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The Courts Government News Your Rights Online

Free Speech, Porn And Internet Controls 498

dragons_flight writes: "The US Supreme Court is starting their next session, and on the docket are two cases that pit internet controls vs free speech as applied to porn. The first case will decide whether the government can force online providers to use age verification systems before allowing access to material deemed 'harmful to minors.' The second case deals with whether computer generated imitation porn can be treated with the same laws as porn involving real people (the particular case deals with child pornography). This news article discusses these and other issues before the court. Also ACLU commentary on the upcoming docket." The second of these cases was discussed before, in "Virtual Child Porn: Is It Illegal?"
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Free Speech, Porn And Internet Controls

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  • by Telek ( 410366 ) on Sunday September 30, 2001 @06:22PM (#2371731) Homepage
    Everyone else in the real world has to use real age verification systems (be is visual "hmm, he looks like a 11 year old" or "ID please") when it comes to things that can be deemed "harmful" to minors, so why shouldn't online systems? Asking for something like credit card information seems to be the easiest and most widely spread use of such a method, as I cannot think of any other methods that can be (more) successfully used? (not that credit cards are an infallible age verification system, as they're easy to "borrow" and also I had my first credit card at 16 years old)

    As for the child porn, for starters I think that if you get a kick out of that then there is something seriously wrong with you, but that feeling aside I can't see why "virtual" child porn should be illegal. The arguments against real life child porn is the exploitation of children, which is perfectly understandable. However if you get a kick out of seeing some sort of 3 year old alien that's virtual, or a pair of boots, or anything else that's virtual, hey, whatever turns your crank. No minors are being harmed or exploited in such endeavours (unless of course they're being modelled or are the ones being forced to program it), but as for the act of "virtual child porn" I cannot see why it should be illegal. Morally reprehensible, perhaps, but not illegal.

    Just my $0.02
    • Morally reprehensible, perhaps, but not illegal.

      If you're the kind of person who only gets off on kiddies, I think you're doing a morally admirable thing by sticking to artificial kiddie porn.

      Geez, it's better than entering the priesthood and messing around with altar boys.

    • Everyone else in the real world has to use real age verification systems (be is visual "hmm, he looks like a 11 year old" or "ID please") when it comes to things that can be deemed "harmful" to minors, so why shouldn't online systems?

      Because the internet is not the real world - in the real world, a government can easily claim authority over how buisnesses within its jurisdiction function. But how can any single country legitimately determine how certain resources must be accessed without disrupting the fundamental principles behind this global network of ours?

    • by Heem ( 448667 ) on Sunday September 30, 2001 @06:46PM (#2371782) Homepage Journal
      Credit Card + porn company = They scam you for money that you are too embarrassed to complain about. Look at all the cheap tricks that online porn companies already pull WITHOUT having your credit card. There must be better ways.. but what? Drivers license number? That could work if you gave companies access to drivers's license databases. Social Sec. Number? Sure that could work too, but thats even more trouble. I can't come up with a single way that would be fool-proof and even remotely 'safe'

      The only sure fire way to do it is this: I'd venture that most people that pay the bill for internet services are over 18. Each ISP MUST provide, by an easy to make decision by the customer, some type of service that would work with mandatory services on adult content sites, to deny access to those that have made that request. IMHO, thats the only way it can work

      • by Telek ( 410366 ) on Sunday September 30, 2001 @07:08PM (#2371852) Homepage
        Why are you too embarassed to complain about it?

        I've complained to my credit card company about porn sites that I have (way back when, don't do that anymore) checked out with my credit card and then they scammed me. Yes, I look at pornography. Big deal.

        Until we get biometrics on every computer there will always be easy ways to get around the age verification issue, but the age verification isn't designed to be foolproof, only provide an easy way to stop most people who might be interested. Just like pirating music or software, if you're determined to look at pornography, you will be able to find it. It doesn't matter how old you are.

        The ISP idea won't help either because how many kids use their parents ISP accounts?
        • Why not have child accounts. Something that can be detected by the porn-sites. I have no idea (I am not that smart) but a lot of responsibility would still lie on the parents so that the children are not able to access their parents account...

          I believe this to be the easiest way. That way sending out information that verifies age wouldn't be as cumbersome and dangerous.

          It's a start at least.
          • Personally, I'm against pornography in general, but for the right of others to do as they please, as long as nobody gets hurt.

            I think parents just need to take a more pro-active role in parenting in the US. If people spent more time with their kids, instead of the TV or daycare raising them, I think lots of problems could be solved.
            • "Concerned parents" groups campaigning (and winnning) about the content of TV, video games, music lyrics and the bad old Internet. The reason? All these things are being used as "virtual parents". You can put the kid down in front of the TV for hours instead of bothering to do something educational and entertaining yourself. Whether it's because parents these days are too busy or too lazy, I don't know.

              I am a parent myself but I consider it my responsibility to look out for my child. I'd rather not have to explain why the goatse man's bottom looks like that, so unsupervised net access is a no no. (Actually, the little bastard's only 18 months and has just worked out how to turn the PC off and back on again - I'm getting him a job doing MS support.)

              There's no technological solution that can completely work on web - we wont get those .ru people to comply. Parents should take responsibility.

              PS I am not claiming to be perfect either.

          • age verification isn't designed to be foolproof, only provide an easy way to stop most people who might be interested

          All that I can see it doing is punishing the law abiding soft core porn sites, and driving kids to P2P services like Morpheus [musiccity.com] where it's trivial to find hard core porn, without even a record of your access on a server.

          This legislation is window dressing. Kids are going to find porn if they go looking for it, or even if they don't. Better to allocate money to educate parents about what their kiddies are looking at, and how to deal with it.

      • You're right about the credit card problem. Why should anyone have to give someone the ability to access his credit or bank account just to view "adult" material? And why should the government be arbiter of what's suitable only for adults? And should parents be able to overrule the government's choices for their own kids, or are we going to make it illegal for parents to let their kids access the grown-ups' Internet?

        Many people forget that this isn't just about "pay" adult sites with porn, or even about sites with porn at all. The COPA was extraordinarily broad, and would have completely stifled free speech on the Net--it didn't apply only to porn pictures, it applied to everything deemed "adult," including words. So if I use lots of fucking profanity on my goddamned motherfucking website, should I have to go through an age verification service before people can access my pages? What about /.--the cunts here use so fucking much profanity sometimes that it's unfuckingbelievable. So should /. only be accessible by adults willing to go through an age verification system involving their credit card number?

        And what of anonymity? Speech can only truly be free when accessing it can be anonymous, or else suddenly Big Brother becomes a real entity which can trace every electronic thing you've ever read or accessed. Hell, do you think most porn would exist at all, if everyone who bought something from a porn shop had to leave his identifying info behind? That's what it would be like in cyberspace if this law were upheld. But it wouldn't just be porn. It would be politically controversial websites, such as the Independent Media Center. Would people be so willing to go there if they had to provide personal info and knew that maybe next time there's a protest, the FBI might get hold of the list of visitors and start harassing people? They tried to subpoena IP addresses directly from the IMC before, but were shot down. But imagine how much easier it would be for them if third parties, like age verification services, also had access lists, complete with names and credit card or other personal info? Then maybe they could get partial lists just by asking these third parties, who have no real interest in the matter, instead of having to subpoena the IPs from the actual organization that runs the site. Very bad.

        And what would be covered as "adult"? Would the IMC and other indie media outlets be blacklisted as "adult" because they're subversive? Or because they have open forums like /.'s, where people somwetimes say naughty "adult" words (despite the fact that we know all kids know those words, too, and many use them)? And if I have a kid who wants to read something "adult" like IMC, or /., or whatever pretty mild linguistically-based stuff is also covered once the COPA censors get to work, and give him my age verification password to do so, he has access to all the other stuff--the porn, the sexually based sites, etc.--anyway. And if I don't give it to him, he can't read a lot of good sites that I may want him to be reading. But if I do give my own child my access password to an age verification system, might that be a crime, like contributing to the delinquency of a minor? Even if the Federal government passes no such law, there are doubtless state governments which would. That effectively would prevent me from letting my children read anything useful on their own on the Internet. It would also limit access of the young to websites which are useful for helping them learn responsibly about sex--an example of such a site is http://www.allaboutsex.org , a web site which I would probably want a young son to read at the right time.

        And what if I let my underage son or daughter have access to my adult verification password to access sites like that, and he or she makes the mistake of sharing it with friends at school despite my warnings? Should I then be responsible for something like contributing to the delinquency of a minor, if the parents of one of these other kids gets offended by a website accessed with my unwittingly and unwillingly leaked password?

