High court revisits issue of kids' access to online smut

Fang-Face writes "The forces of reactionism had another crack at the U.S. Supreme Court:

The Bush administration's top Supreme Court lawyer sat at his home computer over the weekend and tried a little experiment he says illustrates the need for a law protecting children from online smut. Type in the words "free porn" on an Internet search engine, and you get a list of more than 6 million Web sites, Solicitor General Theodore Olson told the Supreme Court today [02 Mar 2004].

What the article, at First Amendment Center, did not report was the following: How many 8 year old children sit down at the computer to do a keyword search for "free porn"; why Olson allows his children (if he has any) to surf the internet unsupervised knowing that such material is out there; why he seeks to punish free people for not wanting to raise his kids when he won't do the job himself. His arguments before the court were composed of the usual specious nonsense."

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He needs to limit his search string

I just typed in "free nasty porn" and only got two million sites, instead of six million. A search for "free smutty porn" only gets 27,000 hits. "Free "sexy porn"" gets 200,000 hits. "Free porn -teen -gay" gets about 4 million hits. The Solicitor general totally needs a librarian to teach him proper searching techniques!

I agree it comes down to one thing: monitor your child on the internet. There are dirty words and objectionable things in the dictionary, too, folks.

Re: kids' access to online smut

Olson's point was that porn is "as easily available to children as a television remote." His demostration of typing in a few words into a computer and getting millions of Web sites proves this claim beyond any doubt.

In other words, he meant only to show that "such material is out there." Why all the free association and editorializing ("specious nonsense," yadda-yadda)?

Re: kids' access to online smut

Sorry, but Teddy was doing a lot more than a simple demonstration. It was the usual theatrics from the AG office and almost as funny as draping large bronze ladies with blue curtains. Think.

Re: kids' access to online smut

No, Olsen's argument is that, because the stuff is out there, we need restrictive legislation to protect kids from it.The reasoning is fallacious, though. The fact that adults can easily find porn online doesn't mean that 8-year-olds are at constant risk of stumbling across it. How many 8-year-olds do you think are going to do the search Olsen did? And if an 8-year-old is doing that search, is there perhaps a different problem there, one that isn't addressed by filters and restrictive legislation?Parents need to monitor their kids online, just as they don't let them wander unsupervised through a bookstore that has a section with child-inappropriate materials. We don't need to ban those materials, or restrict the access of interested adults to those materials, either in the bookstores or on the internet.

Re: kids' access to online smut

Okay, pretty clearly we're talking about different things. I was attempting to clarify the point that Olson made. You are carrying on with Fang-Face's disquisition on what the article "didn't say," etc.

Re: kids' access to online smut

Exactly. We cannot legislate parenting skills. I think the one issue that gets overlooked is that objectionable material (however you wish to define it) has been available in one form or another for many years. Web/Internet smut is just the newest incarnation. I think that many of these legislators would be shocked to walk around a fiction section and see what is in some of these books. Not to mention a photography section, certainly there are art books that could be called pornography. And kids may not even have to go to a library or book store to pick up these books, they could be at home sitting on the bookshelf. As with tv, books, language, and music Parents have to take an active role in teaching their children what is appropriate. The government should not be expected to do that for us.

Re:He needs to limit his search string

I'd like to know where he got his figures from. Around lunch time I typed "free porn" into Google and only got back 2.96 million hits. So I tried "porn" and got 85.8 million, and when I tried it just a moment ago I got 3.07 million and 93.7 million, respectively. Either Olson can't count or he juggled the numbers or Google is royally screwed up. Although maybe Google crawled the web this afternoon.

Re:He needs to limit his search string

The article says nothing about Google. What earthly difference does it make whether the number is 1 or 10 million?

Re: kids' access to online smut

Olson's point was that porn is "as easily available to children as a television remote."

And my stance is that his point is a bare-faced misapprehension. His pseudoscientific, bullshit experiment is based on the unwarranted assumption that children are actively searching out porn. People look for what interests them; including children. Humans don't develop an interest in pornography until adolescence, and by that time they are no longer children. If his intention was to show that children can stumble upon porn by accident while searching for appropriate material, then he failed to make that point.

In other words, he meant only to show that "such material is out there."

We already knew that such material is out there. Intelligent people don't need simple-minded fools like Olson belaboring the obvious before we get it. What the simple-minded fools need to be told time and time again -- because they just don't get it -- is to not let their own children surf the internet unsupervised, and to stay the Hell out of everybody else's lives. That's why all the editorializing.

I'm pretty liberal but

...I do feel uncomfortable about the smut in libraries debate (meme?) in BOTH directions.

Seems like we could use some filtering or policies or both in place. Or perhaps a policy of "your kid can't use these computers without you sitting right here". But what to do about adult patrons?

