Freedom/Privacy

The unintended consequences of Bush’s war on porn

By Martin Bosworth

Last month I wrote about the Justice Department’s new mandate that porno companies need to keep dossiers on everyone who performs for them. One thing I hadn’t realized is that these rules could also be extended to adult social networking sites, with the same penalties and fines for noncompliance. As the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force notes, passage of these rules would effectively kill the adult social networking industry. The Free Speech Coalition has a thorough and comprehensive statement in opposition to the new rules, some of which I will quote below:

[T]he proposed 2257 regulations do nothing more than create an insurmountable bureaucracy, spending millions of dollars of government resources on the problem of underage performers in the adult industry which adult entertainment businesses already screen out. Furthermore, as proposed, 2257 effectively dismantles small business models within the industry as well as seriously compromises the profits of many of the industry’s larger businesses. We ask that you consider the burdens addressed in this statement and revise the proposed regulations accordingly in order to avoid devastating a vital, responsible, and legal industry.

I realize that many people will let their hangups about the porn industry color their thinking on this issue, but the objection should be the same whether you’re talking about gun sellers, adult video companies, prize dog breeders, or any kind of small business–the government is using these regulations to force compliance with their moral views, and abridging both existing freedoms and legal rights in the process. Given that the Justice Department’s use of invasive “national security letters” to purloin our entire financial, criminal, and personal records was so invasive that a federal judge had to rule it unconstitutional, can you really trust them to use this information safely and responsibly?

If two consenting adults want to use the Internet for a quick roll in the hay, or a woman who’s over 18 wants to get butt nekkid in front of a video camera, that’s their right. As long as their actions are legal, it should not be the government’s business to keep files on them and their facilitators in the name of a cause (child porn) that has NOTHING to do with the issue at hand.

Today was the last day to submit comment to the DOJ on these new regulations. I will reprint my comment that I submitted below in its entirety:

I am writing to submit my objection to the proposed expansion of
Section 2257, that will mandate exhaustive record-keeping and
information collection on adult performers for Web sites or videos. My
objections include the following:

* This will do next to nothing to address the real issue of child
pornography, as sex offenders and child predators are often already a
trusted member of an individual’s social circle, rather than a
complete stranger. Adult social networking sites and adult industry
businesses already go through an exhaustive process to ensure all
their performers and participants are of legal age, and this will only
make their legal requirements more onerous and time-consuming while
not helping to deter child pornography in any way.

* Forcing site or business proprietors to maintain these information
databases creates a serious vulnerability to identity theft or fraud.
These companies are not designed to pay high levels of attention to
information security, and any enterprising hacker or cybercriminal
could mine the databases for personal data that they could use to
commit crimes–and the adult businesses would be held liable for the
data loss, even though they were only complying with these Federal
regulations.

* Most of all, this is an egregious invasion of privacy and an
obviously ham-handed attempt to legislate morality onto people who
work for adult Web sites or visit adult social networking sites. The
Justice Department–particularly in the wake of the corruption that
caused Attorney General Gonzales to resign–has proven time and again
that it exists solely to further the fundamentalist/right-wing agenda
that still supports Bush, and that it cannot be trusted to use this
information for anything other than intimidation and harassment of
people that don’t fit into its evangelical agenda.

* The government in any era needs to stay out of people’s lives and
focus on the things it should actually be affecting–preserving our
economy, our national infrastructure, our educational system, etc. For
the Justice Department to be wasting its time with this nonsense while
white-collar crimes go unprosecuted in record numbers is not only a
shame, but an outright offense.

Put more simply, this is bad law that will have terrible consequences.
I urge you to reconsider and reevaluate your collective position on
this matter.

3 replies »

  1. I wonder what will happen to the discourse when it is discovered that over a third of the population is a child molester, gay, bi, exhibitionest, transgendered, likes animals, enjoys S&M, has incest, etc. Once all the closet doors are open, the dialogue will be forced to revolve around human truths, and not an artificially imposed set of morals based on various myths.

  2. Incidental to the predations that are the target of such Executive attention is the fact that such behaviors that are found to be egregious to the controlling elites is that those behaviors are over represented in their own ranks. We have seen results of a war on other behaviors and it is not at all encouraging.

    It seems to me that a broad sanction for the “ruled” is quite effective for deflecting too much attention to those who will continue to practice such outrages in the privacy of their own money.

    Lantern Bearer

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