Let parents shield children from porn
Internet search engine Google is resisting a subpoena of its records in a pornography case.
THE U.S. Supreme Court ruled nearly two years ago that a 1998 federal law aimed a shielding children from Internet pornography was likely unconstitutional, but the Justice Department continues to pursue cases. In doing so, it is asking a federal judge in California to force Google, the Internet search engine, to divulge millions of search queries. The porn industry should be held accountable where it can, but the government should honor privacy rights.
Congress has tried repeatedly to control the porn industry. The 1996 Communications Decency Act was struck down by the Supreme Court. The court then essentially froze the 1998 Child Online Protection Act, which imposes criminal penalties on people whose Web sites carry material harmful to minors. The high court sent the case back to district court to answer the question of whether filtering technology can be an alternative solution.
The industry has continued to be derelict in marking its material as "adult only." Since most porn is transmitted from overseas, the Justice Department has turned to U.S.-based search engines to gather information about transmissions.
Google has contested the subpoena, but three of its competitors -- America Online, Yahoo and Microsoft's MSN online service -- have complied to avoid further wrath. When Senator Inouye asked a Justice Department official at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing for a reaction to Google's assertion that the subpoena is an invasion of privacy, the official declined to comment, citing the court dispute.
Inouye pointed to a poll showing that 70 percent of parents are concerned about pornography but also don't want the government to step in, according to News.com's account of the hearing.
"My concern," he added, "is that this matter has incensed members of Congress to agree that if the industry is not going to act upon it, Congress will. And often times Congress does a lousy job." Parents, not Congress, should remain primarily responsible for monitoring their children's Internet activities.
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