The Internet Pornography And Children Essay Research

The Internet, Pornography, And Children Essay, Research Paper

Why should anyone be concerned about pornography on the Internet? After all, this is a

free country and everyone should have access to anything they want, right? This position would

be true if only adults used the Internet; it can not be true when children also use the Internet.

Most people would agree that children should not have access to Internet sites that are

considered pornographic. Does that mean that children should not be allowed Internet access or

that the Internet should not have pornographic sites? Of course it doesn?t mean that! What it

does mean is that the issues arising from the mixture of children and Internet should be dealt

with and not ignored.

This paper will attempt to intelligently discuss some of those issues. Areas covered will

include what the Internet is, risks to children who are viewing the Internet, what pornography is,

and laws concerning child pornography (in general and over the Internet). Additionally, the

number, content, and accessibility of pornographic sites will be discussed. Lastly, this paper will

discuss what measures can be taken to protect children from pornographic Internet sites.

What exactly is the Internet? It is a global network of computers used to transmit all

types of data between computers. Text, numbers, programs, illustrations, photographs, audio,

animation, and video can all be transmitted over the Internet. Contrary to what some people may

think, the Internet is not a single computer nor is it a single service. The Internet is not owned by

or governed by anyone. It exists solely through the support of the companies and institutions that

access it.

Though the Internet seems relatively new, its roots actually start in the 1960s. In 1969,

the Department of Defense started the ?ARPANET? project. ARPANET was a decentralized

computer network that was used to link military researchers at four universities. The Internet

later evolved out of ARPANET. Funding from the National Science Foundation in the 1980s

eventually led to the Internet being opened to commercial traffic.

Services provided over the Internet include the World Wide Web, electronic mail (the

most popular service), Newsgroups, and Chat. For one computer to communicate with another

computer on the Internet, both computers must be connected to the Internet. Connection to the

Internet can come from commercial online services or through Internet service providers.

Generally, home users connect to the Internet via the commercial online services over regular

phone lines. Some of these services include Prodigy, CompuServe, and America Online.

Businesses, universities, government agencies, and the like, often have direct connection to an

Internet provider over high-speed digital lines. Some of these providers include Netcom and


The number of adults online in the United States by the end of 1998 has been estimated

as low as 44 million and as high as 80 million. 2 At the end of 1997, the number of children

online was almost 10 million. It is estimated that by the year 2002, 45 million children will be

online.3 While it is not clear how many these children have access to the Internet at home, it is

clear what percentage of them have access at school. Currently, about 81.8% of all American

schools have the Internet. It is estimated by the end of the 1998-1999 school year, about 95.9%

of all American schools will be hooked up to the Internet.4

There are risks to a child that a parent should consider before allowing the child to

access the Internet. Some of the risks include the following:

1.Exposure to material that is sexual, hateful, or violent in nature and the possible

encouragement of illegal or dangerous activities.

2.The safety of a child and/or a child?s family could be compromised by the child

providing information or arranging to meet a person they have met over the Internet.

3.A child could be exposed , through e-mail or chat/bulletin board messages, to

disturbing, demeaning, or aggressive material.

4.Legal issues resulting from a child using a parent?s credit card or violating another

person?s rights.5

Children?s access to pornography on the Internet (risk #1) is a concern of a lot of

parents. Pornography is defined as ?1.Pictures, writing, or other material that is sexually

explicit and sometimes equates sex with power and violence. 2.The presentation or production

of this material.? 6 Of course, that definition is from a standard dictionary. What is considered

pornographic usually depends on the individuals judging the material.

Child pornography is prohibited in all 50 states. The general statute states that child

pornography is comprised of the following : ? 1) The creation or reproduction of materials

depicting minors engaged in actual or simulated sexual activity (?Sexual Exploitation of

Minors?) or 2) the publication or distribution of obscene, indecent, or harmful materials to

minors.?7 These laws require the knowledge that the person in the materials and /or receiving

the material is a minor. Depending on the state, a minor is either a person under the age of 17 or

under the age of 18.

Even though the general statutes regarding child pornography would seem to already

adequately cover the Internet, the laws in Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia,

Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and

Virginia go further. These laws include sections concerning the distribution of child

pornography and/or the sale of pornography to minors via computers or computer storage

devices. For example, Oklahoma prohibits minors from receiving computer transmissions of

obscene or harmful material. The law also makes it illegal for obscene or harmful materials to

be sold, distributed or displayed to minors through CD-ROMs , magnetic disks, and magnetic

tapes. 8

Attempts have been made by the Federal government to pass laws that would deal with

the issue of children and/or Internet porn. In 1996 , the Communications Decency Act was

passed. Under this law, the distribution of indecent material on the Internet was made illegal.

