Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick




Pennsylvania's Porn Blocking Law Case Begins

from the understanding-the-issue dept

We've written before about how civil liberties groups are suing the attorney general for a law that forces ISPs to block access to sites they decide have child pornography on them. Today, the case began, and a fairly compelling argument was made. The problem with this case is that people hear "child porn" and immediately decide that anything that stops it is good. Stopping child porn obviously is a good and noble goal - but this law doesn't do that and has a ridiculous amount of collateral damage. What the law should be, is that if a site is discovered with child porn, the site itself should be taken offline and those responsible should be tried for breaking the law. Instead, what this law does is force ISPs in Pennsylvania to block access to those sites. In other words, the sites remain online - but people using certain ISPs are blocked from accessing those sites. In cases where the site is on a shared server, every other site on that server are also blocked - even if they have nothing to do with the child porn. The Pennsylvania attorney general insists that this is the right way to go, but doesn't explain why they can't focus on catching those actually responsible for the child porn rather than using this other, ineffective and troublesome solution instead. This is the equivalent of the state discovering a crack house, but instead of shutting down the crack house and arresting those responsible, they just have the police come and put up a big barrier blocking the road from everyone - even others who happen to live on the same street. Even worse, they won't tell those who live on the street that they've been blocked or tell them why. They just stop letting them go home.

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  • identicon
    JD, 6 Jan 2004 @ 6:31pm

    True but...

    What you say is true and it is not the correct, long term solution. However, if you have kids, it's still better than nothing.

    I pay attention to what my kids are doing but things can still slip through the cracks occasionally. And, until a good permanent solution can be worked out... something is better than nothing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 Jan 2004 @ 7:26pm

      Re: True but...

      This is not about protecting your children from the Internet. The law does not restrict all pornographic sites, it only addresses those sites that have child pornography.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike (profile), 6 Jan 2004 @ 10:31pm

      Re: True but...

      So why not just have a law that forces those sites to be taken offline?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Oliver Wendell Jones, 7 Jan 2004 @ 6:27am

        Re: True but...

        So why not just have a law that forces those sites to be taken offline?

        Because Pennsylvania can only extend the arm of the law to websites hosted within the state of Pennsylvania?

        They can't make a law that makes it illegal for someone to run a site in Alaska (where it's most likely already illegal), the best they can do is block access to that specific site.

        A workable solution, although not ideal, would be for Pennsylvania to create it's own DNS server and they can block specific domains, then require all in-state ISPs to reference the PA DNS server, and provide information to PA residents who use AOL or other out-of-state ISPs explaining how to use the PA DNS server to block objectionable sites.

        Yes, there are ways around it, but people that want that kind of sick crap are always going to find a way to get it as long as it's out there.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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