cyberporn censorship or free speech




CYBERPORN: CENSORSHIP OR FREE SPEECH?
INTRODUCTION
The Internet is a worldwide network of computers and databases that has evolved rapidly in recent years. Tremendous amounts of information are transmitted and are fairly easy to obtain. Although in the past the information available was for the most part educational and business oriented, in recent years it has become much more diverse and questions have been raised as to the appropriateness of the content being viewed and consumed. Another issue is whether or not the government should take an active role in censoring it, especially when it comes to pornography, or cyberporn, as it is more commonly referred to when it is displayed on the Internet.
Should cyberporn be censored? If so, who is responsible, parents or the government? Is Internet censorship the solution, or a violation of the first amendment? The citizens of a democracy must make these kinds of decisions while simultaneously maintaining freedom and responsibility on the Internet.
BACKGROUND OF THE PROBLEM
Pornography on the Internet and the ease at which it can be accessed has been a very controversial issue, especially in the last ten years. The Internet was largely unregulated until 1996 when the Communication Decency Act, a portion of the Telecommunications act, was proposed. The Communication Decency Act, or the CDA, made it illegal to make or solicit any image or message that was “obscene” or “indecent”. (Wekesser 106), But how do we define terms with an ambiguity such as these. The Court in Miller-constructed the modern definition of “obscene”: The basic guidelines of the trier of fact must be must be: (a) whether “the average person, applying contemporary community standards” would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest; (b) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law; and (c) whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. The Supreme Court views obscenity as completely outside the scope of the first amendment’s protection, and the Government may regulate speech freely as long as the Miller test is fulfilled (Simon 2).
Although many may consider pornography to be obscene, by this definition, there seems to be some ambiguity. Pornography is defined as: Writings, pictures, etc., intended primarily to arouse sexual desire.
Another question that needs to be asked is, does censorship of cyberporn violate the first amendment of the constitution? The first amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or of the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” (Bill of Rights) The Supreme Court has consistently ruled that pornography and obscenity fall outside the first amendment. The Internet is akin to commercial network television, and government can constitutionally restrict T.V., so why not the Internet? Probably because adult conduct that includes sexually oriented conduct that has been considered by many to be immoral, has been protected by the First Amendment when it takes place in a private setting (Ford, Marrin, and Esposito 1). Additionally, the Internet is different because no single person or organization controls or administers the Internet. It exists because individuals have chosen voluntarily to use “common data transfer protocols” to transmit information (Simon 3). Another reason is that servers have the technology to screen out minors from these sites. Every site requires a credit card number, not only for payment, but also for insuring that the viewer is 18 years of age. But some argue that sometimes minors are not the issue. Many believe that much of the content on the Internet should not be viewed by anyone. Because pornography is designed for arousal and people have different tastes, the demand differs as well, and if there is a demand, a supply will follow. Not only does the Internet contain pictures of nude men and women, but also by images and ideas that cannot be found on the average magazine rack. Many websites are specially designed to display images of pedophilia (nude photos of children), hebephilia (nude photos of youths), and what researchers call paraphilia (“deviant” material