Another law, the Child Online Protection Act, pertains solely to commercial Web sites and

focuses on material that could be damaging to minors. Under this law, a person could not view

online material deemed harmful to minors without first proofing his or her age. This proof

would come from the collection of a credit card number or access code. People who violate the

law could face a maximum of six months in jail and be fined 50,000 dollars. The

Communications Decency Act of 1996 was struck down in 1997 on constitutional grounds. The

Child Online Protection Act can not be currently enforced because a preliminary injunction

was issued against it on February 1, 1999.9

Two of the most popular places for pornography to appear on the Internet are the World

Wide Web and Usenet. The World Wide Web (WWW) is a worldwide system of computers

and files. Over the World Wide Web, users have access to large quantities of data. This data

comes from sources including magazine archives, public and university library resources,

current world and business news, and computer programs.10 ?Usenet is a worldwide network

of UNIX systems that has a decentralized administration and is used as a bulletin board system

by special-interest discussion groups? is considered part of the Internet ? is composed of

thousands of newsgroups, each devoted to a particular topic. Users can post messages and read

messages from others in these newsgroups in a manner similar to users on dial-in BBSs.?11

For the purpose of this paper, the number of pornographic sites discussed will only deal

with the commercial online porn industry, not any private sites that may contain pornographic

material. Currently, there are approximately 60,000 porn Web sites in the U.S.12 In 1994, of all

of the images posted on the Usenet, 83.5% was pornographic. There were over 14,000

newsgroups (bulletin boards) on Usenet. Of those, 500 boards had either a primary focus of

marketing adult pornographic material, or had adult sections that were substantial in size. While

500 adult sites out of a total of 14,000 may not seem significant, it should be known that 71%

of the pornography on Usenet came from these sites.

While not getting into overly graphic detail, the following will briefly list the four

categories that Internet pornography falls into, along with a brief description of each category:

1.Paraphilla ? enema, urination or urine, feces of defecation, bestiality, fisting, person

with breasts and penis, diapers or diapering, sadomasochism, foreign objects,


2.Pedo / hebephile- nude pictures of young children in pre-pubescence, young looking

children involved in hard-core sex acts

3.Hard-core , (non-paraphillic)- homosexual and/or heterosexual sex and /or sexual

contact between two or more people

4. Soft-core- nude or semi-nude pictures that depict none of the acts covered above

and masturbation13

For a child to gain access to some of the pornography listed above, it only requires the

child to have a basic knowledge of how conduct a proper search. In other words, if a child

knows how to search the Web or knows how to read Usenet newsgroups, he or she can

probably find some type of pornography. This means that access, for most children wishing it,

should be relatively easy.14

What has not been discussed is how easy it is for pornography to find a child not actively

seeking it. Knowledge of adult sites can come through spamming. Spamming occurs when

hundreds of thousands of e-mail addresses or newsgroups receive the same message all at once.

Since this practice is done with no regards to the content of the message or to who receives the

message, children receive the same messages as adults.15The messages are not always clearly

marked in the subject line as being suitable for adults only. In fact, sometimes, the subject of

the message may seem innocent. For example, author Lawrence Magid?s 11-year-old son

received an e-mail with the subject ?I Need Your Vote?. This e-mail message sounded innocent

enough, but in reality, it led to a list of free adults only sites. Some of theses sites were

respectable, while others were adult sites.

Up to this point, the Internet and pornography , separately and together, have been

discussed. Some feel that, while laws are not needed to keep children safe from Internet

pornography, parents should have some other ways to protect their children from Internet

pornography. Lastly, this paper will discuss two such ways that parents can protect their

children from Internet pornography: Internet rating system/service, and monitoring and filtering


First, the use of Internet rating systems/services will be discussed. To better understand

about Internet ratings , some questions must first be answered. What exactly is a rating service?

A rating service can be person, group, organization, or company that provides content labels for

information on the Internet .What?s the difference between a rating service and a rating system?

A rating system is the actual process used for evaluating the information. A rating system

usually has of one or more categories that is used to evaluate the data. So, a rating service

would use a rating system to evaluate content.

Now that the difference between an Internet rating service and rating system is known, one

last question must be answered: what is a content label? A content label is a data structure that

contains the information about a document?s content. This label may be with the document it

describes or be available by itself.

One of the tools used to implement rating systems is PICS. PICS stands for Platform for

Internet Content Selection. While not a rating system, PICS is actually a framework for rating

systems. It is general purpose and can be tailored to control many types of content. Not only

could the sexual content of a document be rated, but practically any other kind of content could

also be rated. For example, PICS could be used to rate the amount of hate speech that is

contained in a document. 16

PICS is currently being used by some Internet rating services. One of these services is called

SafeSurf. It is a parents? organization that has created a self-rating system .SafeSurf has many

different rating categories. The SafeSurf Identification Standard is recognized by the SafeSurf

Wave( SS~~). SafeSurf has the following ratings categories that could apply to pornography:

age range (SS~~000), profanity (SS~~001), heterosexual themes (SS~~002), homosexual

themes (SS~~003), nudity (SS~~004),and sex, violence, profanity (SS~~006).

Each of these categories have values of 1 to 9. For example, the category age range has the

following values and labels: value 1 ? all ages, value 2 – older children , value 3 – younger teens,

value 4- older teens, value 5 – adult supervision recommended, value 6- adults, value 7- limited

to adults, value 8 – adults only, and value 9? explicitly for adults. For the other categories, the

higher the value, the worse the rated content is.

A content label in SafeSurf can identify all of the adult themes that a site may have. The

following is an example of a SafeSurf content label that would appear before or within the



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