Limit Access to Pornography

WOULD the folks out there who think it's perfectly acceptable to hand a child a pornographic magazine please step forward?

I have yet to hear a decent argument from any so-called ''free speech'' advocates on why pornographers should be free to peddle their material to children via computers. Because that's what all the rhetoric about the Communications Decency Amendment of the Telecommunications Reform Bill boils down to. Congress decided it should be illegal to knowingly transmit or display pornography to kids.

It's that simple. Incorporate passwords, genuine age-verification, and other protective measures for the sort of material we have never given children access to. The Internet was designed to withstand a nuclear attack. Don't tell me the clever minds that make this technological world turn can't find a way to keep a 12-year-old from accessing pictures of women and children being degraded or abused.

But the ACLU avoids that discussion, instead favoring claims that literary masterpieces and important health discussions are in jeopardy. Perhaps, like Chicken Little, they've screamed that the sky is falling once too often. They don't want people to know that types of pictorial/image pornography available on the Internet include everything from soft-core newsstand porn to hard-core sex acts, including bestiality, torture of women for sexual pleasure, and other acts of the most degrading kind, as well as child pornography. Types of textual pornography include detailed stories on the rape, mutilation, and torture of women; sexual abuse of children; and incest.

Yes, heaven forbid that a child - or anyone else for that matter - shouldn't have easy access to such photos. Let's just put the onus for keeping kids away from this garbage on parents instead of on the producers and distributors. At all costs, we're told, we should avoid creating any legal liability for the pornographers and just trust them to be good citizens. We don't give kids access to pornography in bookstores, video stores, or dial-a-porn. It would be ridiculous and irresponsible. But the ACLU and others are suggesting that should be different in cyberspace.

The next generation, for whom this technology offers the most promise, should be as welcome on the Internet as adults. Women should be as welcome as men. Adults who are interested in this material have access to hundreds of other sites for computer pornography (private commercial pornographic bulletin board services), where it is possible to check subscribers' ages.

Our society has a historic commitment to protecting children from the worst impulses of adults. And most who are in favor of protective measures aren't fanatics - religious, cultural, or otherwise. They're just reasonable people who don't think it's a good idea to allow children into a world of dangerous material for which they are not psychologically prepared.

Most people don't trust the pornography industry's ''goodwill'' to stay away from kids unless they face laws telling them they must. The fanaticism is to be found in the ranks of those who contend that on the Internet, anything goes, and no material is too explicit or too violent or too degrading. This shift in the baseline for children's access to pornography is remarkably callous; it would mark a fundamental change in our historic attitude toward the law's role in helping protect kids.

The ACLU and others need to quit hiding behind ''free speech'' rhetoric and at least have the intellectual honesty to tell the truth. They're cheapening the legitimate free-speech argument by using it to defend distribution of pornography to children.

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