        It opens up a huge can of worms that's best left untouched. The fact is, COPA and similar legislation would do nothing but make free speech nonexistent on the Internet, make it difficult or impossible for parents to have real decision-making on the sites thweir kids visit, and muck things up real good for everyone except the ultra-right-wing Xtian moralizing Jerry Fallwells of the world who bought this unconstitutional legislation.

        Your ISP based solution is unworkable because then they'd lose their common-carrier status and suddenly become legally liable for everything their users access on the Internet. What if a porn site got through to Little Johnny and Little Johnny's mommy got really upset because she ordered the "clean" internet? Lawsuit. What if Bob posts some child porn of Alice using that service? Lawsuit. ISPs cannot exist without common carrier status.

        What that leaves us with is Internet filtering on the client-side, like AOL's Parental Controls, like Surfwatch and Cyberpatrol, etc.--which is what all parents are free to install right now.

        That's why COPA and such are bad and not just that, but unnecessary--parents should just get filtering software if they don't want their kids alone on the big bad Net. I'd be perfectly happy with Federal legislation to buy every parent in the country a free copy of the Net filtering software of their choice--that would be the equitable solution. But of course the lawmakers who drafted COPA aren't really interested in just helping parents keep their kids away from adult content--they want to expurgate all adult content and turn the Net into a Xtian Coalition-approved "family" establishment. And that's not constitutional, it's anti-free-speech, and it's wrong. And we shoyuld all fight it and chastise every member of Congress who voted for this drivel, and who will vote for the next round of drivel when the Supremes put COPA to rest for good. If we don't actively fight for our liberties, we deserve to have them Bowdlerized.
      • This is a pretty specious argument. What you're basically saying is that there's no sense in using credit cards, because porn companies are bound to do something illegal with the information.

        On the one hand, it's wildly inaccurate. I operate a very successful adult site; in the past 5 years, we've billed tens of thousands of unique people for hundreds of thousands of membership-months. No fraud, no abuse of personal info, no complaints (except for busted husbands who piteously wail to their wives, "I would never have signed up for such a site! It must be credit card fraud!").

        However, let's grant the idea that all (or even most, or even many) porn sites abuse credit card data. Why not have stricter enforcement of privacy and fraud standards? Punish criminal behavior rather than throwing out a perfectly good age verification scheme becasue such criminal behavior could maybe be possible under the scheme.

        I know most of the big and medium players in adult sites. The vast majority are ethical, resonable people who hate spammers and mouse traps just like anyone else.

        I think it's a good idea for ISP's to offer customers an opt-in blacklist. You're basically telling the ISP "I don't trust myself / my husband / my child, so I want you to block access to adult sites." I don't think it should be required by any means; let the market decide. People who have issues like that should use that kind of service, or local blocking software on their own machines (though the ISP route is probably more secure).

        This weird "you can't trust porn companies because you are embarassed about doing business with them and they will therefore steal the gold fillings from your teeth" mentality is silly. If you're embarassed about buying porn, or if you're convinced that the entire adult industry is made up of thieves, DON'T BUY PORN. Duh.

        -b
        • While there is certainly a risk that porn site owners will abuse credit card data, and it is certainly easy to villianize the entire porn industry, but I don't think that is the real issue. I should have to, or even be asked, to give someone my credit card number unless I am buying something from them. Using credit cards as age verification is convenient but dumb.

          People will say "If you don't like it, don't surf for porn", but they are implicitly making a moral judgment about viewing porn... They really mean "You dirty person, you shouldn't do that anyway, so don't complain about giving out your credit card."
    • I think there is a greater similarity between TV and Internet than shop and Internet.

      At least where I come from, the parents (may/should?) control what their children see. The TV stations aid the parents by not sending unappropriate material at unappropriate times. They are not forced to screen only PG shows around the clock. If you want more control, you'll have to buy the appropriate equipment or spend the
      In essence, the parents buy the TV and pay for the feed, they have to control it. They buy a PC and get Internet, ...

      >As for the child porn...
      Well, I don't find that one so easy. One could say, no child is harmed, so what does it matter.

      On the other hand, a (virtual) crime is depicted and thereby probably even promoted (nonvirtual).
      Doesn't promoting a crime you in some degree guilty of the same crime?

      One could say that Hollywood is depicting murder and robbery in almost every film and we surely don't want to outlaw them. But are they promoting the crimes?

      Lastly, a crime depends on the deed but also on the intent. (murder/manslaughter/self-defence)
      • On the other hand, a (virtual) crime is depicted and thereby probably even promoted (nonvirtual).
        Doesn't promoting a crime you in some degree guilty of the same crime?


        How is it promoting the crime? You're getting a virtual view of something that is illegal.

        But the important part to realize about why it is illegal is because of exploitation of children.

        If people can get their kicks by watching something that is virtual and not real, then we can remove part of the market that caters to these people. And anyone who says that "being able to watch it increases the desire to do it in real life" I think needs to give their head a shake. There are plenty of things that proove quite the opposite. I'm horny, GF isn't around or on another continent (sniff) so I pop in some porn and relieve myself. I don't go to a strip club, I don't go and rape some woman, and I don't cheat on my GF. Thus, I can conclude that it's benefitial in all respects for my usage. If, for some reason, I got my kicks watching kiddie porn then I'd assume that the results would be much the same.
    • by case_igl ( 103589 ) on Sunday September 30, 2001 @07:05PM (#2371845) Homepage
      Everyone else in the real world has to use real age verification systems (be is visual "hmm, he looks like a 11 year old" or "ID please") when it comes to things that can be deemed "harmful" to minors, so why shouldn't online systems? Asking for something like credit card information seems to be the easiest and most widely spread use of such a method, as I cannot think of any other methods that can be (more) successfully used?

      Using online credit cards for identifying someone's age isn't only unreliable (as you pointed out) but also is not accessible to a large number of Americans.

      After high school, I ran up a huge long distance bill calling BBSes across the country. I didn't have the money to pay the bill on time, so an entry was put on my credit report that I had a late payment. As a consequence, it was more than five years later before any credit card company would touch me.

      There are a lot of people with low or modest income that have no access to get a credit card, not to mention one of the biggest problems Americans have right now is TOO MUCH DEBT. I think it would be foolish to block so many people from access to content that they are legally allowed to view.

      When it comes right down to it, there just isn't a good way to know for sure who is on the other side of the keyboard. And it will cost businesses too much to figure out a way to make sure, so I hope there aren't any stupid decisions by the Fed on this issue.

      As for the virtual porn...It's just one step from saying an artistic rendering of a real act is illegal to saying writing about it is illegal...And then from there, who knows? Thinking about it becoming illegally? We don't want to start down that road...

      • As for the virtual porn...It's just one step from saying an artistic rendering of a real act is illegal to saying writing about it is illegal...And then from there, who knows?

        Oh, we're there already. There's a case being appealed now (can't find a link) where a paroled pedophile was found to have a manuscript in his home describing a fantasy of torturing and molesting children. He wrote it, and never distributed it, and is now accused of violating his parole.

        Now, this is at best the kind of worst case scenario that tests your will to support civil rights -- the guy is blatantly evil and any inch you give him could easily turn into a nightmare for some poor kid. But criminalizing what you can write down and keep in your desk...?

        • a paroled pedophile

          A parolee does not have the full rights of a citizen of the USA. For example they do not have the right of free association -- i.e. they can be sent to jail for hanging out with the wrong people.

          So curtailing their right to free speech (or free writing, or privacy) is not the same as infringing on the rights of someone who has been convicted of no crime.

          (now it might suck for a ton of folks who are falsely convicted, or are convicted of unjust laws, but that is another matter...)

      • After high school, I ran up a huge long distance bill calling BBSes across the country. I didn't have the money to pay the bill on time, so an entry was put on my credit report that I had a late payment. As a consequence, it was more than five years later before any credit card company would touch me.

        What? Having 1 late phone bill payment doesn't give you a negative credit rating. Having 1 late bill payment that you don't pay for 6 months after several notices and warnings, however, will. I've been late several times. They just add on interest and you pay it late.

        When it comes right down to it, there just isn't a good way to know for sure who is on the other side of the keyboard

        You are exactly right. So although credit card usage isn't perfect, it's about the best method that we have to do it.

        As for the virtual porn...It's just one step from saying an artistic rendering of a real act is illegal to saying writing about it is illegal...

