Friday, October 17, 2003

According to Orrin Hatch, General Accounting Office Estimates Fifty-Percent of Seach Request Results Are Pornographic Entries 

Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) has launched a new career as porn czar. In a speech as chairman to Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday afternoon, he boasted, "I am currently considering legislative solutions to the many risks inherent in the use of peer-to-peer networks. Almost half of the people who use these networks are minors. Recent studies have shown that millions and millions of pornographic files are available for downloading on these networks at any given time. This is simply unacceptable. Many parents -- possibly the majority of them -- are unaware of this problem. Even more disturbing is that searches on these networks using search terms that a child would be expected to use, such as Harry Potter or Pokemon, turn up an enormous percentage -- over 50 percent in one study according to the General Accounting Office -- of pornographic materials including child pornography."

Here is how he arrived at that conclusion, according to the article at dc.internet.com:
"The March GAO report cited by Hatch conducted a Kazaa search for image files using 12 keywords known to be associated with child pornography on the Internet. Of 1,286 items identified in the search, approximately 42 percent were associated with child pornographic images. The remaining items included 34 percent that were classified as adult pornography and 24 percent as non-pornographic. In another Kazaa search, the U.S. Customs CyberSmuggling Center used three keywords to search for and download child pornography image files. The search identified 341 image files, of which approximately 44 percent were classified as child pornography and 29 percent as adult pornography."

A Wired news story about the hearings on September 9th of this year has Hatch issuing his warnings to providers of such internet gateways: "Hatch, well-known as an outspoken critic of peer-to-peer trading of copyright music, warned that if file-swapping networks do not rein in illicit porn trafficking, lawmakers "might have to do something detrimental. At one point, Hatch asked law enforcement witnesses on the panel: "Do you suggest we put out of business the networks that allow this to occur?"

Does anyone else notice how Hatch fudged the figures up to suit his needs? Also, looking for pornographic terms deliberately is not the same as conducting normal searches, so this data is skewed from the start. A more valuable study could be made by using the same number of searches with random keywords, not just pornographic keywords. Another thing the censors might want to consider about all this is that by sheltering children from the real world, they are crippled when they have to live in it.
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