September 29, 2003

A Porn Page for Every American?

"N2H2 Reports Number of Pornographic Web Pages Now Tops 260 Million and Growing at an Unprecedented Rate"
from - - N2H2 Press Releases

Yet another milestone blown away the road to Oblivion. Another month or so and we'll have a page for every man, woman, child and dog in the nation.

This figure, which is probably exaggerated coming from a company whose revenue depends on the growth of the pornographic industry it exists to filter, still gives pause. And coming a week after the announcement by Microsoft that its chat rooms in Europe will be shut down to limit the exposure of children to inappropriate material it underscores a trend which we hope will start up in the USA.

Several years ago I was invited to speak to a congressional committee in Washington on how the country and the government might reverse the tide of porn that was washing over the country via the Internet. There were, on my day there, a bunch of people from what is called 'the industry' by those in the game -- Playboy, Penthouse, Danni Ashe, and others of lesser ill-repute. There were a number of things proposed by the committee as it struggled to find a way to reconcile the Holy First Amendment with the endless reams of porn spam leaking into little Dick and Jane's email from unscrupulous pornographers. There was the porn-free Internet domain, there were more draconian ideas involving imprisonment for decades, there were the hopes of filtering trotted out for the umpteenth time. It was, all in all, your typical government committee's exercise in futility and impotence. And I kept notes which I pulled out today when I read the news from N2H2.

During my wait to testify and answer questions, I reviewed the list of those who were there that day and those who would be called at future meetings. There was one omission which, when my turn came, I asked the committee about:

"My problem here with my own testimony and those of other in the industry is that I don't find a representative from the largest purveyor of porn spam and the largest promoter of inappropriate activity with children and teenagers on your list of those invited to testify.

"I've looked and looked but I don't see a single person from America Online scheduled to testify.

"It would seem to me that if the US government and our society was serious, really serious, about stopping children from being exposed to porn and pandering from pedophiles, the very best thing it could do... the one thing that would have the greatest immediate effect on curbing this phenomenon... would be to convince America Online to shut down all its chatrooms immediately.

"There doesn't seem to be any thought that has been given to this. Surely, everyone with any rudimentary knowledge of how the Internet works and with even a brief experience with the AOL chat rooms is wise to the facts about them. Surely we know that the vast amount of inappropriate sexual contact online at the chatrooms doesn't happen between a teen and an adult but between a teen and a teen. You can bet that AOL knows this. It is one of their many dirty and not so little secrets. So why, I ask again, hasn't a single person from this company been called before this committee? I'll be glad to answer any of your questions of me, but I'd really like you to answer this one question of mine."

It's been more than five years and I am, of course, still waiting.

Posted by Van der Leun at September 29, 2003 1:37 PM
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