        That's another reason why I doubt that they're going to illegalize it. And I disagree with you there, making a real-to-life picture about something and writing about it is a rather large step, not a very small one. And in this case especially I doubt that people will get their kicks from reading about said acts vs viewing realistic impressions of them.
    • In addition to the problem you mention about credit-card "borrowing", something like 30% of the U.S. adult population does not have a single credit card. Remember that slashdot readers, who are generally pretty well-educated and probably have reasonable finances (even if they're startving students, they have relatively good job prospects), are not representative of the country (or the world!) at large. Since requiring a credit-card number means requiring more than simple age verification -- it also means verifying that you have decent credit, etc. -- it will exclude people for whom access to this speech is Constitutionally protected. So that won't fly.
      • Um... no.

        While I agree that there is one big problem with the credit card idea, (that minors CAN get them. In fact Visa is promoting credit cards for kids [visabuxx.com] right now.). First of all, anyone that can get a bank account these days can get a "credit card" for the purposes of this argument. Any Visa or Mastercard will do. And since every bank in the US that I'm aware of offers some kind of Visa or MC "check card" with a CC# that draws directly from your checking account, anyone can get one. No credit check is needed, because it's not credit. It's just a Visa or MC# that draws from your bank account rather than racking up a bill. Also, even if that weren't true... so what? So people without credit cards won't be able to get a hold of it. Neither will people without internet access. Should we say that these companies shouldn't be alowed to sell net porn unless they figure out a way to offer it to people without computers too? Remember this is "free", not nessisarily "Free" speach. I run pr0n sites for a living and I can think of no better way of screening minors. Lets say that some kid does have a credit card. Well, he/she choudln't get it on their own. They CAN have one, but in the states, a kid can't get a job without parental concent, let alone a bank account, credit card, etc. So if a kid is together enough to get all this stuff together, and sign up for a porn site account. Oh well. the kid's probably already close to 18 anyway. And if not, then I think the kid's got bigger problems that the parrents need to deal with. If a kid steals his mom's CC, then the porn is the least of the problems. If a kid is lying to their parents, forging signatures to get a job and a bank account... well, not only are there more serious problems there, but I'd almost say the kid earned it! Granted I'm not expecting that a six year old is doing these kinds of things, but c'mon, how many of us that enjoy porn waited until we were 18 if we had a choice? Weather it was the copy of penthouse you found on the side of the road, or your uncle jim's stash of dirty movies that you found, if you're the kind of person that's going to enjoy porn, I don't think there's much that's stopping people in today's society.

  • Other topics (Score:5, Informative)

    by Diplomat73 ( 323901 ) on Sunday September 30, 2001 @06:28PM (#2371744) Journal
    The supreme court also plans to do other things like decide whether public funds may be spent to educate children at church-run schools, whether mentally retarded persons may be subject to capital punishment, and like you said how far the federal government may go in controlling Internet speech to protect children from pornography. The justices will tackle the question of child pornography on the Internet in Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition, No. 00-795. The court will have to determine whether Congress violated the First Amendment guarantee of free speech when it passed a 1996 law making it a federal offense to post on the Internet computer-generated sexual images of children.

    A coalition of photographers, moviemakers and producers of "adult" materials challenged the law, arguing that it was vague and that only pictures of actual children can be banned because only they do harm to children.

    While a lower federal court sided with the Free Speech Coalition, the Justice Department appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that even fictitious images of children having sex help to feed the overall market for child pornography, and that prosecutors would find it difficult to prove that any image was of an actual child, as opposed to a computer-generated one.

    A separate case, Ashcroft v. ACLU, No. 00-1293, involves a different statute designed to protect children from seeing sexually explicit material on the World Wide Web. Passed in 1998 after the court struck down a more broadly worded version in 1997, the statute says "commercial" Web sites may not post material that is "harmful to minors" as defined by "contemporary community standards."

    • Re:Other topics (Score:5, Informative)

      by Nicolas MONNET ( 4727 ) <nicoaltiva@nOSPaM.gmail.com> on Sunday September 30, 2001 @06:48PM (#2371786) Journal
      "whether mentally retarded persons may be subject to capital punishment"

      108 countries in the world have abandoned capital punishment, including all of western europe countries.

      Among countries still doing it:

      Afghanistan
      USA
      China
      Iran
      Sudan
      Saudi Arabia
      ...

      See something wrong with that list?
      • Re:Other topics (Score:2, Insightful)

        by xmedar ( 55856 )
        No, I see nothing wrong with the list, all the countries in the list have governments who promote the idea that their country is infallable, and who have a majority of the populice that concurs, in other countries we recognise more that we are fallible human beings, and therefore when it comes to somthing as final as killing someone we are more reluctant, it costs more money to incarcerate than kill, but thats the price we pay of being less than perfect.
      • "If all the other countries jumped off a cliff, would you?"

        Capital punishment in the US is not going to be decided by a head count of countries. It will be decided by convincing moral arguments and facts.
      • Re:Other topics (Score:4, Insightful)

        by jesser ( 77961 ) on Sunday September 30, 2001 @09:28PM (#2372162) Homepage Journal
        See something wrong with that list?

        Yes, it has the word "among" above it and an ellipsis at the bottom. That makes it look like you picked out countries that Americans don't particularly like to list, rather than listing all of the countries that still use capital punishment.
        • Re:Other topics (Score:5, Insightful)

          by FFFish ( 7567 ) on Sunday September 30, 2001 @10:15PM (#2372259) Homepage
          He also stated that *all* of Western Europe has banned it.

          That doesn't leave much of a list of countries that the US would *like* to list. You're left with Africa, the Asian subcontinent, South America...

          Name a country out of those that you'd like to be emulating.
    • As distasteful as I (and most others here im sure) find child pornography, whats truly wrong about it is the exploitation of children it involves. Of course, thats only in real pictures.

      We might as well punish a person for thinking about sex with a child if we are to ban mere drawings or generated child porn. As rape fantasies more often than not do NOT lead to rape, neither does thoughts of having sex with a child lead to predation.

  • Two comments (Score:2, Interesting)

    by psicE ( 126646 )
    As far as the online age-verification is concerned, the government should only be allowed to require that if they could also require real-world stores to do the same. As far as I know, they can't. Anyway, credit cards won't work very well on the Internet, especially with the advent of Visa Buxx and similar cards that are designed for 13-17 year olds. I don't think the federal government should have any say in who stores do business with as long as they're not harming anyone or denying them their rights, and the Supreme Court has tended to rule against the federal government in the past (Boy Scouts, for example). There's a growing number of people who believe that porn does not ruin the lives of older children (myself included), and it should be the parents', not the government's, decision on whether or not your child can look at porn.

    As for the virtual child-porn, I think the main issue at stake is whether or not the virtual porn leads to real children being harmed. To the best of my knowledge there's no evidence showing that virtual porn does lead to the real thing, so the only way the government can win is at least 5 of the justices ignore the evidence and vote based on "Child porn is bad." It's the harming of innocent kids that's bad, not the porn itself. Can the Supreme Court see past that? We'll have to wait and see.
    • As for the virtual child-porn, I think the main issue at stake is whether or not the virtual porn leads to real children being harmed.

      Apparently, after the 9th circuit blew the government out of the water on this point, they changed their tack somewhat. Now they're arguing that it's just too much darn work to figure out whether an image involves actual children. In other words, convict first, verify later (if at all.)

      I think the desired outcome is for the gov't to be able to arrest and convict someone (or at least, prevent them from publishing) without actually proving that the image actually involves a child. I assume this means that anybody caught with a pornographic image containing a youngish-looking 18-year old could theoretically be tossed in jail. Honestly, I'm not sure why the gov't is pursuing this piece of crap.

    • As far as the online age-verification is concerned, the government should only be allowed to require that if they could also require real-world stores to do the same. As far as I know, they can't.

      Bars, strip clubs, buying cigarettes or liquor, all of these places are required to check for ID. So what are you talking about?

      Anyway, credit cards won't work very well on the Internet, especially with the advent of Visa Buxx and similar cards that are designed for 13-17 year olds

      It takes 1/2 a second to do an online check to see (a) if the credit card is valid and (b) to see if it's a minor or an adult card.

      Perhaps the argument should be wether or not there should be age restrictions on things like alcohol, liquor, porn et al.
  • my own personal views on pornography aside...
    I think online providers of pornography should check the age of their users, or risk being charged.

    I mean.. why should they be any different than meatspace providers of porn? They shouldn't.

    My own view is that such controls are rediculous.. .if kids wanna watch porn, let them.
    • "if kids wanna watch porn, let them."

