BoingBoing is linking to a bill being proposed by Democrat Senators Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Max Baucus of Montana that would require adult web sites to use an .xxx domain. From the news report:

The senators acknowledged the bill was a first step and would not completely protect children from Internet porn.

Many of the companies that comprise the $12 billion Internet porn industry operate offshore and would be difficult to regulate, they said.

“We are not saying this is going to work 100 percent of the time in every single case,” Pryor said. “We do think that this would be a dramatic step in the right direction.”

I agree that it would be a good step in the right direction. I wrote in favor of an .xxx domain in a two part comment back in August 2003. While it would be difficult to get all the porn distributors behind this, I think it could be done with a large enough group of concerned people coming together. You can see this happening already with DNS-based spam domain lists like SpamHaus.

Adult industry representatives say the bill if enacted would have a chilling effect on free speech.

“This is constitutionally protected speech — we’re not talking about illegal content,” said Tom Hymes, a spokesman for the Free Speech Coalition, the trade association representing the adult entertainment industry.

If this act were to pass, pornographers would still be free to publish their porn, but there would be a specific place for their porn to be hosted. This would be the equivalent of local zoning laws preventing a strip club from opening between a church and a grade school. Do zoning laws have a “chilling effect on free speech”?

The proposal is an ineffective approach to the problem since many of the adult Web sites are based outside the country and the civil penalties would not apply to them, he said.

Hymes said the companies would find ways to circumvent the new designation, including moving their operations offshore.

This objection to the bill is valid, but again, the Internet community could react by compiling and publishing the domains and IPs that choose not to move their porn content to .xxx domains.

The industry would incur costs from new registration fees and losses from existing marketing campaigns on .com and .biz domains, Hymes said, but he did not think it would get that far.

If my proposed solution is taken, the porn industry could keep its non-xxx domains as long as the content, particularly the graphical content, is hosted on .xxx domains. Yes, this means the industry would incur the cost of buying new .xxx domains–but an industry that makes $12 billion a year can afford the chump change necessary to register an extra domain. Of all the complaints raised against the bill, this last is by far the silliest.

Here is the primary reason why the porn industry doesn’t want anything to do with .xxx domains:

If the bill passes, software could be developed to block the .xxx domain from Internet searches, Baucus said.

Jason Schultz of lawgeek.net commented on this proposed bill at BoingBoing and supported the above reason:

“Talk about a misguided attempt at Internet zoning… also has severe implications for filtering as I’d imagine every .xxx domain would be on the universal black list.”

But if parents and businesses wanted to block every .xxx domain, they would be able to do so. The porn people would be able to exercise their freedom of speech by posting their content on the .xxx domains, and anyone else who so desired could exercise their freedom to block .xxx domains. The people who don’t want to block these domains wouldn’t have to, but those who do would have a much easier way to do it. This would be a godsend to parents who don’t want their children to stumble across porn sites by accident, or who wish to actively block their kids from gaining access to porn.

Why does the porn industry demand that its smut be made easily accessible to children?

We enjoy the freedom of speech in the United States, but like any other right, this one comes with responsibilities. While we are free to speak as we will, there is an accompanying responsibility to say what is true. We have libel, slander, and perjury laws to protect our freedom of speech from those who would destroy it with lies.

We also have a general responsibility as Americans not to offend others because society runs better when people do not go out of their way to stir up hatred and anger. While your neighbor may be both obese and homely, common courtesy dictates that this is no reason to call him a “fat, ugly slob” to his face or behind his back. There is enough strife in the world already without manufacturing more in your backyard.

So there are two competing ideas — we have the freedom of speech and can say whatever we want on the one hand, and we have the need to be courteous to those around us on the other hand. Some people have taken the second part to mean that we have a fundamental right not to be offended. But there is no way to say or do anything without potentially offending someone. To paraphrase Eleanor Roosevelt, “No one can make you feel offended without your consent.”

Recently my wife went to Chinatown in New York, and she picked up some paper money used in Chinese funerals. Paper objects are commonly burned at Chinese funerals, with the idea that the paper item being burned is carried to the dead as a real object to be enjoyed in the hereafter. So TPK picked up a bundle of fake bills marked at $1,000,000 each — a handsome sum for the departed. She explained the use of this money to her sister, a grade school teacher, and her sister thought some of the bills might be fun to use with her fifth grade students during Chinese New Year. My wife then pointed out some tiny print on the fake money which identified them as “Hell Notes,” the traditional name for this fake currency. While most people probably would not notice or care, it would only take a single offended parent to complain and ruin the students’ fun — not to mention endangering my sister-in-law’s job. Fear of possibly causing offense stopped her from sharing a teaching moment with her students.

