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In the name of the children

Anti-porn crusaders hide behind our kids

WASHINGTON, March 27th 2001 -- The Children's Internet Protection Act is nothing more than the latest offensive in the moralistic jihad against pornography. It is a key offensive in the culture wars camouflaged by the twisted rubric of 'protecting children.' Shame on its soldiers. This war exploits children by using their collective innocence as a rhetorical shield in a vicious verbal crossfire that has simply *not yet* spilled over into anti-abortion style violence.

This law mandates censorship inside the very institutions we've built to teach and strengthen the free-speech principles of the First Amendment, our schools and libraries. It does this by requiring these federally funded institutions to install so-called 'filtering' software that is supposed to block access to obscene content.

Under the CIPA schools and libraries are the victims of nothing less than federal extortion: Either they agree to the law and install the filtering software, or they don't get federal funds. This follows the success of similar measures taken against public art galleries in the 1980s and 90s, also under the guise of 'protecting kids'.

It is sad to see the same gaggle of 'child protection' advocates line up, yet again, to defend an indefensible law that strikes at one of the foundations of our democracy. You see, we've all been here before. The evangelists supporting the CIPA also supported the Communications Decency Act, which the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously struck down as unconstitutional.

The subtext of the anti-porn crowd's rhetoric was the same then as it is now, but these days the words are harsher, the warnings more graphic and the language more explicit.

These days Donna Rice Hughes vamps for the cameras and camps on a well-rehearsed sound bite that invokes a warning about a child researching the Net for a school project on wolves only to be exposed to a picture of woman having sex with a wolf.

But it's a lie. There is no such picture. Just like when the CDA was being fought in the courts, Hughes and her ilk liked to talk about children innocently stumbling across a picture of a woman allegedly driving nails through her labia and into a board (their words and imagery, folks, not mine).

During that time, I must have asked for proof of that picture a thousand times. No one ever produced any evidence of it. I present the same challenge now with the wolf picture - and I'm not holding my breath.

And even if the picture does exist, it would take a Herculean effort to find.

Want proof? Try this: Go to Google.com and just enter the word 'wolf.' Google comes back with 2.2 million references. You tell me, what are the odds of a 16-year-old kid with raging hormones wading through even a quarter of those hits in the hopes of finding the infamous wolf picture? Slim to none.

The filtering programs required by this law are the Firestone tires of the high-tech industry. None of them works as advertised, and, worse, they lull parents and officials into a false sense of security. Worse still, some of the companies who produce them have ties to churches and other organisations prominent in the anti-porn campaign.

No filter is perfect. Even with a filter activated little Johnny or Suzie will eventually be exposed to some kind of pornography if she sits and searches long enough. I guarantee it.

This begs the question: How little exposure to porn is too much? The anti-porn crusaders say exposure to such material 'wounds' children, but they never say how much exposure is needed.

Filtering advocates all acknowledge the technology's failings. When confronted with the 'how little is too much' question, they usually snort, 'Well, it catches most of it, and that's better than nothing.'

That is a specious answer and makes those that support the CIPA culpable for knowingly allowing our children to travel in harm's way on the digital highway.


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