Strange Taste: Regulating Web Users Choice.

•May 1, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Strange Taste: Regulating Web Users Choice.

In most Cases, government and other kinds of organizations try to censor pornography, their main concern are children. In today’s liberal society, a lot of Internet users and Congress have dismissed the efforts to regulate it[1], statutes such as Communications Decency Act (CDA), Child Online Protection Act (COPA) and Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) have all failed. Many of the free expression defenders celebrate the victory of Porn over justice, but sometimes they fail to realize the limits and dangers that lurk in the border of expression and obscenity,

We live in a very liberal age, there are states now that have legalized Marihuana, more and more people are supporting the idea of free healthcare and we have seem to hear less about God in Political speeches and more about people. Speech has enjoyed an almost omnipotent existence in the past decade; only during the Bush administration Americans saw a rise of obscene cases that made it to the Supreme Court. An important question to ask between all the new liberal attitudes is, how far shall we allow expression to go? And whom are we really trying to protect?

As it was mentioned on another article, the popularity and the revenues that the porn industry enjoys are tremendously big, ranking in the Billions of Dollars a year. Men are often comfortable by saying they watch a couple of videos and even Feminists women have come to the defense of the porn industry.

In a 2010 national survey, over a quarter of 16- to 17-year olds said they were exposed to nudity online when they did not want to see it. In addition 20% of 16-year-olds and 30% of 17-year-olds have received a “sext” (a sexually explicit text message).

More than 7 out of 10 teens hide their online behavior from their parents in some way.

More than half of boys and nearly a third of girls see their first pornographic images before they turn 13. In a survey of hundreds of college students, 93% of boys and 62% of girls said they were exposed to pornography before they turned 182.

Perhaps expecting the government to regulate and to act on this scenario is to expect too much. The difficulties behind it are enormous and it is practically impossible to regulate it without breaking the real and honest freedom of expression that other people might have. Perhaps it is also a little extreme to put someone in jail for filming stuff that is just too strange and unpleasant for our taste; there is no reason why a person with strange taste (but harmless) should be put behind bars with murderers, kidnappers and other kind of dangerous convicts.

One of the biggest problems to achieve a viable solution is that in many cases people don’t admit that pornography has a big presence on the internet and that sexual related topics are nothing strange in almost any website. Another misconception that people have is that they often use the word Pornography to enlarge a wide list of denominations, such as violence, nudity, obscenity, offensive and harmful. Not all adult material has all the descriptions mentioned above, in fact, some famous people are proud to make business out of it.

Perhaps it is not the soft videos that need to be regulated or censored. TV, Movies and Videogames have a lot of explicit nudity and are very open when discussing sex topics too; it is the cases that dwell on the limits, those that portray disturbing images and situations that need to be controlled. The first step is for people to understand what the porn industry is, accept it and face it, so far, it is like the big pink elephant in the living room that nobody mentions. The sooner people can reach an agreement of what Pornography is, the sooner will regulations for the extreme material come and the safer we will all be.


[1] Don Pember, and Clay Calvert, Digital Media Law, (McGraw Hill Higher education, 2010), 481-485.

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How much is too much? Regulation of obscene and other erotic material.

•May 1, 2013 • Leave a Comment

In 2006, Americans spent nearly $13 billion on sexually explicit adult entertainment, including $2.8 billion on Internet content and $1.7 billion on cable and pay-per-view TV content, according to the Adult Video News trade publication.
Despite its popularity-there were, for example, more than 45 million unique US visitors to adult Internet sites in the month of October 2006 alone- sexually explicit content remains a highly controversial target of government prosecution.
In May 2007, for instance, the federal government indicted adult content producer Paul Little, better known as Max Hardcore, for distributing allegedly obscene content via both the Internet and U.S mail.

Max_Head_Bright

Picture of Paul Little, a.k.a. Max Hardcore.
Source: Twitter Account.**
**Warning, explicit material on Twitter account. DO NOT ENTER unless you really want to know what he is about. The author is not responsible for any of the content on twitter account.

Max was released on July 2011 and has been active in the porn industry since Early 2012. Max Hardcore is one of the best and worst cases of free expression rights. On one hand, you have a guy who is willing to do the most “hardcore” stuff you can imagine when it comes to sexual acts, he does very weird stuff and dresses her models and makes them wear make up in order for them to look younger, like a teenager; his movies often include urination, vomiting and exhibitionism, his behavior and material is considered offensive by many feminist activists and many religious organizations and just people in general. Even more common people could find Max as an offensive and vulgar person and indeed may think he is worthy of censorship. On the other hand however, Max isn’t doing anything “illegal”, the Federal Government had to try 3 times before putting him in jail and even then, they barely succeeded and were unable to shut down his web site or remove any of his old material. All of the people involved in his movies are adults, agree with the motives and intentions of his movies and in a way they aren’t doing anything illegal.

