NRC asks for reviewers for forthcoming Internet porn report

Tim May tcmay at
Tue Aug 14 15:32:06 PDT 2001

On Tuesday, August 14, 2001, at 02:36 PM, Declan McCullagh wrote:

> On Tue, Aug 14, 2001 at 01:53:58PM -0700, Tim May wrote:
>> Third, the issue of online porn, the CDA, the Amateur Action case, etc.
>> have been discussed many times here.
> The NRC study will be very important in Washington DC circles (less
> important than the Meese commission, more important than the COPA
> Commission). While it may be of passing interest to cypherpunks, many
> of these topics have been discussed before, as Tim says, which
> explains why there's little reaction.

And there is, after all, VERY LITTLE that such a study should do.

Some people don't like porn, some people like it. Some subscribe to porn 
sites, some surf for free, some even generate online and other porn.

Some people don't want their husbands to access porn. Some don't mind. 
Some don't want their children to access porn. Some don't mind. Some 
people don't want bookstores to carry "To Kill a Mockingbird," some 
people don't want them to carry "Lolita." Some don't mind.

However, in a free society with protections similar to the First 
Amendment, what people like or dislike is not germane to what government 
may pass laws about. There is nothing in the First which allows 
government to regulate speech or music or any other such form of 
expression based on its offensiveness to some. Nothing. (The landmark 
Supreme Court cases on obscenity, like Miller, have to do with fairly 
gross obscenity. Not that I agree they were justified, but the "online 
decency" issue is a long way from what the Supremes have said may be 

"For the children!" is no more a reason to trump the First for Web sites 
than it would be to trump the First for bookstores, for example, by 
requiring that "Lolita" be kept in an adult's only section. Or that 
children not be allowed to enter bookstore's containing images and text 
deemed unaccepable by some.

Nor is "self labelling" acceptable under the First. My words are my 
words, my pages are my pages. I don't have to "rate" them for how a 
Muslim might feel about them, or how Donna Rice might react, or whether 
I included material "offensive" to Creationists. Nothing in the First

Whether the technology yet exists to allow parents (or wives) to block 
certain sites is neither here nor there, and it's a shame something 
called "The National Research Council" is getting involved in this.

By the way, this is an area which is ideal for an analysis using Larry 
Lessig's "tripod" of "Custom" vs. "Law" vs. "Technology." I wrote about 
Lessig's model a few years ago. (I haven't read his latest book, "Code," 
so I don't how he fleshes out the idea....I have combined it with my own 
models. Maybe I'll write up some thoughts. (Not for Herb Lin, of course. 
Nothing against him, but these "studies" are usually just opinion polls 
and are crushingly boring reads. I tried to read the NRC's "Crypto" 
report...even went to the Palo Alto unveiling. B-o-r-i-n-g!)

--Tim May

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