October 23, 2002 3:22 PM PDT

Bush urges ban on "morphed" porn

WASHINGTON--President Bush warned parents of the perils the Internet may hold for their children on Wednesday and urged Congress to outlaw "morphed," or virtual, child pornography.

Speaking in the Presidential Hall in the White House complex, Bush described undercover police as "true patriots."

"The House passed a bill which makes it illegal for child pornographers to disseminate obscene, computer-generated images of children," Bush said. "It's an important piece of legislation. The Senate needs to act soon. The Senate needs to get moving and join the House in providing our prosecutors with the tools necessary to help shut down this obscenity, this crime."

Bush warned that: "Every day, millions of children log on to the Internet, and every day we learn more about the evil of the world that has crept into it. In a single year, one in four children between the ages of 10 and 17 is voluntarily--involuntarily exposed to pornography. That's one in four children."

In June, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 413 to 8 for a bill that would outlaw computer-generated sexually explicit images of anyone under 18 years old, even if no actual minor was involved. The Senate is considering a similar bill but has not voted on it.

The courts have repeatedly turned back attempts to limit digital pornography, striking down laws aimed at curtailing publication of sexually explicit material on the Internet and at requiring public libraries to filter Internet content.

In an April ruling, a 6-3 majority of the Supreme Court ruled that Congress' earlier attempt at banning "morphed" porn where no child is actually used was akin to prohibiting dirty thoughts.

"First Amendment freedoms are most in danger when the government seeks to control thought or to justify its laws for that impermissible end," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority. "The right to think is the beginning of freedom, and speech must be protected from the government because speech is the beginning of thought."

Prosecutors claim that such a law is needed, since otherwise it is too difficult to prove that an actual child was involved in the production of an electronic image on, say, a seized hard drive.

Bush said he wanted to nearly double funding for undercover chat room investigations, from $6.5 million in fiscal year 2002 to $12.5 million in fiscal year 2003, which began Oct. 1.

"This additional funding I've announced means that...we'll increase the number of regional task forces, up to 40 around the country," Bush said. "Our efforts to fight Internet exploitation of children extend throughout this government, throughout all levels of government."

During the 2000 campaign, then-governor Bush linked the Columbine massacre to the Internet. During a debate in Oct. 2000, Bush said: "Columbine spoke to a larger issue, and it's really a matter of culture. It's a culture that somewhere along the line we begun to disrespect life, where a child can walk in and have their heart turn dark as a result of being on the Internet and walk in and decide to take somebody else's life."

Earlier that year, Bush endorsed mandatory library filtering of the Internet, saying "pornography and smut" should not be available in public places.

 

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