The Editorial Page
Wednesday, March 19, 1997
Opposing View: Law calls for responsibility required in every other communications
By Donna Rice Hughes
From airbrushed centerfolds to women engaged in sex acts with animals,
pornography has infiltrated our children’s lives via computers in
ways previously unimagined.
Although encompassing a minority share of Internet space, porn-based wed
sites are the third-largest source of revenue on the Net, with annual
gains of $100 million spread over hundreds of porn sites.
Children can access on-line porn intentionally or unintentionally, free
of charge and with no requirement of proof of age. An innocent on-line
search for “toys” can reveal graphic images of “horny
housewives and their boy toys.”
Whether is be commercial web sites that post free teaser images or the
250 public newsgroups which include images as lurid as those found in
alt.sex.snuff.cannibalism, all are as accessible to a 12-year-old as to
an adult. The lifelong effects of such exposure and possible exploitation
are tragic and devastating.
Even the most diligent parental supervision and the best content-filtering
software at home will not protect children from Internet porn. Even if
the end-user software were reliable (which it isn’t), children still
could gain unrestricted Internet access at a friend’s home, a school
or a public library.
The Communications Decency Act is not censorship or an attempt to ban
indecency from the Internet. It simply requires adults to restrict access
by minors to pornography. This is the same responsibility that is legally
required of them in every other medium of communications, from movies
to publishing to advertising.
Making the Internet safe for children can be achieved only through a partnership
between the legal community, the technological community and the public,
including parents and teachers. They all must bear their share of the
burden of responsibility. Congress passed the Communications Decency Act
as a legal tool for this partnership.
Without the Communication Decency Act, there is not federal statute criminalizing
Internet distribution of pornography to children.
The Supreme Court must protect children by upholding this act. If it does
not, our children and the Internet will be the losers.
Donna Rice Hughes is marketing and communications director for Enough
Is Enough, a national nonprofit group working to make the Internet safe