      Very true. It's not as if it harms anyone - hell, if my memory serves my right there's actually obscene amounts of cash in modeling for playboy or maxim.
  • by corebreech ( 469871 ) on Sunday September 30, 2001 @06:42PM (#2371773) Journal
    Kurzweil talks about how nano is going to revolutionize how our brains think. The new reality of human existance will be that our fantasies will be stdin, and stdout will be redirected into our nervous systems... the end result being that we fully experience whatever fantasy we engage in, not just in Dolby, but in all five senses.

    In such a scenario, can we possibly tolerate the state inserting itself into the circuit between our imagination and our sense of touch?

    At what point between now and then do we boot the state out?

    It seems obvious that the line to be drawn here is between those activities that harm others and those that harm noone. Computer-generated images of children engaged in sex while objectionable on several levels are nonetheless harmless. No children need be hurt in the production of this material.

    To rule otherwise will likely condemn us to a future where the state becomes a part of our consciousness. I think this would be very bad.
  • by Robber Baron ( 112304 ) on Sunday September 30, 2001 @06:43PM (#2371775) Homepage
    Age verification systems won't work and here's why: 1) there are a plethora of sites posting passwords/verifications/credit card info/etc that will allow Johnny to view pornographic material on sites that are attempting to implement such a scheme, and 2) There are many sites that are outside the jurisdiction (and reach) of the US (gasps of disbelief from the "soccer moms"!). If they don't want to play along, they won't, and furthermore, those in the US who don't want to play will move elsewhere.

    This is nothing more that a political "bone" being tossed at the "soccer moms". Maybe they instead need to be told to stop abdicating their parenting responsibilities to the TV or the Internet and start getting personally involved with raising their kids. You can't legislate well-raised children...it takes personal involvement and WORK!
    • This is nothing more that a political "bone" being tossed at the "soccer moms".

      I thought "soccer moms" were mothers who try to be active in the child's life. I would expect those mothers to calmly explain to their children what porn is if their children encounter it, or install filtering software themselves if they feel strongly that their child will be permanently hurt if they catch a glimpse of a naked woman. I don't think they expect the government to filter the Internet for them.
      • Soccer moms are stereotypically the ones who involve themselves in the structured activities their children are in, such as sports, Parent-Teacher organizations, etc., buy minivans, and join parents' groups and throw a fit whenever something naughty is in the public eye, but they don't actually communicate with their kids. It's the dysfunction of suburbia like in "American Beauty". It's the blame shifting of "South Park". It's those parents who are shocked to learn that their kids have been drinking and doing drugs for years, when going into their kids' rooms now and then and checking plain sight would have been sufficient evidence. Sure, there are lots of parents at soccer games who are involved not just in their kids' activities, but actually in their lives. I wish there were more though.
  • I think it is probably a sign of social progress that the question is no longer whether or not pornography CAN be on the Internet. Recall not too long ago that was sort of up in the air. As for age verification, I think it is reasonable that the gov't can force people to verify age, much as it would be done in the physical world.

    I think as the Supreme Court goes forward this session it'd be worth remembering that U.S. laws do NOT have domain over the whole net, however much grandstanding our politicians may make.

  • by TheSHAD0W ( 258774 ) on Sunday September 30, 2001 @06:54PM (#2371804) Homepage
    Trying to screen minors from accessing porn on the net is like -- well, like trying to screen MP3s from the net. You can't stop it, can't even put a significant dent in it without imposing drastic controls.

    What happens when kids can't get onto adult websites? Well, they'll use stolen credit card numbers, or stolen adult ID codes, or just plain lie. How can you tell if the person on the other side of the monitor is below 17? Do you plan on implanting smartcard chips below the skin of everyone once they reach their majority?

    Parents whine and wail because, after they've given their kids unrestricted access to the net, the little tykes are heading straight to XXX websites. The horror! But while they'll lobby and rally for all sorts of controls on this monster we call the world wide web, they'd never consider picking up and installing some parental control software. (For the most part, I don't think a majority of parents are even competent to install any software; that may be why.)
      • What happens when kids can't get onto adult websites

      They'll go to P2P services and find them stuffed full of beastality, rape and kiddie porn, that they can share anonymously.

      <sarcasm>On the bright side, as there's no traffic figures or weblogs, we can pretend they're not doing it. So that's all right then. </sarcasm>

      I personally think that you have to admit to yourself that kids are going to find porn. Deal with that, and realise that it might as well be soft core stuff from ethical servers.

  • We can all use our National ID that Ashcroft [democrats.com] wants.

    Political Cartoons at Political Strikes [politicalstrikes.com]
    • by bnenning ( 58349 ) on Sunday September 30, 2001 @09:06PM (#2372116)
      For the record, the Bush administration has ruled out [washtimes.com] national ID cards. Not that I expect democrats.com to rely on facts.
      • Brainwashed /. readers, who would of thunk it.

        Ronald Reagan administration gave 3 billion dollars to Afghanistan for weapons, the same weapons that the Taliban are using now. We can thank the CIA (Under RRA) for helping Afgahnistan terrorist groups, the same ones today that formed the Taliban. [emperors-clothes.com]

        Nothing like Americans killed with Republican funded weapons, and Republican created terrorist groups.

        The only Republican I can approve is the Secretary of State Colin Powell. I have no respect for that draft dodger Bush [theage.com.au] who uses a mostly republican seated Supreme Court and his brother in florida to help him overthrow an election.

        -
        My how people forget, when its not on CNN.
  • A number of people here seem to be arguing that the online world should be no different from the real world when it comes to porn, and that you should have to show proof of age just like you do when you try to buy a copy of Playboy at the 7-11 down the street.

    It does make me laugh thinking about one thing. Even if buying porn at age 17 or whatever is illegal, what's to stop you from getting the friendly girl next door (or guy, don't want to be choosy about gender or sexual orientation here ;-) to get naked, completely consensually, in your presence? I'll admit that such an event didn't occur for a geek like me until I was of legal age to purchase porn anyway, but I've heard plausible rumors that jocks and other popular-type people actually did get to see and touch real live naked people at the tender age of, say, 15.

    Seriously, though, isn't there something kind of ironic about the fact that you can, completely legally, see and touch (and do other fun things with ;-) real live naked people when you're under 18, but can't legally view pictures of naked people?

    • I have a feeling that if more people were getting nekkid with their peers when under 18, the market for porn would deline in a major way.
    • Seriously, though, isn't there something kind of ironic about the fact that you can, completely legally, see and touch (and do other fun things with ;-) real live naked people when you're under 18, but can't legally view pictures of naked people?

      Not so in Virginia.

      18.2-344. [state.va.us] says

      Any person, not being married, who voluntarily shall have sexual intercourse with any other person, shall be guilty of fornication, punishable as a Class 4 misdemeanor.
      The minimum marriage age in Virginia is 16 [state.va.us].

      Now why these laws are not used to prosecute teen fathers is beyond me.

  • The best way... (Score:4, Informative)

    by TrumpetPower! ( 190615 ) <ben@trumpetpower.com> on Sunday September 30, 2001 @07:25PM (#2371897) Homepage

    ...to ``protect'' children from being ``harmed'' by the sight of naked people having sex is not by passing laws.

    It's by parents putting the computer in the living room.

    Children are required to show ID before they can purchase a copy of ``Playboy'' or whatever because they can enter stores where pornography is sold without being accompanied by a responsible adult.

    In the home, many adults have access to pornography through cable TV, videos, or copies of ``Playboy,'' or other means. Parents who don't want their children to see pornography on TV should be monitoring and restricting their children's access to TV--but they should be doing that anyway. If they can't lock out channels, they should lock up the remote with the VHS stash.

    Parents who don't want children calling 1-900-LIVE-SEX should have the phone company block 900 numbers, or pay attention to their phone bills.

    Parents who are really paranoid about the matter should know what kind of pornography exists in their children's friends' homes before allowing visits.

    The computer should be treated no differently. You don't want your children surfing over to www.hotsexyteenlesbians.com? Fine, do it the same way you keep your children from all the rest of the pornography in the world.

    And maybe, just maybe, recognize that children are also sexual beings. Talk with them about sex (in an age-appropriate manner, of course), relationships, pregnancy and parenthood, love, STDs, marriage, committment, and what it all means to you.

    Or, in other words, parents being parents and legislators making laws is good; parents making laws and legislators being parents is bad.

    b&;

    • Re:The best way... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by LionKimbro ( 200000 )

      I agree with the sentiment; Allow me to complete it.

      The best way to keep kids from being harmed by seeing images of naked people having sex is to relax. Kids don't have any problems with sexual encounters; It's only after adults tell them that they've seen something terribly wrong that they get confused.

