The Internet is now one of the most commonly used forms of media publication in the world. In the past one would have had to go to a public library or a bookstore to find the information that they were searching for. However, because of the increased availability of the Internet within the workplace, home, library, and school it has become the main source of an information search. However, the Internet has also led to the increase of unregulated and easy access to pornographic material. Whether it s the verification process, unintentional search, or public areas of the Internet, the issue of pornography has become an issue of concern to many parents, the Federal Government, workplace and educational institutions. However, it s the Federal Government that should begin to address having stricter guidelines and rules for restricting underage, unregulated access to pornography.
With each website that is considered pornographic in nature, the administrator or company that provides the web page must have an age verification agreement in order for someone to enter the website. The web page usually explains the legal information in small writing and in just enough text that they can t be held legally accountable for underage recipients. A speech delivered at Boston University by a professor named Cathleen Cleaver titled, The Internet: A Clear and Present Danger comments that, [w]ith a few clicks of the mouse, anyone, any child, can get graphic and often violent sexual images (Cleaver 1). The process is all it takes to verify the person accessing the web site is 18 or older, per United States government regulations. This process however, does not entail any actual age verification from the person accessing the web page. Marty Rimm, a writer with the Georgetown Law Journal comments that, with those simple clicks, one can have access to over 1.2 billion pictures now posted within the World Wide Web (Rimm 2). Because of this easy access, anyone with a computer and knowledge of the Internet can access these pictures. Although the World Wide Web governing body has attempted to place laws and regulations on access to these sites, its outcome has been without success. The Federal Government needs to find some other means of verifying one s age for accessing the website. Perhaps a social security number, or driver s license number would at least have some control on access to the pornography.
Nevertheless there are many ways of accessing information on the Internet. One way commonly used now is by typing a key word into a search engine such as Lycos or Yahoo. The search engine will provide results that were related to the subject that was queried. However, just by typing in the word boy or girl will lead to over 22,000 websites that are considered pornographic (Cleaver 1), and some of those are not even age verified. Along those lines is the possibility that accidentally typing in an incorrect URL or website address will also lead to pornographic websites, such as typing www.whitehouse.com instead of www.whitehouse.gov. This is an easy mistake anyone could make, and yet it directly leads to unregulated pornography. Additionally, more than 150,000 people subscribe to a free email service provided by Microsoft, called Hotmail. As a subscriber, each day I receive at least 4 emails inviting me to view pornographic material with the understanding that I am verifying I am at least 18. Once again, something needs to be done about regulating the access of pornographic material.
What s astonishing about today s use of the Internet is that 45% of the use on the World Wide Web is comprised of people between the ages of 16-24 (Cleaver 1), the most influential and impressionable time in one s lives. Most users access the Internet for email, informational queries, and a most recent edition, chat rooms. The chat rooms have provided the opportunity for unregulated and expansive growth in the amateur world of pornography. Each day thousands of pictures are scanned and sent over email to be shown to individuals met through the chat rooms, and [t]here are an estimated 72,000 pornographic chat rooms on the World Wide Web, with approximately 39 new chat rooms added daily (Cleaver 1). America Online is the largest provider of chat rooms in the world, and admits there is unregulated pornography being passed through their chat rooms, but is unable to eliminate this as part of their business. Similarly another website dedicated to posting amateur pictures on the Internet, called www.voyeurweb.com. By simply clicking on the button marked click to enter one has access to over a million pictures of anyone ages 6 and up. Not only does this allow the availability of pornography, but also violates the Federal Government s laws and regulations with child pornography.
In contrast one might say that the laws and regulations contained within the Internet are sufficient enough with age verification purposes. However, Cyber Patrol, Net Nanny, Surfwatch, and Cyber Sitter are just a few of the agencies that claim to be able to protect people under the age of 18 from accessing pornography. However, the only method in which these agencies eliminate those under the age of 18 from accessing the Internet is by requiring a credit card. This may reduce the access to pornography, but will not eliminate it; a credit card is easy to come by. America Online has recently introduced a new feature that allows parents to lock out their children from entering certain types of chat rooms and Internet sites. Steven S. Woo, a columnist for USA Today, has done some investigation in this matter and found, AOL allows you to create separate screen names for each of your children. The account can be configured to block downloads and disable e-mail and be limited to age-appropriate materials for each child (Woo 3). Nonetheless, there is the issue that everyone should follow the rules that are written, however most of the time if there is not someone to monitor whether rules are being followed or not, people are going to find a way to break them. Our Federal Government needs involvement in this before something can actually be done to address this problem.
The Internet has led to the increase of unregulated and easy access to pornographic material and the Federal Government needs to take action in regulating the ability to access this pornography. Although this is typically a larger issue with children, the topic should not be taken lightly when considering the ramifications of adults also viewing this material. In the past, to gain access to pornographic material, one would have to physically submit age verification to another person who could provide them with a movie or magazine. Now with the increased use of the Internet, and availability to publish almost anything, the simple click of a mouse button will gain access to more sexually explicit material than presented twenty years ago. The Internet is growing exponentially quicker than anything else known to man and will continue to allow for the unregulated and easy access to pornographic material. The Federal Government needs to start considering what kind of society we ll have when the next generation learns about human sexuality from what the Internet teaches. What does this unrestricted Internet pornography teach children about relationships, about the equality of women? What does this say about our society? There is obviously a need for change, and the Federal Government needs to begin intervention, in some capacity, to see this need through.