Legislation, Technology Strive to Keep Pace with Internet Porn

July 7, 2008 - 8:02 PM

(CNSNews.com) - Public libraries will have to protect young people from pornographic Internet sites if they want to keep their state funding, under a measure unanimously approved last Friday by the Utah House of Representatives.

Utah House Bill 157 withholds funding from libraries that fail to block "obscene materials" on library computers from children younger than 18.

In Utah, 18-year-olds are not allowed to buy girlie magazines, "so why should we allow this material in a public library?" said the legislation's sponsor, Republican Rep. Marlon Snow, in an interview with CNSNews.com.

"This is not a Democratic or a Republican issue. This is for the children. Children don't have a right to come up here and vote; they expect those who have been elected to do that for them," Snow said.

There are approximately 72,000 sexually explicit sites on the Internet, Snow said. Of approximately 3,900 new sites that go up every day, at least 85 sell pornography.

"People who put these kinds of sites on the Internet obviously have no concern for youth. The truth of the matter is, sales are down in the R-rated video industry and they're down in magazine sales in many areas. Why? Because youth can get on the Internet and view it for nothing.

"If parents want to allow that at home, that's up to them. But in a state facility in this state, we're not going to allow it up to age 18," Snow said.

The measure passed 70 - 0.

In Alaska, the Anchorage School District installed its first system-wide porn-blocking Internet filter at the beginning of the year, after an honor student sued a local high school. The student was given an F in a computer class after he was accused of logging on to a pornographic web site late last year.

In Virginia, a 41-year-old man was sentenced to 37 months in prison and three years of supervised release after leaving prison, after he was convicted in January on charges related to his use of the Internet for the purpose of having sex with a 13-year-old girl. Upon his release, the man will be prohibited from owning a computer or being around a computer with Internet access, including those offered at public libraries.

Lawmakers, school administrators and parents now are joining forces with Internet software creators to fight a proliferation of porn sites that are increasingly targeting young people with hard-core pornography and violence.

Andy Aweida, vice president of business development and marketing at Sterling Strategic Solutions outside Houston, Texas, which manufactures SOS Kidproof, a leading filter of Internet pornography, told CNSNews.com schools and libraries are responsible for protecting young people from increasingly innovative purveyors of porn.

"Just because kids are not necessarily looking for something objectionable doesn't mean they're not going to see it. That's the approach we've taken. Kids are not looking for it, but it's looking for them," Aweida said.

"Parents need to protect their children who use the web just as they would in any other facet of life. They may not be looking for a malicious site, but now that there are so many innocuous URLs, using addresses like 'White House.com,' or misspellings of Disney or car sites that, if you misspell the site you think you're going to, it will take you somewhere else."

"If you can lock eight out of 10 bad doors, you should do it because it's better than leaving all 10 open, or giving the key to somebody," Aweida said.

SOS Kidproof, soon to be Enova Software, does not search URL for sites that someone has discovered to be objectionable, Aweida said. Instead, it uses key phrases which allow parents or librarians to "customize" phrases they want to block.

"For example, you can look for information on breast cancer or marinated chicken breast, but breast in a sexual phrase will be blocked. We also allow users to add and delete from the list of phrases we have.

"You can also generate a list of sites that will bypass filtering so you don't have to worry about screening out legitimate sites such as news sites that might run articles on Internet porn," he said.

Aweida said his business, like others in the filtering software industry, is "growing exponentially. Already this fiscal year, which began in December, our retail products have generated the same as all of last year in orders," he said.