Our society is becoming more concerned with not offending people, but also concerned with the way a tiny but vocal minority can change how everyone does things. All it takes is a single offended person to cause a traditional and beloved nativity scene to be pulled from the public square. People are reacting to these Offended-Americans by self-censoring what they say, for fear that someone will blow up and be offended over an innocent comment.

Akwana Walker is one of these Offended-Americans who made the news. She was horribly offended when her child’s teacher wrote “niggardly” on the board and explained that this word meant “stingy.” The fact that this word has absolutely nothing to do with race didn’t matter to Walker, who is African-American. She was offended, not because the teacher was racist nor because the word was offensive, but simply because it sounded like something Walker didn’t like, and that was enough for the teacher to receive a reprimand.

This reminds me of something Jesus told his disciples about the end times: “And then shall many be offended…” (Matt. 24:10) My wife had pointed the scripture out to me several years ago, and while I had never looked at that verse in this light, it certainly appears to apply to people today. Why, just quoting the Bible is guaranteed to offend at least one person who reads this article.

It seems silly to me to go ballistic over a word like “niggardly” when the offense is all in the offended person’s head. Words actually mean things. We don’t need to invent new meanings based on the way they sound. When Eason Jordan claimed that the U.S. military was specifically targeting members of the media, his words meant something. And the people who were present recognized exactly what he meant. This is a good example of having the freedom to say what you want, but needing to recognize that you may be called to account for your words.

A lady who made a bomb threat (I’m guessing as a joke, or possibly because she was frustrated by travel delays) was held for questioning in Phoenix while her luggage made it on the flight to San Diego. There the luggage faced the consequence of her words — it was taken out by the San Diego bomb squad and exploded. Next time you feel like mouthing off to the efficient and courteous airline people, remember the fate of this lady’s luggage because of what she said.

Recently Newsweek published an article claiming that a Koran supplied to terrorist detainees at Guantanamo Bay had been flushed down the toilet by a soldier. Because Newsweek chose to publish this unsupported accusation, riots broke out in Muslim nations, and several people died. To get to the bottom of this, the Pentagon launched an investigation over the flushing of a Koran and other allegations of Koranic abuse. It found that some soldiers had actually mistreated the Koran by *gasp* holding it with only one hand. Investigation did find some intentional and unintentional mishandling of the Koran, but 75% of these mishandlings came from the detainees themselves.

Newsweek has since retracted the story, but even if they were to trumpet this information and apologize into every Muslim’s ear, it would not bring back to life those who died in the riots. To twist a common Leftist slogan, “Newsweek lied, and people died.” Words mean something, and these words led to deaths.

We are free to say whatever we want, but there is a responsibility associated with that right — the responsibility to say what is true. Eason Jordan found that out. Dan Rather found that out. And now Newsweek has found that out.

I spent this week at work in training. People from around the globe attended the training courses. One of them was Joe, a self-professed socialist from Massachusetts. While he was a fun guy, and we chatted about a number of wide-ranging subjects, our political ideologies were almost diametrically opposed. Yet we still got along fine. America is nice that way.

At one point, Joe mentioned some information he’d read about the yearly complaints received by the Federal Communications Commission. In 2000 and 2001 there were fewer than 350 complaints each year. In 2002 the number rose to about 14,000, and in 2003 it soared to more than 240,000 complaints. The stinger of this article was that 99.8% of the complaints in 2003 came from a single group: the Parents Television Council. Joe was incensed that this Christian group would spend its time and effort trying to change what was shown on TV, and he was shocked that they would be allowed such access to the FCC.

I try to avoid politics when in training, but at this point I had to chime in with a sarcastic comment: “Damn those Christians for exercising their freedom of speech!” This comment promptly shut Joe up; whether he suddenly recognized the hypocrisy of his comments or was simply irritated by my statement, I’m not sure. Perhaps it would be better for Joe to gather like-minded friends and make use of his own freedom of speech, rather than fuming over others using their freedom to express their opinions to the government. It is always a better idea to speak for yourself, rather than reflexively trying to stifle others.

Incidentally, complaints to the FCC rose to over one million in 2004. While the Parents Television Council was extremely active during that year, half of the complaints came from individuals angered over Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” at the Super Bowl halftime show. Perhaps if Joe had read the entire article, he might have noticed his fellow Americans individually exercising their freedom of speech.

