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...
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