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Family & Porn Groups Team Up To Kill Bill

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When the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) lacked the fortitude to withstand the flurry of protestations against the proposed .xxx domain for pornographic websites, two U.S. Senators took up the cause proposing not just the domain’s creation but also a .com eviction notice.

Typically, domain (e.g. .com, .net, .edu) establishment is left to quasi-independent ICANN, who returned a decided “ICANN’T” after opposition all the way up to the White House condemned the .xxx creation, terming it a “virtual red light district.”

In the same camp were conservative groups Focus on the Family and Family Research Council who felt creating a designated area for pornography would legitimize the trade, not finding it a bit ironic they were blocking measures intended to protect the family.

Let’s play a game. Let’s pretend that psychiatric care legitimizes mental illness and eradicate special treatment and societal confinement. If we pretend insanity doesn’t (or shouldn’t) exist, maybe it will go away. At least we wouldn’t have to deal with it, right?

Meanwhile, Democratic Senators Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Max Baucus of Montana introduce a bill that not only creates the new domain, but also requires pornographic websites to relocate to this domain. In doing so, they’ve united the most unlikely of enemies: the Christian conservative Right and the Free Speech Coalition (an organization that represents the interests of pornographers).

If the sky were ever falling, it’s now.

The Free Speech Coalition has argued that moving domains would place undue burdens on the multi-billion dollar a year industry, costing it in merchandizing and lost visitation. Spokesman Tom Hymes has proposed instead a .kids domain to address the issue of protecting children from viewing pornography. Hymes also promised a challenge to the constitutionality of the bill, reminding the legislature that pornography is protected speech.

Hymes, whose special interest should preclude his argument, fails to acknowledge that the creation of such a domain shifts the burden from pornography producers (who’ve created the issue to start with) to those desperately hoping to shield their children from it. He also ignores that pornography is actively and tenaciously sought, and moving it will not deter its loyal following.

Pornography has taken over a quarter of the total Internet, a prevalence that should remind everyone of its demand as well as its current unavoidability. Of the billion websites that have been created, that translates to 250 million pornographic sites. And no one seems willing to acknowledge that a) it will not be eradicated and b) it is, in its current Wild West state, nearly impossible to avoid.

In July, Senator Joseph Lieberman introduced the Internet Safety and Child Online Protection Act of 2005. The legislation, which imposed a 25% “smut tax” to help fund age-verification enforcement, has been labeled unconstitutional by detractors. The fervor to have the Act passed through the legislature has also led the Dept. of Justice subpoenaing Google and others for searcher information, causing even deeper concerns about constitutionality.

All three approaches (ignoring, shifting of burdens, and governmental overstepping) miss the simpler solution proposed by Pryor and Maucus. Acknowledge the staying power of pornography, identify it (with “know it when I see it” reasoning – we do this with television, we can do it with the Internet), and redirect it to a place where it cannot be accidentally stumbled upon.

If the bill doesn’t include the following, then it should. To avoid complaints of lost and valuable .com domains (or wherever porn exists), a simple 301 redirect or notice of relocation allows owners of pornographic websites to keep those domains (and their merchandising) while providing the proper labeling of adult materials.

We don’t need taxes, any type of free speech restriction, or avenues created where government can unjustly flex its muscle. We do need some common sense however that acknowledges that what has been done doesn’t work, and that there can be a simple mutually beneficial compromise.

But most importantly, we need to create an environment without the risk of, when they are researching for homework or trying to find a fun online game, children cannot easily stumble upon pornography.

“Parents should not have to worry about their children surfing into Web sites for adults, either on purpose or by accident,” said Sen. Baucus.

Sen. Pryor agrees and notes the current method of protection:

“The only way parents can really block or screen out or protect their children is literally just stand there and look over their shoulder as they’re online,” Pryor said. “And it really shouldn’t have to be that way.”

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Family & Porn Groups Team Up To Kill Bill
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