      When children have questions about sex, answer truthfully. Buy erotic art that you like, and hang it on the wall. Go to nudist resorts, to show your children that it's okay to be naked. If a movie that you like has a sex scene in it, don't fast forward it. If you like hentai, allow your children to watch it with you.

      This will protect your child from harm.

      I have a 6-month old daughter, and she's being raised around pornography. Both my girlfriend and I like to watch hentai movies, and read erotic comics; I see no reason why our daughter should be excluded from the same. Amber and I talk about the line art, the characterizations, various styles; I see no reason why our daughter should be excluded as well.

      The reason kids get weird about sex is because adults do. When adults are relaxed around sex, children are relaxed as well.

      Sex is not a big mystery. I think for a lot of people, at least here in the US, sex is like this closet in the basement, and they fear that it is full of monsters.

      First, the closet isn't in the basement, it's on the 1st floor of our psyche. Second, you can open the door. Maybe there's some garbage in there, or something, but you can clean it up, see what's in there. There are no big monsters in there. Turn on the light; Take an inventory, clean it up. Maybe take some things out, put things inside. It's just a closet in your psyche. It's totally okay. It's good square footage in our minds; It's good not to ignore it or freak out about it. It's really not all that weird a space.

      Like drinking water, or going to bed at night. =^_^=

  • Virtual or not, the people wanting child porn have a screw loose.


    You cannot be charged with statory rape of a nineteen y/o even if she told you she was 16. It is impossible since she is 19. What about porn with a 19 y/o that looks 16? What about taking a 20 y/o picture of a 30 y/o and using that in a virtual porn flick? The picture is of a 10 y/o, but she is 30 now.

  • What are the current laws on paintings, drawings, or sculptures of children having sex? Are there any? I don't think there are... And I think they should be treated the same. So what if one is a little more lifelike than the other? As long as its not based on some children being filmed doing it... Then it's technicly art and subject to 1st amendment.
  • An image had better be worth a 1000 words-- it takes longer to download. Just kidding. That should be GPL'd.

    (KERNEL PANIC)
  • Japanese comics? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Skuld-Chan ( 302449 )
    I've read more then one x-rated comic book that involved "minors" - in compromising conditions. I don't think its illegal in Japan - and I can import them into the US without troubles.

    What about similar comic books produced in the US? Is there a precedent? I'm sure it would apply to computerized pron.
  • I think a big problem is that lots of sites distribute material for free to encourage people to sign up and pay money - for minors this small amount of free content is enough.

    Obviously if all images require age verification schemes then it will be like a ban on advertising for these sites; the sites may well ignore it.

    Better is to demand proper labeling of information with meta tags and the likes that appropriate filters and checking software can use to remove/block content.

    As for 'virtual' porn. It's got to be bad. Where do 'celebrity fakes' stand in the law? Surely other virtual porn has to follow in a similar way.
  • Degree, not Type (Score:3, Interesting)

    by under_score ( 65824 ) <mishkin&berteig,com> on Sunday September 30, 2001 @07:47PM (#2371942) Homepage
    I have a fairly unpopular opinion:
    Pornography, wether child, teen, obese, hetero, homo, s+m, bondage, etc. is all of the same type, and only varies by degree. To me, there is a "right" way to behave sexually: one and only one lifetime consensual sexual partner with the sexual relationship established after formal partnership (marriage), with the primary intent of procreation. !!! Any sexual activity outside of that partnership (including auto-sexuality) is inappropriate to some degree or another, but is all of the same type and ultimate consequence. I will be the first to admit that a teen masturbating in the bathroom is a lot different than an individual who gets off on a harem of children. But again, in degree. There is no hard and fast boundary between the two behaviors. Anyone who has read this far with either be thinking I'm a complete idiot or a religious fundamentalist. I hope I am neither. I just happen to have thought about this issue a lot over the last 18 years (since my early teens). So if you are still reading, here is why I think the way I do in very brief form: Essentially every major world religion and culture advocates or prescribes chastity: no sexual partners until marriage, and only one after that with the intent to produce children. Why is this such a common view? Perhaps because it "works". Next idea. What is the conceptual dividing line between the following spectrum of sexual activity: masturbation, being masturbated with your consent, giving someone a hand job with their consent, oral sex, oral sex with someone slightly younger than yourself, oral sex with someone lots younger than yourself (still consensual, still age of "majority"), and lastly oral sex with a minor who has given consent (and of course that last one is the real controversial step). What age exactly is it when someone can give consent? Is it 15? Is it 14? Is it puberty? Is it 10? There is no scientific means known at this time to decide that age, only a legalistic mechanism that says such an age is too young. Next idea. At what point is safe sex really safe? At what point is birth control really effective? Again, there is a whole spectrum of options here and they all have one thing in common: nothing is 100% certain to be safe or effective. I could go on with a number of other spectrums of options or behavior where the only real differences between the options are of degree rather than type. The only time there is a difference of type comes when you choose to be proactive about chastity, formal monogamy and procreation. I don't think that my argument is going to change anyone's opinion about the whole issue of sexuality, but perhaps it can shed some light on the issue of the article: legalistic solutions are not really solutions!!! (Which is something I think many here _will_ agree with.) I believe from the preceding points and others, that the only solution is actually a sort of moral conversion of our society, where people recognize the logical and societal consequences of their actions and change their moral standpoint on that basis. Good luck!
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Hear, hear!

      Only thing you left out... only the missionary position under the covers with the lights out on a Saturday night, and don't enjoy it.
      • :-) Note that I didn't mention anything about sexual activity inside the relationship. I suppose that there are many interesting issues there as well, but I think the most important is that one needs to be loving, respectful and fun with one's partner. Missionary position? Heck, I'm not sure I even know what that is! But, don't get me wrong, I haven't really thought nearly as much about sexual behavior inside of marriage as I have about sexuality in a societal context. But that's not really too applicable to the whole online porn issue. Cheers.
    • Re:Degree, not Type (Score:2, Informative)

      by Fixer ( 35500 )
      You don't like porn. Fine and dandy, we're a large country with plenty of room for disagreemnts. I respect your opinion, though I don't share it. I don't think you've stated your case strongly enough, however: Morals should not be legislated.

      Morals do, like it or not, change according to culture and society.

      A middle-ground needs to be found where you can feel reasonably safe, and where I can live without feeling persecuted.

      Here's an example: A hundred years ago in the south it was considered immoral and an outrage for two people of different racial types to get married. The vast majority of this country thinks that view is bullshit these days. Morals do change, and I think it's a healthy thing that they do so.

      Another 'moral' issue: Marriage itself is viewed differently by certain sub-cultures. Case in point, Mormons. I don't have a problem with them. Do you? Do you think they should be prevented from living their lives as they see fit?

      I'm not attacking or defending, I am merely pointing out that 'morals' frequently follow from religious and cultural mores that are 1) Not shared by everyone and 2) Change with time.

      But not all morals change in the US. Murder is, was and probably always will be, considered wrong and grossly unjust to the murdered.

      Child pornography involving real children does disgust me and probably always will. But I also realize that that disgust arises from my culture and society, which can change.

      'Fake' child pornography.. Well, on it's face, the issue doesn't appear any different than with pornography that doesn't involve children. But in the case of, say, hand-drawn animation from a certain island nation, it's just about impossible to 'tell'. Visually there isn't a lot of distinction in age differences in how many manga (that's the point right, it's an abstract, not ment as a photorealistic work) draw women. So if you were to make virtual child porn illegal, you'd probably see alot of hentai disappear, merely because the people depicted could be children.

      A sticky issue, one that I don't think will be satisfactorally settled by the courts.

