Monday, August 16, 2004

Porn Is Good: ISPs to Block Anyway?

Two news flashes on Internet porn filtering from Australia. They remind me of the fear mongering of almost a decade ago, accelerated by the infamous Time cover story on Cyberporn. That story was of course based on a fraudulent report by Martin Rimm. A new, confidential paper on Internet porn from the Australia institute is said to propose compulsory filtering at the ISP level in the Internet chain. That is, cut out the smut before it may even reach the home and not rely on individual (parental) filtering by the end-user.

This raises more than a few freedom of expression issues. While child porn is generally deemed illegal and not constitutionally protected, pornography is. Hence the legitimate, though maybe not agreeable argumentation that child pornography could be filtered at an ISP level. (This besides substantive problems with filtering, like over- and underblocking.) The implementation of this scheme on pornography is something else. This is and should be every adult's own decision. And every parent should have and has the choice to guard his children against porn, or hate speech, or the flowers and the bees and the joys of life, for that matter. State interference should be minimal.

The confidential paper is used by the Australian Labor Party as ammo against the failing anti-porn policy of the government. Labor prominent Carmen Lawrence actually agrees that adults can make their own decisions about what they see:
"But we're not talking about adults, we're talking about children. [...] In the past, a movie or a magazine could be policed for adults, but the internet is entirely without age limit. I don't think children should be exposed to this stuff or subjected to the sexualising influences.
Indeed, and instead of implementing a zoning regime to guard access to that virtual porn mag or movie, these are filtered into oblivion. We are talking about adults, that is part of the problem, which isn't as problematic as a newer study suggests: Porn is Good for You!

Well, that would be a somewhat enthusiastic conclusion from a research project sponsored by the right-wing Australian government. The executive director of the left-wing Australia Institute, author of the ISP filtering paper, was quick to react:"No man who regularly uses pornography can have a healthy sexual relationship with a woman."

Yes, it makes you go blind, pulps your spleen and shrivels your... Sounds like political opportunism: right-wing propaganda in left-wing hands. Or worse, dogmatic academics presented as fashionable ideology. But mostly, opening a time capsule better left burried.

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