And then there's the whole "Filters don't work" debate (meme.) And I can see that too. I used to test them for a public library [ah being able to search for porn on company time! :) ]

It IS annoying how publics are expected to filter/monitor, all the while getting funding cut.

And speaking as a father of a 13 year old girl and a 7 year old boy, I don't know that they would suffer irreparable harm (an argument that seems implicit) from seeing images of nekkid people. BUT I have a filter on my home computer nonetheless!

Careful here

Conservatives need to be careful on this one.

It is difficult for me to agree with Fang, but in this context I do.

This is not a library issue. I fervently support CIPA however Olsen's weekend homework represents an entirely different issue.

Filters in schools and libraries and parents at home represent a "back-end" approach that I support. This piece suggests that federal law on the "front-end" may be needed. I don't agree with the latter, assuming that this is Constitutionally protected smut.

That said, anything falling under the terms ``sexual act'' and ``sexual" as defined in section 2246 of USC 18 should not be freely viewable without registration/parental consent. This includes pop-ups.

Re:He needs to limit his search string

The difference between real science and bullshit. What search engine did he use for the initial run, and what search engine did he use for comparison? How did he establish a control group?

His arguments about the availability of porn are meaningless without a proper context. He did not establish any kind of context. Estimates are that some two percent of web pages are pornographic, and many web sites require some kind of proof of adulthood*. But all "We Must Protect the Children" nonsense is based, firstly, on the idea that any amount, even just one incident of whatever it is they are sniveling about, is totally impermissible however much it might constitute protected speech. In short, Olson is blowhard loudmouth with a bitch but no brains.

At any rate, I didn't say Olson used Google, I said I used Google. I also specifically asked where he got his figures from.

* Ignoring pop-ups and advertisements and the fact that any kid with a hormone rush can copy down a credit card number on a piece of a paper for later use. The credit card number requirement, however, is to protect the ass of the porn site operators. If your kid uses your credit card number the operator can say it's your fault, not his.

Re: kids' access to online smut

Okay, first, let me say that I really don't appreciate the abusive tone and obscene language.

No one claimed that this was a scientific experiment. In any case, you grant his point in your second paragraph, so why are you hurling abuse at him?

Also, if this is based on any assumption at all, it's that kids being kids, if it's there, they'll find it. Your abstract theory about human development just doesn't do much for me.

Re: kids' access to online smut

What obscene language? Hell? Or the "bullshit" I used in an earlier message? If you don't like such words, or my adverserial tone, you are free to complain to Blake Carver. I believe the COMMENT page has a link at the bottom which specifically says to contact him to complain about abusive messages. Or maybe it's the one about moderating. In any event, his e-mail address is: blake@lisnews.com

It should be interesting to see how you are going to prove that my "obscene" language fails the Miller Test. As for "abusive", Blake has considerable leeway in determining what is acceptable or not, but there are several court rulings I can invoke in my defense that say rude and insulting speech is still protected speech.

Have a nice day.

Free porn, Google, censorship, Supreme Court

I take apart his demonstration in my
blog entry:


Free porn, Google, spam, Internet censorship, and the Supreme Court

It turns out there are really uniquely less than 900 sites, if you believe Google :-)

Seth Finkelstein

Re:Free porn, Google, censorship, Supreme Court

Seth, you confirm his demonstration. In fact, you found more "available sites" than he did (6,320,000 rather than 6,230,000). And again, Olson said nothing about Google. Your blog post is purest sophistry, and detracts nothing from Olson's point.

Fang's good article reference

"What the article, at First Amendment Center, did not report was the following" and then follows an editorial, not news, that belongs in the journal section. If I can figure out how to use "journal" anyone can. Please give us news in this section. Opinions on child rearing are not news--if they were, I'd fill the news with my own favorite methods.

Re:Free porn, Google, censorship, Supreme Court

Another thing that skews the result is how your search terms are entered; regardless of which engine you use for your search. There's a big difference between: free porn, "free porn", and "free" +"porn". Given the number of hits he got I'd say that he couched his terms too loosely and did need to refine his search string. (And this is important, conservator, because he was offering his very poor results in a court of law as evidence.)

Re:Free porn, Google, censorship, Supreme Court

No, Seth's demonstration does not prove Olson's point. It illustrates that Olson didn't think about what he was doing. Each hit for the search string "free porn" indicates a web page on which the string appears; and I surmise that a single page could generate multiple hits. At my web site, many pages have a list of intrasite links with the URLs written out in full, because otherwise, working through the links off line doesn't work, so each page would get hits for a specific portion of the URL. Plus, many porn sites cheat by repeatedly using individual key words for metalanguage searches. Olson, however, asserted that the number of hits he got was for web sites, not web pages.

Re:Fang's good article reference

Hear, hear!

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