On October 23rd, 2014, we updated our
By continuing to use LinkedIn’s SlideShare service, you agree to the revised terms, so please take a few minutes to review them.
Following Queen Regina v. Hicklin, the Lord Campbell Act was adopted to set a standard in England.
The rule in the case came to be known as the Hicklin Rule.
Cited in American court cases, the rule allowed a publication to be judged for obscenity based on “isolated passages of a work considered out of context and judged by their apparent influence on most susceptible readers, such as children or weak-minded adults” (runet.edu)
When did this become an American issue?
The Comstack Laws (1873)
Lobbyist: wanted to ban ALL material discussing “family planning, abortion, venerial disease, and contraceptives”
This movement began the blacklisting of books (until 1920s)
In the 1950s, dirty language was still considered obscene.
1957: Roth vs. US
Hicklin rule struck down--replaced with the definition of obscenity we still use today.
Comedian Lenny Bruce struggled with the laws (AP Photo)
How is obscenity defined?
According to James Stovall (2004) obscenity is defined as “pornography that is so morbid and shameful, it is said to appeal to the prurient interest”(213).
It is not protected under the First Amendment. Indecency is.
Indecency is defined as “sexual material less erotic or less explicit than obscenity.
How do you enforce the law?
Major case: 1973 Miller vs. California resulted in three-part test.
1. Meets the Roth test
2. Describes sexual conduct in a patently offensive way
3. Taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value
What does this mean for the Web?
Congress passed the Communications Decency Act as part of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, prohibiting obscene material available to minors.
The CDA was struck down in 1997.
Photo taken from webpages.scu.edu
1997 ACLU v. Reno
Theory from J.S. Mill “marketplace of ideas”
Commercial and Noncommercial speech
Supreme Court decided the Internet deserved as much protection as print (Stovall, 2004, p. 204).
This photo was taken from www.pcpowerplay.com.au
Ashcroft vs. ACLU 2004
The Child Online Protection Act (passed in1998) was remanded and then struck down in 2007 (runet.edu)
Picture from fbi.gov
What has happened locally?
U.S. v. Robert Allen Thomas, 1996
California couple brought to TN and convicted with violating community standards
Set a precedent: Internet does not adhere to geographic community standards.
Is blocking content legal?
Not if it isn’t obscene.
Mainstream Loudon v. Board of Trustees (1999)
Software was blocking child pornography and other unobscene sites
Courts ordered the Virginia library to stop using the filter (runet.edu and Stovall, 2004, p. 214)
Porn? There’s an App for That!
Seattle-based MiKandi LLC has launched the first adults-only mobile applications store for Google Android smartphones (Hutchinson, 2009)
Public Outcry continues / law struggles to catch up
Picture from apps.rummble.com
How would you protect your children from obscenity online?
“ I would watch my children and the sites they use until they are 15. Then after that, I would tell them what sites they should be looking at, and based on what I’ve taught them morally up to that point, I hope they follow my rules. If they don’t and I catch them, they’ll have to pay the consequences”-Kayla Rogers, Senior Education Major
Photo from facebook.com
Q: Do you think that content on the Internet should be censored?
Beth Spencer, Senior Internet Journalism Major said, “Online material should be censored loosely, but within reason. If the content is obscene, then it should be limited to a mature audience.”
Aaron Randell Nichols, Senior Spanish major said, “ I don’t think it’s really possible to censor (the Internet)…It’s up to the user to view what they want.
Kayla Rogers, Senior Education Major said, “They should censor the porn ads that pop up.”
Q: Have you ever accidentally or purposefully viewed what you felt was obscene or indecent material online?
A: “Yes. It was in a computer lab and vulgar images loaded continuously on the screen, which was embarrassing.”
Beth Spencer, Senior Internet Journalism Major (photo from facebook.com)
Q: Do you think it makes sense for the Internet to have more legal protection and less censorship than television or radio? Why?
Beth Spencer: The Internet should be censored less because the content lies in the hands of its viewers. Users can control what they see on their screens, for the most part.
Kayla Rogers: T elevision has all sorts of censorship, v-chip and stuff because it has programming at certain times that just comes on no matter what you want to watch. With the Internet, you have to search for it.
Q: Who is responsible for the obscene material splattered all over the Web?
A: I think everyone is responsible for the obscenity on the web. The people who look at it are driving business for sites that display all sorts of obscene pornographic material. It would be hard for the search engine to take the blame, but definitely the producer and consumer make this happen.
Aaron Nichols, Senior Spanish major
Kovarik, Bill. “Obscenity, Indecency and the Law” 2009. http:www.runet.edu/~wkovarik
Hutchinson, James. “Porn? There’s an app store for that” Nov. 30, 2009. http:www.goodgearguide.com
Stovall, James. Web Journalism. Pearson: Boston, 2004.