The illegal part is very important; something to remember when speaking about justice is that many times, “wrong” doesn’t mean “illegal”. If the government convicted Max for using vomiting images in his videos that would mean that vomiting is illegal or anyone who films vomiting is doing an illegal act; this would mean that any doctor, patient or film director could be held accountable for doing illegal acts, in this example, “found guilty for vomiting”.

Although many of us think that this kind of behavior and material is indeed obscene and should be censored, it is important to understand the limits of expression, how far can you go and what can be done with it. Perhaps the case of Max Hardcore can help us understand what not to do with our free expression.

It is a difficult scenario for both people and government. There is no denying the popularity of pornographic and erotic material.

Source: Porn Stats

Source: Porn Stats

So what can be done? Perhaps not much. A lot of the efforts of obscenity prosecutors are aimed towards child pornography, which is a lot easier to prosecute and is indeed illegal and wrong in almost every part of the globe. Something else that needs to be addressed: Some people might find some of the material, like the movies of Max Hardcore, too extreme and vulgar and repulsive; some people might not see anything wrong with it and perhaps even enjoy it. The difficulty lies in having reasonable and applicable standards. For example, if nudity on films and pictures is illegals, that means all of nudity pictures and films are illegal. If sex filming is illegal, that makes any couple who has sex and has a sex video guilty and probably could end up in jail.  Even if the Adult Material somehow managed to be illegal, that necessarily would have to make all people involved in the case illegal, that would mean that producers, actors, distributors and even viewers could go to jail; in an hypothetical case, if a person just happens to click a misleading link or to see a pop up picture of a naked woman, that would make him a criminal. Now that is harder than Max Hardcore, and speaking of which, perhaps he wasn’t at all wrong when he talked about the first prosecution against him:
“it is (the prosecution) a frivolous waste of public resources” (Kernes, Mark; Rutter, Jared (May 18, 2004)

Unfortunately for Max, he isn’t the hardest out there, there still needs to be something harder or worse to fully test the limits of Free Speech. Until then, all we can do is wonder and watch, or not to watch, depending on your preferences.

Defending Expression: United States v. Fletcher.

•May 1, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Defending Expression: United States v. Fletcher.

Is it possible for a person to go to jail for telling the story of how people and sometimes minors were tortured, raped and killed? It sounds a little extreme to imagine, but perhaps it isn’t hard to imagine, the idea doesn’t seem impossible. Take the same question and add the word “fiction” to it: is it possible for a person to go to jail for telling the fictional story of how people and some minors were raped, tortured and killed? Perhaps people can be shocked for someone writing such stories and even more shocking is the fact that people read them but, what does it matter? People read about werewolves, vampires, robots, aliens, angels and detectives; fiction doesn’t have limits, could anybody be considered a criminal for writing fiction? The idea seems crazy right? Well, not in America.

In recent years, the US has seen a tremendous rise of content being uploaded to all kinds of Web sites: YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. People publish everything these days, from pictures of their cats to stories about what they saw at an earthquake or narratives about what happened at a terrorist attack. It is not strange to find wonderful stories, funny stories, scary stories and even boring stories on the Internet; however fabulous, innocent, funny, ridiculous or descriptive, people always find means to communicate and if there is a message there’s always someone willing to hear it. Take for example the case of Karen Fletcher, who had her own Web site “Red Rose stories” where she published some of her fictional stories. So far, nothing seems out of order, and it shouldn’t, people do that all the time, the only difference with Fletcher was the content of her stories: grim, dark and spooky stories that sometimes involved minors and children involved in horrible cases of torture, rape and murder; however, Fletcher always made it clear that her stories were fictional, there wasn’t any picture, not even a drawing.

The relevance of the Fletcher case lies within three important elements:
Written (Fiction) censorship, Web censorship and more importantly Obscenity.
It is a very relevant case because it helps to outline obscenity and child pornography. The main questions for the case could be: “Is fictional writing a crime?” and perhaps even better: “is the fictional description of fictional characters (minors in this case) suffering fictional sexual abuse considered a REAL crime?” According to the decision of Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan, the answer is yes; fictional characters and imaginative narratives do translate into a real, punishable crime.

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Even tough Ms. Fletcher’s case will not set any precedent related to text-only-fictional obscenity prosecutions (because she voluntarily pled guilty) it does set interesting scenarios to describe how could this case have been won, its viable defenses (using First amendment rights and obscenity definitions) the backwardness in the court ruling in this case and perhaps it helps to set a better definition of what to do in newer cases that have similarities, that dwell in fictional graphic descriptions and to (hopefully) illustrate with examples such as Ms. Buchanan that material that they consider “disturbing, disgusting and vile[1]”  doesn’t necessarily mean it is or that it translates into obscenity.

For more information regarding the case of Fletcher, visit:

Article 1
Article 2

More specific information according to Freedom of Expression and Media Law regarding to the case:

Link

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[1] Reed, Paula. “Afraid.” Afraid of public trial, author to plead guilty in online obscenity. (2008): n. page 1. Web.

Hello world!

•December 6, 2010 • 1 Comment

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