January 19, 2006 4:44 PM PST

Senators threaten new Net porn crackdown

WASHINGTON--U.S. senators on Thursday blasted what they called an "explosion" in Internet pornography and threatened to enact new laws aimed at targeting sexually explicit Web sites.

At an afternoon hearing convened here by the Senate Commerce Committee, Chairman Ted Stevens, an Alaska Republican, lashed out at an adult entertainment industry representative, saying that the industry needs to take swift moves to devise a rating system and to clearly mark all its material as "adult only."

"I think any adult producer would agree," said Paul Cambria, counsel to the Adult Freedom Foundation, which represents companies offering "lawful adult-oriented entertainment." It would just be a matter of organizing the industry, he added.

"My advice is you tell your clients they better do it soon, because we'll mandate it if they don't," Stevens said.

Though it wasn't mentioned at the hearing, Web browsers have long supported the Internet standard called PICS, or Platform for Internet Content Selection. Internet Explorer, for instance, permits parents to disable access to Web sites rated as violent or sexually explicit.

Many adult Web sites have voluntarily labeled themselves as sexually explicit. Playboy.com and Penthouse.com, for instance, rate themselves using a variant of PICS created by the nonprofit Internet Content Rating Association.

In addition, mandatory rating systems have frequently been struck down by courts as an affront to the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of expression. Judges have ruled it unconstitutional for governments to enforce the Motion Picture Association of America's movie-rating system. The Supreme Court has said that the right to speak freely encompasses the right not to speak--including the right not to be forced to self-label.

Sen. Blanche Lincoln, an Arkansas Democrat, talked up her bill that she and a handful of Democrats announced last year. It proposes a 25 percent excise tax on revenue from most adult-oriented sites and a requirement that all such sites use an age-verification system.

"Too few adult Web sites are taking the extra step to create another obstacle, another barrier, that can keep youngsters from accessing or stumbling on pornography," Lincoln said.

The proposals at Thursday's hearing were uncannily reminiscent of similar complaints from politicians a decade ago. In January 1996, Congress approved the Communications Decency Act, which was soundly rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court. Congress also approved a ban on computer-generated child pornography--which was also shot down by the justices on free-speech grounds.

The hearing occurred one day after U.S. Justice Department lawyers filed paperwork in a California federal court in an attempt to force Google to turn over logs from its search engine. The reason, the Justice Department said, is to prepare for an October 2006 trial over a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union challenging the Child Online Protection Act.

That 1998 law, which restricts the posting of sexually explicit material deemed "harmful to minors" on commercial Web sites, was effectively frozen through a 2004 Supreme Court decision. The justices forwarded it back to a lower court for a full trial.

"On the Google case, what is your reaction to Google's position that (the Justice Department's request) is an invasion of their privacy?" Sen. Daniel Innouye, the committee's top-ranking Democrat, asked Bush administration representatives.

Deputy Assistant Attorney General Laura Parsky declined to comment, saying it was a dispute currently before the courts.

Parsky and an FBI official applauded the idea of new laws, saying they would welcome additional tools from Congress but were doing the best with what they had now.

But congressional intervention has historically "provided anything but a panacea to the availability of pornography online," said Tim Lordan, executive director of the Internet Education Foundation, a nonprofit group that counts representatives from America Online, VeriSign and the World Wide Web Consortium among its board members.

Sen. Inouye of Hawaii took a similarly cautious stance, pointing to a poll that said 70 percent of parents were concerned about pornography but at the same time didn't want the government to step in.

"My concern is that this matter has incensed members of Congress to agree that if the industry is not going to act upon it, Congress will," he said. "And often times Congress does a lousy job."

30 comments

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Lichens
Fresh off a pathetic "hearing" into Alito, and comatose in the face
of executive claims that it can rise above the constitution in times
of enternal "war," we finally have something that senators can
grasp. I may not be able to define idiocy, but I know it when I see
it.
Posted by nicmart (1829 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Form a committee
They will form another committee to look into the matter. Funny that sex is attacked more than violence. Don't they realize that the internet is not controlled by Congress?
Posted by hfhlt004 (14 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The internet isn't, but
They can regulate the US-based servers. For the others, I suppose they will want to block them from US Internet users. Kind of like communist China does...

Or, we can place the majority of the blame on poor parenting like they should. Some regulation to help parental control software identify sites would be a good idea, but we should be putting the pressure on the parents to parent the children, and not let the government do it for them.
Posted by Kamokazi (40 comments )
Link Flag
Everything is controlled by congress
A reality check. Free America has gone the way of restrictions on
executive power. Congress will pass whatever media regulations it
wishes. How quaint is the memory that governmental media control
was once based on scarcity. We have no scarcity but the lichens are
still regulating.

