the global market that it is today. Most on the
Internet are not merely the for pornography either. It is just a part-time
activity while not attending to serious matters.
At another point in his paper, Burton cites reasons why the Internet is
treated differently than other forms of media. The privacy of accessibility is
a factor that allows many people to explore pornography without the
embarrassment of having to go to a store and buy it. The fact that anybody,
including children of unwatchful parents, may access the material. However,
Burton believes that these pornographic web sites must be treated the same way
as pornographic magazines or videos.
One fear of many people is that children will happen across pornography,
but as Burton writes in his paper, the odds of someone not looking pornography
and finding it are "worse than 70,000:1" (Holderness in Burton 2). Even if a
child were to accidentally find an adult site, he or she would most likely see a
"cover page" (See Figure 1). These cover pages, found on approximately 70% of
adult sites, all have a lot of law jargon that summed up says, "if you are not
of age, leave." This cover page will not stop children in search of
pornography because all that is required is a click on an "enter" button and one
can access the site. Adult verification systems, such as Adult Check and Adult
Pass, have been very effective in governing access to these site, but with only
11% of adult sites having a verification of this nature, this system does not
seem realistic. Another method of controlling access is use of a credit card
number to verify age. This method opens many doors for criminals wishing to
obtain these numbers for unlawful use.
According to Yaman Akdeniz, a Ph.D. researcher at the Centre for
Criminal Justice Studies at the University of Leeds, pornography is not as wide
spread as some governments would have us believe. With a total of 14,000
Usernet discussion groups (a place where messages are posted about specific
topics), only 200 of them are sexually related. Furthermore, approximately half
are related to serious sexual topics, such as abuse or rape recovery groups.
Akdeniz also makes the point that "[t]he Internet is a complex, anarchich, and
multi-national environment where old concepts of regulation...may not be easily
applicable..." (15).
This makes a very interesting case about there general nature of the
Internet. It is the first electornic media source that is entirely global, and
although some countries will and have tried to regulate it, there is no way to
mesh what every country does to control the Internet. Germany made an attempt
at regulating the Internet within their country, however, the aim was not only
to ban pornography but also to ban anti-Semitic newsgroups and web sites.
Prodigy, a global network server, helped the German government by blocking these
Web sites. When Prodigy was pressured by groups like the American Civil
Liberties