Pornography is an age-old phenomenon that has been under much modern-day scrutiny. With the recent proliferation of online pornography, possible social ramifications of sexually explicit material on uncontrolled mediums have become the subjects of intense debate. Proponents of a liberal approach toward pornography argue that access to online smut is a constitutionally protected freedom and "a harmless diversion that serves to satisfy curiosity and relieve sexual tensions.5" Opponents of this view are particularly concerned with the social effects of online pornography and its effect on the values and morals of minors who can access pornographic images. I will argue for the liberal side and argue that porn in both print form and electronic form should be constitutionally protected.
The major piece of legislation that would infringe on the rights of Internet users was the Communications Decency Act (CDA) of 1996. The CDA labeled the transmission of "obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, indecent, or patently offensive" pornography over the Internet a crime. It was attached to the Telecommunications Reform Act of 1996, which was then passed by Congress on February 1, 1996. The bill was created to outlaw obscene material on the web and impose fines of up to $100,000 and prison terms of up to two years on anyone who knowingly makes "indecent" material available to children under eighteen5. The Act used sweeping generalizations, which banned all forms of nudity in written and graphic form on the Internet. The clauses of the Act were so broad that posting pictures of famous works of art on the Internet, such as Michaelangelo's David, would be grounds for a heavy fine. Sexually related articles and photos, which are constitutionally protected in tangible form, would have been deemed unconstitutional in electronic form. Although the United States Supreme Court declared the Act unconstitutional, many congressional representatives still feel that the Act should remain intact.
One major flaw of the CDA is that it uses "community standards" to judge what is considered legal on the Internet. Unlike most forms of media, the Internet has no defined community; it is a decentralized, ungoverned body that is accessible to every person with a computer and a telephone line in the world. If there are "community standards," to which community do they belong? Do they belong to the communities of the Netherlands where prostitution and marijuana are legal, or to the communities of Bible-belt American, where family values are top priorities? The CDA went beyond its jurisdiction by claiming that "community standards" was the device with which to measure indecency. The standards of conservative lawmakers should not be the standards that gauge the appropriateness of the Internet, and these lawmakers are wrong to assume that their morals are mirrored in "community standards" throughout America.
The vast library located on the Internet would be transformed into nothing more...