      • Yes - morals should not be legislated. But what about codifying them? Murder is a good example that you have brought up. Anyway, I do believe that there is a natural "law" where our actions (moral, immoral, amoral) have personal and societal consequences, and that with some (possibly significant) forethought, we can make fairly informed decisions about what those consequences might be. Then the only issue is much more basic: what do we belive is more important, personal gain, societal gain, or somewhere in between? Are we individuals or are we part of a organism of humanity? If as a society we can agree about where we fall in that more fundamental spectrum, then perhaps we can codify a significant number of moral decisions.
    • by Migelikor1 ( 308578 ) on Sunday September 30, 2001 @09:22PM (#2372150) Homepage
      *Warning, message mostly sarcastic, but in a non-flaming way.*
      "Essentially every major world religion..."
      You're right, the largest religions in the world, are all just like christianity. Islam promotes monogamy, right? What? they don't? You're kidding. Well, surely Judaism tells you masturbation and polygamy is wrong. What? The only prohibition is on coveting somebody's wife, and lying with farm animals? Next thing you know, you'll tell me hinduism doesn't make that big a deal out of virginity, and hatched a big book of sex with some wacky name like Khama Sutra or something, some of the positions in which involve more than two people. At least there was a stigma on all that awful, non-puritanical sex in historic cultures, like greece, right? Harems of little boys for the emperor you say...oh my.
      I'm sorry, but whether you like it or not, people liking to do things that feel nice are usually encouraged, except in christianity of the last couple thousand years. Don't just take that statement in reference to sexuality. (Warning, short libertarian rant coming) Why shouldn't people do whatever they want? The government's role is to keep people from hurting each other in that process. As long as nobody but my poor old right hand suffers, and people are willingly being naked/drunk/angry in online forums without gaining deep psychological scars, then so be it. Let the teens have their thrills, as long as nobody else suffers. Let the suck fucks look at bondage, as long as the lady in the nipple clamps isn't unhappy, why should you be? Let lady liberty wave her torch high, as long as she doesn't light the sky on fire.
      • Re:Degree, not Type (Score:3, Informative)

        by jawad ( 15611 )
        Islam *does* promote monogamy. Go read up about why Islam gives concessions to polygamy, and why it's not promoted. Just because something is allowed, it doesn't mean something is preferred.
    • "Essentially every major world religion and culture advocates or prescribes chastity: no sexual partners until marriage, and only one after that with the intent to produce children."

      Bzzzt. False.
  • Futile (Score:2, Insightful)

    1.) There is no evidence that seeing the human body can harm anyone of any age.

    2.) No amount of government regulation can do anything to stop kids from getting access to porn. If they want it they will get it.

    3.) Everyone has the right to do whatever they want as long as they do not inflict tangible harm on non-consenting people. Virtual child porn doesn'y hurt anybody.

    4.) Parents ought to be responsible for their own children, instead of having the government force this crap on everyone's children.
  • by StaticEngine ( 135635 ) on Sunday September 30, 2001 @08:07PM (#2371988) Homepage
    Specific references to Kiddie Porn and Age Verification aside, I think someone needs to point out to America that while they're trying to "Protect Their Children From Sex", they should be reminded that in order to have their precious little darlings, parents had to Have Sex themselves...

    It really is as natural as breathing and digestion, and many European countries have a much better attitude towards it, with fewer negative side effects than this Nation...

  • Why Porn? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Alien54 ( 180860 ) on Sunday September 30, 2001 @08:32PM (#2372047) Journal
    The question of the legality of virtual porn seems to cross into two issues.

    The first is the typical abuse of people, men, women, children, animals, etc for profit that you see in prostitution and in many criminal activities.

    The second is the sensuality and sexuality of pornograpy as see in works of various degrees of and ranges of artistic merit.

    The third is the morality issues

    The forth is the thought control issues.

    The thought control issues are the most troubling, because who hasn't wanted to stop someone from even thinking a certain criminal or other type of somehow forbidden thought. Hate, anger, jealousy, depression all come to mind.

    Laws against virtual porn seek to restrict people from thinking thoughts that others believe to be bad. The question is if this is viable and practical, and the nature of the "bad thoughts" on the first place. Let's face it, all criminals want freedom to have their way, to do their thing.

    But then, so do most rational folks, except that they respect their fellows.

  • by dkemist ( 199970 ) on Sunday September 30, 2001 @08:34PM (#2372056)
    Does anyone remember the "age verification" routine in the old Leisure Suit Larry game? Just ask them a bunch of questions that someone under 18 isn't likely to know. :)
  • I think this will probably wind up being one of those seldom-enforced laws created for simply placating (sp?) the public. Imagine for a moment that you are an ISP and the courts of this country suddenly ruled (legislation by judicial action, but that's another story ;) ) that it's your responsibility to verify age before allowing the user to see questionable content. How would you keep up? How could you keep up? Porn sites are popping up and disappearing all the time.

    I think these kinds of decisions are simply half-assed efforts at shutting up the complaining and (rightfully so) concerned parents and advocates. While I do believe that it's important that only adults have access to pornography, I firmly believe this decision would change little or nothing in terms of solving the problem of exposing underage viewers to porn on the 'net.

  • I think banning computer-generated images of child porn is problematic because it sets a precedent for banning other computer-generated imagery.

    For example, there was discussion following the Sept 11 attacks of banning burning of the American flag. Suppose that laws were passerd banning flag burning. Would we then have to ban images and videos of computer-generated flags being burned by a computer-generated fire?

    I think that anyone that would look at computer-generated child porn is sick, but it really does no harm to any child. It only sets a poor precedent, in my mind.
  • In some european countries, there is no formal age of consent as such, e.g. (i think) in France and the Netherlands. This doesnt mean that you can go pick up a teen however, because there are laws against assault and molestion, and abuse of power, its just that they apply to all ages equally. Therefore, if a 25 year old bloke starts shagging a 12 year old, the police will be breaking down his door soon, because it is clear that he is abusing his power and behaving inapropiately. I'm not an expert on these laws but they appear to work.

    BTW when there is a formal age of consent, it tends to be 16, as in the UK and Ireland, with some countries putting the formal age as 14 or 12.

    Many of my friends in the UK, both male and female, first had sex between 12 and 14, typically with someone the same age or slightly older. (mine was 17, but then i'm a geek :) Parents and police tend to be watchful but turn a blind eye as long as both partners are roughly the same age.

    France has no minimum age for alcohol, and in the UK, if a parent is present, it is about 12. I should say most european kids start off having a glass of quality wine or a sip of beer with their parents at the weekly sunday dinner, at about 12 onwards, when they start becoming curious about what their parents are drinking, and this is allowed for by law. It's independent drinking or purchase of alcohol by teens that is illegal.

    Likewise, for porn, in france there is no minimum age for softcore purchase I think, and for hardcore, 18.
  • If a website considers itelf as suitable for kids, then it should be able to apply for a 'Teen certfied status'. Then I'd let my kids only access these teen certfied sites. Probably with different certificates for different age ranges.

    Different opinions on what is kid appropiate? No problem. There will be surely a group somewhere with the same views as you, and you can use their list of 'appropiate' websites. E.G if you're an X-ian, you can use the 'Catholic Church Approved list' (or something maintained by whichever sect you adhere to) and thus your kids at home can only access sites on that list. Sure if they want to access something independent, they'll have to go down the library or a friends computer, but at least it wont be in your own home :)

    Got quirky views? Create your own approved list. My list would probably be something like encyclopaediabrittanca.com (sodding spelling), slashdot.com, indymedia, and a few others.

    What do you think?
  • by FFFish ( 7567 ) on Sunday September 30, 2001 @10:27PM (#2372297) Homepage
    Not to exaggerate, though, I do find that *almost* everyone -- ie. a very large majority -- of people seem to have no problem with outdoor sculpture showing nekkid bodies, with nude beaches, with non-missionary sex, with nude sunbathing, with etc.

    So why the heck is there this concept that we (North Americans) live in a sexually repressed society?

    I think we're hoaxing ourselves. "We" keep saying it, but not because "we" are repressed: because we think "they" must be repressed.

    Well, hell, surprise folks, *THEY* are just the same as us. There is *NO* moral majority that's decrying the sin and depravity of nude beaches, porn magazines, or rockin' good sex.

    Let's quit trying to not offend that mythical group of sexually repressed beings. They don't exist, unless we're teenagers living at home, and in that case, they're just our parents...
    • Go read all the negative reactions in the 'How was the first episode of Enterprise?' Ask Slashdot to a few minutes of pokey nipples, then tell me North America isn't sexually repressed. :-)
      • Heh. OK, maybe Canada and the US are repressed (the US moreso, I'd say); but probably not as much as we believe we are. There's a difference between being repressed, and being juvenile. How many /. readers noticed the nipples in Enterprise? Approximately 99%, I'd guess. :-) How many feel that they can't carry on whatever sexual relations they want, assuming it involves consenting adults? Probably much less than 10%.

        The media tells us that we're sexually "repressed," and uses that as an excuse to keep us sexually _juvenile_. How bad of a thing that is is another issue.

        And as an aside, we may need a SysAdmin in Toronto or thereabouts. I'll keep you posted.
    • Well damn, that almost makes sense! And to think that I read it on slashdot street!
      Sorry, bit of a flashback there...

      There is a "moral majority," and they're in the
      minority. Just ask Jesse Jackson who he represents.
      There _are_ people who follow him (dare I say?) religiously, and believe that anything besides husband-on-top missionary position sex is immoral. I've met these people. I've gotten drunk with the offspring of these people (which is an interesting moral statement right there, but that's another story...)