Exercising his own freedom of speech, Senator Byrd (D-WV) recently spoke out against the nomination of Dr. Condoleezza Rice for the position of Secretary of State. During his long rant against Dr. Rice, Senator Byrd missed the point multiple times:

Dr. Rice is responsible for some of the most overblown rhetoric that the Administration used to scare the American people into believing that there was an imminent threat from Iraq. On September 8, 2002, Dr. Rice conjured visions of American cities being consumed by mushroom clouds. On an appearance on CNN, she warned: “The problem here is that there will always be some uncertainty about how quickly he [Saddam] can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.”

May I politely remind the Senator from the State of West Virginia that President Bush never claimed that Saddam Hussein was an imminent threat? I may? Spiffy! Here’s the salient bit from the State of the Union address in 2003:

Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option.

Senator Byrd’s long oration before the Senate continued in the same vein. Numerous times he made inaccurate statements, or mischaracterized the statements or actions of others. I find it highly ironic that one of the loudest voices of dissent against the nomination of America’s first black female Secretary of State was raised by a former Grand Kleagle of the Ku Klux Klan. But Senator Byrd was most certainly free to voice his objections to the now confirmed and sworn in Secretary Rice. He was simply exercising one of many freedoms we enjoy in this country.

Another freedom U.S. citizens enjoy is the freedom to vote for our government leaders. Iraqis around the world are also enjoying this freedom today; while the actual election day in Iraq is set for January 30, Iraqis living in other nations have already gathered to cast their vote in a three-day window. It has been many decades since the Iraqi people had a free election. Though there were elections under Saddam Hussein, they were far from free. To quote a classic video game, “When there’s only one candidate, there’s only one choice.”

Exercising his freedom of speech, Senator Kennedy (D-MA) stated yesterday that the U.S. should pull its troops out of Iraq. “It will not be easy to extricate ourselves from Iraq, but we must begin.” Since I have already reminded one Senator of the facts, here’s a historical reminder for you, Senator Kennedy: U.S. troops never left Germany after it was defeated in World War II. Here we are, 60 years after the end of World War II, and we still have American soldiers stationed in Germany. But they are not seen as “part of the problem,” as Senator Kennedy views the troops in Iraq.

Why is it that the senior Senator from Massachusetts feels such a pressing need to compare Iraq to Vietnam? “We lost our national purpose in Vietnam. We abandoned the truth. We failed our ideals. The words of our leaders could no longer be trusted,” he said. Well, there is a real similarity between the two wars. The Vietnam War was lost largely because Leftists in the United States turned public opinion against the war, and they are attempting to do exactly the same thing with the war in Iraq.

In fact, the Central Intelligence Agency’s top official in Baghdad warned recently that the security situation is deteriorating and is likely to worsen, with escalating violence and more sectarian clashes. How could any President have let this happen?

It’s quite simple, Senator. When you bloviate about how the war in Iraq was a fraud made up in Texas, you undermine our soldiers and their jobs. When you criticize everything the President says and does, you are giving aid and comfort to the enemy. And when you call for a quick withdrawal, you spread the word to the murderous thugs converging on Iraq that they need only to wait us out, and they’ll be back in power.

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has announced that he will fight against the coming elections: “We have declared a fierce war on this evil principle of democracy and those who follow this wrong ideology.” Congratulations, Senator Kennedy; you have just aligned yourself with a head-chopping murderer who wants Americans dead. Not just out of Iraq, but dead.

Regardless of his political stance, however, Senator Kennedy is free to speak out as he sees fit. That is a blessing of living in this great nation. President Bush has explained our national goal further: “So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.” In a few days, Iraq will join Afghanistan in casting free elections.

Fifty million people to date have escaped the oppressive control of tyrants because of President Bush’s vision. Let freedom ring!

Since I work in the computer software industry, I enjoy walking past the cubicles and offices of my fellow employees. I’ve had the chance to discover that when it comes to office decoration, there are several schools of thought.

Some are what I call “business plain,” with only work-related information on the desk and walls. A family photo or occasional calendar is about the only indication this denizen has a personality. Boring!

If I were to hazard a guess about what type of office is the commonest, I would suggest the themed office. This is a space strewn with paraphernalia from some favorite movie, game or sports team. Within just a few feet of my office space, there are posters for the local college football team, a large model of the Iron Giant, and signs indicating the Tech Wizard is in, accompanied by a row of wizardly models and items. Office toys in these places are a must. Zen gardens are common, as are little toys like kinetic art sculptures and squeeze balls. Several people went wild with Nerf guns at Microsoft, and it was not uncommon to see Nerf battles raging down the halls. Magnetic poetry sets are great for the break room fridge or the hallway whiteboard.

