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The internet is just smut...

BY JOHN MIHALJEVIC

The Communications Decency Act ensures that indecent material is not read or viewed by minors surfing the web. Though opponents say they want to protect minors, the absence of the CDA would leave children exposed to filthy and indecent content easily available online.

Some say the provision banning indecency is too vague to be enforced. Though the definition of indecency as "patently offensive by contemporary community standards" sounds vague, federal law already restricts indecent speech on radio and television by these very standards.

Opponents claim the Internet is more like newspapers than broadcast media. This would relax regulations: print content is regulated for obscenity and not for indecency, which is more restrictive. Those against the CDA say finding indecent material on the web is more difficult than on television, where you only have to switch between different channels. But I don't think typing "sex" into any search engine is a very difficult task.

Some also state that regulation of the Internet amounts to censorship because it violates our right to free speech. The government's compelling interest in protectign minors, however, overshadows any infringement on First Amendment rights. The First Amendment is alive and well today, even though the government has been restricting indecent speech in broadcast media for some time.

Others talk of a slippery slope to ever-greater intrusion into our private lives. The thought of Big Brother reading my e-mail is somewhat frightening, I must admit. I agree we should guard against the possibility of the government abus-ing its power, but we cannot let this fear paralyze us in our efforts to protect children from indecency. Moreover, the fear is rather unwarranted: existing legislation already allows the government to spy on us.

Lastly, the assertion that parents can buy software which allows them to block their kids access to sexually explicit web sites is not completely valid. Software products like Net Nanny are not foolproof and have considerable flaws. Moreover, many children would probably have little trouble disabling software installed by their parents. Let's face it: par-
ents unable to set the clocks on their VCRs have a tough time supervising their techno-savvy kids.

Although opponents of the CDA have raised numerous concerns about the law, their objections are clearly flawed and could threaten children with access to the Internet. Indiana Senator Dan Coats warned, "The Internet [without provisions against indecency] is like taking a porn shop and putting it in the bedroom of your children and then saying `Do not look.'" The CDA is a beneficial piece of legislation because it allows for a free exchange of ideas on the web while making adult material available to adults only.

John Mihaljevic, TD '99, is president of the Yale College Republicans.

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