Who promotes violence more aggressively than congress? The
media, film, and game industries do not have standing armies and
budgets in the hundreds of billions.
Posted by nicmart (1829 comments )
Link Flag
Huh!
Have you tried to find a good news site in Iraq lately?

At first all of them were off the Internet, something about payola or some other lame excuse, then they were put on.

I used to get some in English, but now those are all blocked or off the air, except for the ones honoring the US, that is.

Oscar Rat
Posted by Oscar Rat (54 comments )
Link Flag
re - committee
Ain't it the truth!! Deal with the real problems like the war in Iraq and institutional violence.
Posted by misterchips (1 comment )
Link Flag
Republican hypocricy?
Are the Republicans who want an "adult only" label on all explicit content the same Republicans who are opposed to a new .XXX top level domain? Surely a .XXX domain name would solve all our information categorization issues in the simplest and most user-friendly way? Maybe religion is getting in the way somewhere...
Posted by hutchike (157 comments )
Reply Link Flag
XXX No solution
Adults viewing pornography is no social problem, and therefore
not a matter for politicians. Child pornography is unlikely to be
reduced by implementing an XXX domain, for the same reason
that gun control doesn't reduce gun-related crimes: criminals
don't obey rules. Perps can set up anyplace in the world,
using .com domains, or whatever they need to further their
trade. In addition, given the financial incentives, if efforts to
segregate or otherwise control the web are imposed, entirely
new technologies will probably emerge.

It is a damned frustrating problem, and there isn't much to be
done beyond giving severe sentences to child abusers, and
hoping that parents will be instructive and vigilant.

As it usually does, congress will probably find a way to make the
matter worse.
Posted by nicmart (1829 comments )
Link Flag
Can you spell Christian Right?
It is these people that want to shove their agendas down everyones throat. They have a do as I say not as I do mentality, that just won't go away!!!
Posted by casper2004 (267 comments )
Link Flag
The real problem here....
The real problem here isn't pornography online, it's the thousands of private sites that give it away for free, that don't make you put a credit card up to view the stuff. That's what makes it easy for kids to find it. That coupled with a pervasive trend by the adult consumer to misguidedly believe that they should get it for free is the core of the problem. Adult content should NOT be free. If you're not willing to put your credit card on the line, then you need to keep your d**k in your pants.
Posted by garyn1 (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Unwarranted violence = Pornography
30,000+ dead civilians, 2,500+ American kids, THAT IS PORNOGRPHIC....!

"And often times Congress does a lousy job."

Often times?? How about ALWAYS??
Just more right wing christain manipulation and power plays....
Posted by Vetter83 (50 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What an idiot...
"Chairman Ted Stevens, an Alaska Republican, lashed out at an adult entertainment industry representative, saying that the industry needs to take swift moves to devise a rating system and to clearly mark all its material as "adult only."

Excuse me twit porn is already rated. It is rated X up to XXX. Has been for sometime. What they want sub-ratings? How about holding the kids responcible for what they choose to view on the web. How about holding parents responcible as well.

People under 18 know they shouldn't be viewing the stuff. Maybe like so many other minor infractions these days that are now felonies under 18 viewing of porn should have a manditory 5 year federal prision sentence.

Robert
Posted by Heebee Jeebies (632 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Gov't taxing PERV's to view PORN? Ha Ha!
This is nonsense. Just a way for the Government to get their share of the PORNOGRAPHY BUSINESS, without coming out and saying the TRUTH (which is).. "Hmm.. PORN.. a great way to make MONEY!"
Posted by paroland (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Government's SHARE?
Just a way for the Government to get their share of the PORNOGRAPHY BUSINESS, without coming out and saying the TRUTH (which is).. "Hmm.. PORN.. a great way to make MONEY!"

The government, who never has been able to run a profit (well, once under Nixon) trying to control how profit is made nad skimming off the top (not unlike the mob) ... this is news how?

I agree with the government watchdog who said that the cure to government corruption is NOT to shut off the lobbyists, but rather to shut off the tax pipeline.
Posted by Too Old For IT (351 comments )
Link Flag
Don
After what they did to those search engines, I'm going to fight back.

In an adult and have plenty of rat and skunk porno on my computer, and don't think it's any of the government's business. As long as I don't let my girlfriend Malodor Skunk see it, ha, ha.