Some cubicles are heavy on posters, whether inspirational — “Unity!” “Perseverance!” “There is no ‘I’ in ‘TEAM’” — or very geeky — “There are 10 people in this world: those who understand binary, and those who don’t.” “2 + 2 = 5 for very large values of 2.” or “I’m lost. I have gone out to find myself. If I return before I get back, please ask me to wait.”

Then there are the few offices that really stand out. I’m thinking of one with 50+ posters and stickers. Most are of the insultingly funny variety: “Did you eat a bowl of stupid this morning?” “My imaginary friend thinks you have serious issues.” “I’m sad that you suck.” When you find an office like this, stop and make friends with the owner. This is the person who totes the Xbox into the office for some lunchtime play, or who knows the people who do.

Some offices succumb to too much cute. These offices have dozens of pictures of family, dogs, cats, and sometimes calendars of dogs and cats. Grandparents are drawn to these offices, sensing a kindred spirit. You can recognize them by the photo album tucked under an arm. Unless you are also armed with your own family photos, avoid these offices. If you’re a diabetic, run.

None of this office décor is a problem in the workplace (assuming you are not diabetic), but some things are best kept out of the office. For instance, few things rile people up faster than religion and politics. Since I now live in a battleground state, there is a pretty even mix of Republicans and Democrats in my office. Emotions run high when it comes to politics, particularly in an election year, so placing a large Bush or Kerry sign in my office would be guaranteed to cheese off half my co-workers. This is not the wisest way to start a new job.

Religious or political differences between co-workers are bad enough, but when these things happen between employer and employee, it is tantamount to harassment. If my position or chances for promotion are based on my participation in the boss’ religion or adherence to his chosen political party, that has clearly crossed the line of acceptability.

People are still likely to express their deeply-felt beliefs. One of the guys at my workplace wears a lanyard with the initials W.W.J.D (What Would Jesus Do?) on it. In another cubicle, there are several Bible verses written on a small card attached to the wall. Neither of these instances crosses the line for me, but I am religious myself and have little difficulty with such items. Unfortunately, it’s hard to tell what others may find offensive. People have claimed that merely seeing a Bible on a co-worker’s desk is an offense worth suing over. Other people have been fired for wearing a cross to work. The problem lies not in the nature of the subject matter, but rather in the offensensitivity of others.

But what is too much? Who draws the line? Sadly, the final judgment lies with those who are offended. This means that an innocently intended comment, political opinion, or religious idea could be seen as offensive. In a society where people respect each other, the offended person would talk to the other person privately, explaining why the comment or item is inappropriate or offensive. But ours is a society where simple issues that could be solved by a heartfelt conversation are increasingly settled in court. Offensensitivity is driving respect and tolerance out of the corporate workplace, and it keeps people from discovering some of the most interesting aspects of their co-workers’ personalities.

Personally, I share the opinion of Rhode Island delegate Stephen Hopkins in the movie 1776: “in all my years I ain’t never seen, heard, nor smelled an issue that was so dangerous it couldn’t be talked about.” I would prefer the open and free expression of people’s opinions and beliefs. But not everyone feels this way. If you think one political party is better than another, or if your religious beliefs are important to you, then you had best spend time expressing these concepts outside of work. This is why I vent my feelings here, rather than climbing on a soapbox on the corporate campus. If you cannot keep away from volatile subjects at work, be ready for the potential heated comments or lawsuits that will come from hypersensitive people.

How are Canadians different from Americans? Here’s one aspect.

The city of Toronto has suffered from a lack of tourism because of the SARS outbreak there last year. In an attempt to show tourists around the world that they are really nice people, and that folks are coughing because of a cold and not SARS, the national, provincial and city governments ponied up $1 million Canadian dollars of taxpayer money to bring late-night comedian and talk-show host Conan O’Brien to their city.

For those of you who don’t watch Conan’s show, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog is a recurring character–a cigar-chomping puppet that, well, insults people. One of his key phrases is to say that something is “for me to poop on!” Toilet humor, to be sure. You can go Amazon to buy a DVD of his acts. The episode of “Triumph Visits the ‘Star Wars’ Nerds” had me crying with laughter at times. Maybe it is because I’m such a nerd myself.

