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Obscenity on the Web


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Obscenity on the Web

  1. 1. Obscenity and Indecency On The Web By Sara Patterson
  2. 2. What is the history behind obscenity law? <ul><li>Obscenity and pornography date back to ancient cultures </li></ul><ul><li>Depictions of sexual positions for sale in brothels of Pompeii were preserved and can be seen today </li></ul><ul><li>Some of the frescoes in the Roman city were so explicit that they were kept in back rooms of royal museums and were seen only by gentlemen who paid an additional fee. ( </li></ul>
  3. 3. The history continues <ul><li>The church persecuted obscene literature, but the government took no notice. </li></ul><ul><li>Erotic book trade grew in the 19th century </li></ul><ul><li>The Society for the Suppression of Vice led to the first laws, giving authority to seize and destroy obscene material. </li></ul>
  4. 4. The Lord Campbell Act <ul><li>Following Queen Regina v. Hicklin, the Lord Campbell Act was adopted to set a standard in England. </li></ul><ul><li>The rule in the case came to be known as the Hicklin Rule. </li></ul><ul><li>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” ( </li></ul>
  5. 5. When did this become an American issue? <ul><li>The Comstack Laws (1873) </li></ul><ul><li>Lobbyist: wanted to ban ALL material discussing “family planning, abortion, venerial disease, and contraceptives” </li></ul><ul><li>This movement began the blacklisting of books (until 1920s) </li></ul>
  6. 6. Decades later <ul><li>In the 1950s, dirty language was still considered obscene. </li></ul><ul><li>1957: Roth vs. US </li></ul><ul><li>Hicklin rule struck down--replaced with the definition of obscenity we still use today. </li></ul>Comedian Lenny Bruce struggled with the laws (AP Photo)
  7. 7. How is obscenity defined? <ul><li>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). </li></ul><ul><li>It is not protected under the First Amendment. Indecency is. </li></ul><ul><li>Indecency is defined as “sexual material less erotic or less explicit than obscenity. </li></ul>
  8. 8. How do you enforce the law? <ul><li>Major case: 1973 Miller vs. California resulted in three-part test. </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>1. Meets the Roth test </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>2. Describes sexual conduct in a patently offensive way </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>3. Taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value </li></ul></ul></ul></ul>
  9. 9. What does this mean for the Web? <ul><li>Congress passed the Communications Decency Act as part of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, prohibiting obscene material available to minors. </li></ul><ul><li>The CDA was struck down in 1997. </li></ul>Photo taken from
  10. 10. 1997 ACLU v. Reno <ul><li>Theory from J.S. Mill “marketplace of ideas” </li></ul><ul><li>Commercial and Noncommercial speech </li></ul><ul><li>Supreme Court decided the Internet deserved as much protection as print (Stovall, 2004, p. 204). </li></ul>This photo was taken from
  11. 11. More recently <ul><li>Ashcroft vs. ACLU 2004 </li></ul><ul><li>The Child Online Protection Act (passed in1998) was remanded and then struck down in 2007 ( </li></ul>Picture from
  12. 12. What has happened locally? <ul><li>U.S. v. Robert Allen Thomas, 1996 </li></ul><ul><li>California couple brought to TN and convicted with violating community standards </li></ul><ul><li>Set a precedent: Internet does not adhere to geographic community standards. </li></ul>
  13. 13. Is blocking content legal? <ul><li>Not if it isn’t obscene. </li></ul><ul><li>Mainstream Loudon v. Board of Trustees (1999) </li></ul><ul><li>Software was blocking child pornography and other unobscene sites </li></ul><ul><li>Courts ordered the Virginia library to stop using the filter ( and Stovall, 2004, p. 214) </li></ul>
  14. 14. What’s next? <ul><li>Porn? There’s an App for That! </li></ul><ul><li>Seattle-based MiKandi LLC has launched the first adults-only mobile applications store for Google Android smartphones (Hutchinson, 2009) </li></ul><ul><li>Public Outcry continues / law struggles to catch up </li></ul>Picture from
  15. 15. Student Opinions <ul><li>How would you protect your children from obscenity online? </li></ul><ul><li>“ 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 </li></ul>Photo from
  16. 16. Student Opinions <ul><li>Q: Do you think that content on the Internet should be censored? </li></ul><ul><li>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.” </li></ul><ul><li>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. </li></ul><ul><li>Kayla Rogers, Senior Education Major said, “They should censor the porn ads that pop up.” </li></ul>
  17. 17. Student Opinions <ul><li>Q: Have you ever accidentally or purposefully viewed what you felt was obscene or indecent material online? </li></ul><ul><li>A: “Yes. It was in a computer lab and vulgar images loaded continuously on the screen, which was embarrassing.” </li></ul>Beth Spencer, Senior Internet Journalism Major (photo from
  18. 18. Student Opinions <ul><li>Q: Do you think it makes sense for the Internet to have more legal protection and less censorship than television or radio? Why? </li></ul><ul><li>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. </li></ul><ul><li>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. </li></ul>
  19. 19. Student Opinions <ul><li>Q: Who is responsible for the obscene material splattered all over the Web? </li></ul><ul><li>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. </li></ul>Aaron Nichols, Senior Spanish major
  20. 20. References <ul><li>Print </li></ul><ul><li>Kovarik, Bill. “Obscenity, Indecency and the Law” 2009. </li></ul><ul><li>Hutchinson, James. “Porn? There’s an app store for that” Nov. 30, 2009. </li></ul><ul><li>Stovall, James. Web Journalism. Pearson: Boston, 2004. </li></ul><ul><li>Photo </li></ul><ul><li>http://www. fbi .gov/publications/leb/2007/july2007/july2007leb_img_23.jpg </li></ul><ul><li>http://www. pcpowerplay </li></ul><ul><li>http: //webpages . scu . edu/ftp/eching/images/qqxsgInternet %20censorship.gif </li></ul><ul><li>http: //robwalls .files. wordpress .com/2008/06/welcome-to-tennessee-sign1.jpg </li></ul><ul><li>http://apps. rummble . com/_images/iPhone/splash_iPhone .jpg </li></ul>