Are the dangers of child pornography exaggerated.pdf - ISSUE 9 Are the Dangers of Internet Child Pornography Exaggerated YES Julia Wilkins from

Are the dangers of child pornography exaggerated.pdf -...

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ISSUE 9 Are the Dangers of Internet Child Pornography Exaggerated? YES Julia Wilkins, from “Protecting Our Children from Internet Smut: Moral Duty or Moral Panic?” The Humanist (September/ October 1997) NO: Bob Trebilcock, from “Child Molesters on the Internet: Are They in Your Home?” Redbook (April 1997) ISSUE SUMMARY YES Julia Wilkins, a writer of books and articles on educatingchil- dren, argues that claims of Internet dangers are simply an example of “moralpanic” causing otherwisesensiblepeople to overreact. NO: Magazine writer Bob Trebilcock contends that the Internet is a real danger to children because it provides easy access to por- nography, encourages the creation and dissemination of child pornography, and provides pedophiles with a new crop of chil- dren to prey upon. I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. -Thomas Jefferson Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, orprohibiting the pee ex&e thereofi or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press. -First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution In spite of these valiant declarations,there have always been restraints on speech and writing with both practical and legal supports. Not that the issue of freedom of expression (including speaking,writing, publishing, painting, photography, and, more recently, Internet communications) has ever been close to a settled one. To the literate and the cultural elite, the very idea of outside constraints on expression is unacceptable. To the religious right and a 183
variety of special interest groups, society simply could not function if there were no regulations on communicationthat might threaten decency. Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes ruled over 70 years ago that the First Amendment does not allow someone the right to shout “Fire!” in a crowded theater because of the harm that such an act could cause. This ruling, though frequentlyignored in current debates, supportsadvocates of Internet control. It also reflects the thinking of a growing number of scholars and activists who insist that words and images can be psychologicallyor even physically harmful and hence should be illegal. What are the dangers of the Internet with regard to child pornography? Do we need special safeguards?In 1997 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Communications Decency Act (CDA) passed by Congress violated the First Amendment. The Court did not say that existing laws prohibiting obscenity, child pornography, libel, copyright infringements, and the like do not apply to the Internet.The Court simply decided that the CDA was far more restrictive of free speech than was constitutional. Hundreds of concerned citizens, especially parents, are forming coali- tions. They are demanding legal actions to close down Web sites that are per- ceived as dangerous and to control computer use and programs in all public arenas, especially public libraries and schools. Since 1995 “Innocent Images,” and FBI operation with 10

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