Commentary

Don't cry 'censorship'

Opposing View: Law calls for responsibility required in every other communications medium

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.