      But here's the crux of the matter. The US government (and any democratically elected government) is going to pander to the lowest common denominator, and that is the "moral majority." Regardless of how important it is to the general populace to 'save the children,' the people who are going to _vote_ one way or another because of issues like that are going to oppose anything remotely liberal, modern, or unrepressed. So the government pushes their ultra-conservative agenda, screwing over the people who don't CARE what the government says about what consenting adults do.
  • by javabandit ( 464204 ) on Sunday September 30, 2001 @10:51PM (#2372357)
    If a man is looking at any kind of child pornography, I want him behind bars. Guys who look at young children naked or doing lewd acts should be put behind bars.

    I don't care how sexually liberal anyone is. This has nothing to do with sexual liberation or freedom. I place my limit on sexual freedom (fetishes) when someone gets sexual entertainment from looking at naked kids. That's not a "fetish". That is absolute perversion.

    I don't care if the images are computer generated or not.

    This is the question posed by some:

    "What is the harm or crime in a man jacking off to computer generated photos of six year olds?"

    And to that, I say this : If you actually need an answer to that question, you are yourself in dire need of help.
  • by Seth Finkelstein ( 90154 ) on Sunday September 30, 2001 @11:47PM (#2372465) Homepage Journal
    The topic of credit cards and age-verification has been much argued in the court rulings. It is particularly noteworthy in the following passage in the District Court decision on the CDA: [aclu.org]
    Perversely, commercial pornographers would remain relatively unaffected by the Act, since we learned that most of them already use credit card or adult verification anyway. Commercial pornographers normally provide a few free pictures to entice a user into proceeding further into the Web site. To proceed beyond these teasers, users must provide a credit card number or adult verification number. The CDA will force these businesses to remove the teasers (or cover the most salacious content with cgi scripts), but the core, commercial product of these businesses will remain in place.
    Sig: What Happened To The Censorware Project (censorware.org) - Updated [sethf.com]
  • by Nonesuch ( 90847 ) on Monday October 01, 2001 @12:55AM (#2372571) Homepage Journal
    This discussion reminds me of an interesting proposal I ran into back in college, that was actually strongly supported by the 'radical feminists' on campus:

    Rather than attempting to control/limit/ban porn, a more effective approach would be to remove all copyright protection from all forms of pornography, thus eliminating the profit motive, thus destroying the market for commercial porn and ending the 'exploitation' of wymyn' >

    At the time I found the idea appealing for other reasons (free porn!), but there are other, more noble, positive aspects.

  • Homo sapiens lives a rich and varied fantasy life. In fact, even more than the opposable thumb, it's our defining criterion. It allows us to plan, rationalise, and make decisions without actually doing anything other than simply thinking. For example, if you have to mail a letter, you will probably, at some point, try to recall the location of the nearest mailbox. You'll imagine yourself approaching the mailbox and perhaps even picture yourself dropping the letter in the slot. When you plan your day, you think about the different goals that you need to accomplish and fantasise a number of possible outcomes to determine which plan makes the most sense. This fantasising is omnipresent -- don't believe me? Try catching yourself out when you do it. You'll probably be surprised at how often it occurs.

    The purpose of having a mock-life in your head has clear evolutionary advantages. You don't need to walk into the lion's den to find out what would happen -- you can simply imagine the outcome and do something harmless, instead. (please don't quibble with the example -- it's contrived, but the point still stands). However, our ability to imagine things that haven't (or won't) happen has a secondary, and possibly inadvertent, purpose. It's mental masturbation. It stimulates the pleasure centers of our brains. Not just by thinking about sex, but by thinking about things that give us pleasure. Daydreaming, for example. In fact, the extreme extension of this unique condition explains our love of TV shows and movies (and books, for that matter).

    But also, it provides us with pleasure not as a "how can I achieve this goal" function but as a "I'd like to _____ but the consequences would be too severe so I'll just imagine it, instead." I'm sure we've all been with our respective bosses at one point or another and imagined clubbing him/her over the head with a clipboard or stuffed barricuda, I mean, who hasn't?

    Yeah, yeah, get to the point, right?

    Many men fantasise about rape (I won't say 'most', because I don't have any studies with numbers at hand, but I'd be inclined to) for a number of reasons, one of the most pertinent being that rape provides zero cost access to the thing men desire extremely highly (I'll skip the Freudian bit about how everything boils down to sex and death, but it's well understood that men spend a lot of time trying to get laid, not just in bars, but trying to get prestige careers, fancy cars, etc.) Zero cost because there's no initial investment (everything from buying drinks and being interesting to demonstrating long-term fitness as a mate) and there's no follow-up investment (everything from cuddling when you want to sleep to being a long-term fit mate). It's what Erica Jong [amazon.com] refers to as the "zipperless fuck".

    Most male rape fantasies commit what is generally termed the "she really wanted it" genre. And this is because most men really don't want to hurt their sex partner -- they want to be nice guys and still get zero cost sex. Once again, I haven't read or conducted any studies on the matter, so this part is pure speculation, but I would be very surprised if the majority of men who have rape fantasies imagine the way it really is. That is, I doubt they imagine the pain and suffering they're inflicting.

    To use a couple of examples from the media. I'm guessing for most guys it's closer to the rape scene from "The Hollow Man" -- sexy, a little scary, and mercifully blurred, as opposed to the rape scene in "Boys Don't Cry" one of the most visceral moments in American cinema, in my opinion.

    My point is that men's sexual fantasy lives, especially as conditioned by the media, are of the 'bonk the boss on the head' sort of thing. Any rape support group will tell you that rape isn't about sex, it's about violence. My contention is that rape fantasies, generally speaking, are about sex and that most men find the idea of violence against women to be abhorrent.

    These same arguments apply to kiddie porn. Imagining sexual relations with a child is a far cry from the reality. I think that, in order to be fair, the bifurcation between fantasy and reality needs to be carefully considered. Especially the idea that more often we fantasise so as not to do something than to do it.

    DISCLAIMER: I do not advocate rape. I do not advocate molesting children. I do not advocate violence. In fact, I don't even advocate thinking. I think we were better off as monkeys. Most of this diatribe is pure flim-flammery and it's only purpose is to propose an idea that may incite thought, but I hope not, as I don't advocate thinking. Please don't send me e-mail telling me I'm a sick bastard (I already know that -- my degree was in philosophy and cognitive science). One final point -- I think the same arguments apply towards women, but I omitted them since I'm not "in-house".

  • by ctrimble ( 525642 ) <ctrimble@thinkpigCOMMA.org minus punct> on Monday October 01, 2001 @02:07AM (#2372660)
    Where do you draw the legal line? The moral line?
    1. nude portraits of children
    2. fictional accounts of child/child or child/adult sexual situations (a la Lolita)
    3. fictional accounts of child/child or child/adult explict sexual situations (what would be considered XXX material in a standard porn movie)
    4. drawings/paintings/macrame of child/child or child/adult explict sexual situations
    5. fake images (gimp, photoshop) of child/child or child/adult soft core sexual situations
    6. fake images (gimp, photoshop) of child/child or child/adult hard core sexual situations
    7. animations (cartoon) of child/child or child/adult soft core sexual situations
    8. animations (cartoon) of child/child or child/adult hard core sexual situations
    9. fake movies (special effects like the hobbits in LotR) with child/child or child/adult soft core sexual situations
    10. fake movies (special effects like the hobbits in LotR) with child/child or child/adult hard core sexual situations
    11. inflatable child sex dolls
    12. interactive virtual reality sexual programs involving simulacrum of a child
    13. pedomorphic robotic sex dolls (like the kid in the Kubrick A.I. movie (except as a sex doll))
    14. organically grown child concubines (like Pris in Blade Runner, except as a kid).
    I tried grouping these roughly in order of least offensive to most offensive, but it may be a reflection of my prejudice, more than anything. Also, we don't currently have the technology for some of these items, but hey, it's a thought experiment!
  • by ctrimble ( 525642 ) <ctrimble@thinkpigCOMMA.org minus punct> on Monday October 01, 2001 @03:18AM (#2372756)
    The two things that every philosophy student eventually runs into is Hume's argument against rationality (all we ever know is derived from experience, and although every time I've suspended a pencil in the air and let it go, it's dropped to the ground, that doesn't mean that it will the next time, i.e., the constant conjunction of release and drop is causally inefficacious and has no predictive power) and the argument for solipsism. Briefly, I know that I've got interior mental states and have experiences. I'm not a zombie that's programmed to behave like a human. On the other hand, I have no way of knowing that you're not a zombie -- I'll never have access to your mental states. Sure, I can look at your behaviour and liken it to mine. I whack my thumb with a hammer and scream 'cuz it hurts like hell, you whack your thumb and scream and I assume it's 'cuz it hurts like hell for you, too, but I don't actually know that your pain experience even exists, much less that it's anything like mine. [Quick joke -- Q: What did one behaviourist say to the other after sex? A: Was it good for me?]