I don't frequent those web pages though. Not that I don't appreciate a naked female rat, but using them is an invitation for spy and adware.

What I'm going to do though, is go to the Yahoo, Google, MSN, and AOL search engines.

Then I'm going to spend hours a day searching for "Skunk porno" "Rat porno" and every variation I can think of.

And I'm going to tell my friends to do the same. He, he, he, *fart* gigglesnort.

Oscar Rat
Posted by Oscar Rat (54 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Don't BItch, Fight Back
After what they did to those search engines, I'm going to fight back.

In an adult and have plenty of rat and skunk porno on my computer, and don't think it's any of the government's business. As long as I don't let my girlfriend Malodor Skunk see it, ha, ha.

I don't frequent those web pages though. Not that I don't appreciate a naked female rat, but using them is an invitation for spy and adware.

What I'm going to do though, is go to the Yahoo, Google, MSN, and AOL search engines.

Then I'm going to spend hours a day searching for "Skunk porno" "Rat porno" and every variation I can think of.

And I'm going to tell my friends to do the same. He, he, he, *fart* gigglesnort.

Oscar Rat
Posted by Oscar Rat (54 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Why is big brother picking on Google?
eom
Posted by bobby_brady (765 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Because he can
Big brother is a nag!
Posted by casper2004 (267 comments )
Link Flag
Laws won't do it
If anyone thinks an Internet porn law will solve the problem, just ask yourself this: Did CAN-SPAM allow you to toss your spam filter? Or have you installed an even more robust one?

No amount of laws or technology can substitute for good, vigilant parenting. It never did and it never will.
Posted by kaetheb (14 comments )
Reply Link Flag
net porn
the way things are with our young people that is over 20 years old is something elase but there should be no child pron at all on the net perioded an there should not be any type of porn of women being cut,beat,wiped,druged,an this for men to i beleive they call this sumt porn i think now this is how i feel about it
Posted by paul zemp (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Right-wing politices, They don't really care about children.
This is just usual politics pandering to right-wing fundamentalists. If he really cared about children, he would increase educational spending, help disadvantaged children get medical care they need, and commit to real, tangible actions that would ensure each child has a bright future. No, he and his fellow congressmen care about pushing their right-wing agenda, not children as they claim.

Since anything related to sex or erotic images is evil to them, they really just want to put as many regulations and restrictions on the porn industry as they can to make it harder for them to do business. If they can't completely ban pornography (yet) this is the next best thing.
Posted by jdbwar07 (150 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It's the real world, folks....
... and no politician can ignore a god and motherhood issue to get
his name into print. Makes no difference that he may have nothing
to say - politicians have been coming up short on intelligent
comments for a very long time. This is certainly no exception. And
in six months or so, it will forgotten totally. Politicians also have
lousy memories.

Just remember, no sane man runs for any political office, That is
the area for egotistical people who seek power, money or both.
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Don't lump all politicians into one basket.
There are those politicians who care. You just have to look for them. It seems like it's few and far between, but this is a pretty big country.
Posted by casper2004 (267 comments )
Link Flag
Government Dunce Cap Award
I believe that there ought to be a government dunce cap award for any politician that believes sex is the root cause of America's problems. If politicians
were as zealous in the pursuit of poor parenting, they might find someone who believes in their cause.
But it's clear that more government in the name of parenting is not the answer.

As for a practical solution to keeping kids away from porn, there are a lot of ideas but few workable solutions. The idea of providing a credit card doesn't work---not only does this option open wide the door for phishing scams, but kids can easily copy information from Dad's wallet while he's asleep. A .xxx domain name isn't practical---how long does it take kids to figure out how to type .xxx? One of the ideas I thought of is to use a fingerprint scan. Fingerprint scanners are quite affordable---Microsoft has one on a keyboard for under $100. That way, when a porn site comes up, it asks for fingerprint identification---it would be pretty difficult for kids to cheat with fingerprints.
Posted by Michael G. (185 comments )
Reply Link Flag
No "Cure" for Net Porn
Net pron exists because it is one of the few dot-com things that ever made a profit.

My answer? Much as I loathe globalism, congress should actually research to find out what other, more progressive, countries feel is the absolute lowest age veiwing sexually explicit material is allowed, and adopt same.

Problem solved.
Posted by Too Old For IT (351 comments )
Link Flag
why are liberals so concerned about any restriction on porn
guess we have to have it on every street corner bookstore and library for some to be satisfyed
Posted by newcreation (118 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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