    Let's pretend that the world is made up of people like you and me -- people with genuine mental phenomena -- and zombies -- people without mental phenomena. Now, we know that there are zombies out there; their existence has been demonstrated empirically, but functionally they behave identically to you and me. However, consider that zombieism is the height of bad taste and no zombie would want to admit that he/she is a zombie -- "Yeah, when I hit my thumb with a hammer, I scream, and shake my hand, but I don't experience any of this 'pain' stuff." Given these circumstances, most zombies would probably assume all their friends are like you and me and not zombies. They've probably heard about zombies on the news, but don't actually know any. Here's the question. What percentage of the population would have to be zombies before things turned over and being a zombie was socially acceptable and being a non-zombie was unacceptable?

    Okay, now, think about this. What if everyone in the world is sexually aroused by children except for you and me. What if everything was exactly the way that it is -- nothing has changed externally in the world -- but everyone else finds children sexually appealing? There are just as many incidences of child abuse as there are, now, but the mental act of pedophilia is a societal norm, rather than the converse.

    The parallels between zombiehood and mental pedophilia should be obvious. I'm asking you to put aside your knee-jerk "That's sick!" for a second and do some considering.

    First of all, up until fairly recently, homosexuality was considered to be both sick and confined to a very small percentage of the population. It's sick just because it is (heavy sarcasm) and it was imagined to belong to a very small minority because of the stigma attached to it. However, homosexuality, now, is much more mainstream and occupies a fairly large demographic -- large enough that there's plenty of legislation to prevent discrimination against gays.

    Second of all, humans participate in a wide variety of sexual situations that have very little to do with procreation. Take a walk through the alt.sex.fetish hierarchy sometime. There are people who derive sexual pleasure by sitting on food! Incidentally, their existence doesn't mean that I live in fear of having my refrigerator raped.

    Thirdly, there's a huge market in eroticizing children. On everything from the clothes that are made for children, to makeup, to basic lifestyles as presented in the media. And, frankly, it's adults who design those styles and adults who encourage their children to dress and behave like sexual objects. The media is blurring the line between children as sexual objects and non-sexual objects and we, as consumers, are complicit.

    Here's what I want you to consider. Finding children sexually attractive is natural and, in some circumstances, healthy. And, when I say 'natural', I mean it's an attribute shared by a large percentage of the population.

    Okay, here's the disclaimer. I asked you to consider it. I didn't say it's true. I'm not trying to persuade you that it's true. The purpose of the exercise is to try and determine what parts of your feelings are visceral and what parts are based on reason. More than most issues dealing with civil liberties, this one provokes an immediate gut response. Even the posts where people advocate the legality of virtual kiddie porn are liberally peppered posts with "people who view this are sick sick sick. (But I still defend their right to view it, the sick bastards)" But there's no discussion of why it's sick. I can think of plenty of reasons why having sex with a child is sick (personally, I believe in capital punishment for someone who has intercourse with a pre-pubescent child.) I also think it's sick to use a child as an ancillary sexual device (for example, bathing a child and using that as wank material). But, the knee-jerk aside, what makes mental kiddie porn (and by extension, virtual kiddie porn) any sicker than homosexuality or cake-sitting?

    P.S. One of the reasons you've got the knee-jerk "that's sick" attitude is 'cuz you're biologically selected for it via evolution. Our forebears didn't have sex with their children because 1) it leads to weak genes and 2) it physically damages the reproductive organs of children and so they're less likely to have kids themselves. Thinking is pretty new (anthropologically speaking) while the knee-jerk has been around for longer than we've had knees. So, when you immediately react strongly to something, chances are it's your biology speaking. Strive to get past that.

    P.P.S. Despite the controversial nature of this post, I'm not posting it anonymously in the spirit of engaging in genuine rational discussion. I hope that I'm not subjecting myself to a deluge of "You're a sick fucker!" e-mails. In a different vein, I also don't want e-mail from pedophiles (mental or not) either welcoming me to the fold or soliciting kiddie porn. Kids aren't my kink. Informing me of illegal behaviour will result in intervention by John Law.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 01, 2001 @03:22AM (#2372763)
    So how does this legal debate affect my anime collection? I have more than 3 hundred tapes, lds and dvds of japanese animation (non-H). I consider that a significant investment.

    I don't collect the explicitly sexual stuff, but sheesh, even Sailor Moon (the original series, not the Cartoon network crap) has semi-naked girls that no one pretends are over 18. My Escaflowne laserdisc cover features Hitomi with what is most definitely a nipple showing, and I don't think she's understood to be 18. I can list dozens of other examples from mainstream and non-H series.

    My concerns: Am I a potential law breaker for buying/owning all these tapes, lds, and dvds?

    What about Japanese imports I buy from US companies? (I don't know what porn laws Japan has, but I never assumed I was in any danger of being criminal)

    Can stuff I've owned for years suddenly be considered "virtual kiddy porn"?

    Where is this line being drawn now, and is it going to change?

    Do we trust US distributors to not sell us the illegal stuff?

    Hopefully everyone will just flame me for overreacting and I can quit worry about my anime collection.
  • by Simon Brooke ( 45012 ) <stillyet@googlemail.com> on Monday October 01, 2001 @05:47AM (#2372928) Homepage Journal
    Oh, wow, there are so many problems with this.

    What is a 'virtual child'?

    Take manga, for example, or hentai. Most of the characters in most Japanese animation have characteristics that look to westerners child-like. Does that make all sexually explicit manga child pornography? Is this [adultanime.com] child pornography [warning: explicit]? Should it be banned?

    Then, how do you tell by looking at a picture how old the subject is? Sure, yes, you can (almost always) tell the difference between a five year old and a fifty year old, but can you always tell the difference between a fifteen year old and a twenty-five year old, even in real life? If you can't in real life, how can you in drawings?

    What about fantasy worlds in which people change ages? Take, for example, Freaky Friday [yesterdayland.com], in which a mother and child exchange bodies for a day. If the 'mother' character (supposedly actually an adult but in a child's body) had had sex, would that be child porn? If the 'daughter' character (supposedly actually a child but in an adult body) had had sex, wouold that be child sex?

  • by hhe_hee ( 470065 ) <prodigy@acc . u mu.se> on Monday October 01, 2001 @07:00AM (#2373041) Homepage
    If someone have'nt noticed, theres a big difference between simulated porn and anything else simulated. Take for example an ordinary scary movie, it is intended to make the people scared, not with the intent of arousing murderous feelings in the viewer. Porn movies are made to make people excited and wanna have sex. Im sure that anybody more likely would like to have sex with a real girl instead of jerkin' off in front of the computer (or...?). Well I guess that almost all of you say yes to that, having real sex can hardly be compared to a pornmovie (simulated or not), can it?

    But simulated child porn, with what intentions do you think that someone will do such a movie? Whatever the answer to that question is, theres a fact that who ever looks at it, will surely wanna do it in real instead. And theres also a fact that child pornography (simulated or not) is done with the intent of arousing pedophilic feelings in the viewer.

    Theres also several reports which support the fact that the availability of child porn will increase the number of child molestations. And that also conforms to virtual stuff too (but maybe some will get a bigger "kick" out of it if they know it is real children suffering).

    So one can conclude that theres several reasons why banning child porn is rigth, it is not only because of the harmful effect of creating the porn on the real children involved. It is because they who watch this, also want to to the stuff they see on the screen.

    And why should the producer of such a movie want to stick with just child pornography, because it is simulated they can do anything they want. They can kill the children, cut them into pieces and do more horrible stuff. I say that somewhere we have to draw the line. And I think that the line should be drawn to protect the children in our society. Or would you like to have your kids at the kindergarten when you know that their teacher watches movies with titles as "child porn slaughter 3000" or "kindergarten rapist" at his spare time, or at work?
  • by osgeek ( 239988 ) on Monday October 01, 2001 @09:29AM (#2373443) Homepage Journal
    If you have your personal identity (ie. age) verified for a certificate [verisign.com] and then use that certificate to sign your approval to access a site, that should be good enough.

    Keep your certificate on a Smart Card, and it's portable, safe, and convenient.

    I'm not talking about science fiction here. I'm talking about technology already being used all over the world for mostly security and corporate applications.

    The only other thing I'd like to see is for the system to be more anonymous.

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