So anyway, Conan visits Canada, and Triumph runs riot with the natives, with comments like, “So you’re French and Canadian, yes? So you’re obnoxious and dull.” Or when confronting some French-speaking Canadians, “You’re in North America! Learn the language!” After learning that a couple supported Quebec leaving Canada, he said, “Listen closely. Hear that? It’s the sound of no one giving a [BEEP]!” And finally, “You’re French, you’re obnoxious and you no speekay English!” See the trend? And speaking of seeing, you can see a video of Triumph at YouTube until it’s gone.

This skit has stirred up a firestorm of anger from Canadian politicians. They are up in arms about having funded this program in the first place. The president of the Quebec nationalist Saint-Jean-Baptiste Society, Jean Dorion, said, “It’s wrong to spread the worst possible ethnic prejudices about Quebecers, which already exist in Canada.” Personally, I think “Quebecers” sounds so much better than “Quebecois.” Not to be outdone, the leftist New Democrats legislator Alexa McDonough had several things to say about Triumph: “There may be those who would say, ‘Isn’t this interfering with freedom of expression?’ It’s not interfering to say we will not publicly fund this kind of vile, vicious hatemongering.” McDonough added, “The whole point of trying to help deal with the devastation of the SARS crisis on the city of Toronto was to attract tourists. How it got morphed into this kind of garbage I don’t know.”

If the Canadian politicians had a clue, they would have realized that Conan O’Brien is a comedian with a specific target audience: drunken frat boys. Expecting anything other that what they got shows their political stupidity, or at least a serious lack of research on their part. I must agree with the people up in arms about the Canadian government funding this show. If the U.S. had publicly funded such a show, I would be just as upset as they are. I’ve read our Constitution, and I don’t see anything in there about funding television programs. This is one reason why I feel PBS should be cut off from the American government’s purse strings.

But I digress.

Quebec has long been a sensitive spot for Canadians. Several times now French-speaking Quebec has tried to secede from Canada, and nearly succeeded in a 1995 referendum on the matter. However, French-speaking Quebec has long forced its ways on the rest of Canada. Canada is both an English- and French-speaking country because of the Quebecers. Everything must be posted in both languages, which leads to Kraft’s Macaroni and Cheese Dinners with two front covers: one in French, one in English. But this mandated government use of two languages doesn’t apply in French-dominated Quebec. A reader named Mori, in a reaction post to Triumph, sums it up this way:

I am an English Quebecer WITHOUT the same rights as French Quebecers though we’re all Canadian and pay the same amount of taxes. We English Quebecers have experienced many insults in our life from Quebecers — including public service workers and government agencies — based on our mother tongue. Many have … expressed … their disdain of English speakers. If people can dish out insults or not speak up as loudly against the lack of equal rights and respect of English Quebecers, then surely an eight-minute sketch comedy featuring a puppet dog, geared towards adults, should not cause such great emotional bruising.

Stephen Harper of Quebec City said, “We can all make jokes about each other but you don’t start telling people in Quebec they have to speak another language. That’s completely unacceptable.” But Stephen, that’s what the French-speaking Quebecers have been saying all along!

Here in the good old U.S. of A., we have something called the First Amendment that protects our freedom of speech, and it has long protected humorous expression. This is why we don’t arrest Jay Leno for saying something that isn’t true, but sure is funny. Likewise, Triumph’s speech–or rather the speech of the puppeteer–is protected here in America. In addition to this protection, there is another tried-and-true defense of potentially offensive and insulting speech: you are free to say it if it is true. So I could stand up and call a prominent politician a sheep pimp, and if said politician were to take me to court for defamation of character, I would only have to produce evidence proving that the politician is, in fact, a pimper of sheep.

But this defense is no longer valid in Canada. You could make a factual statement that someone is a sheep pimp and wave the documents and photos to prove it, but that wouldn’t matter. If the other person were insulted or embarrassed by your comments, he or she could sue you for defamation of character, even though what you said was true, and win. The truth is not a defense in Canada any more.

The sad thing is the way many liberals want to make the U.S. more like Canada. I prefer to have us stay different from the Canadians in at least this way. I prefer my Constitutionally-protected freedom of speech over the now-vanished “freedom” of Canadians.

Last time I wrote about the intrusive nature of Internet pornography, and some ways that people may monitor their children’s usage of the Internet. In this article, I’d like to explore one way the Internet community may work together on the porn problem.

Most people are familiar with domain names ending in .com. There are also .net, .org, and .edu, but many people aren’t as familiar with .mil, .gov, and .int. These seven top-level domains (TLDs) were created in the 1980s. Anyone may register a new .com, .org, or .net site, but .edu, .gov, .mil, and .int sites are reserved for US schools, US government, US military, and international organizations, respectively. As the Internet extended outside of the United States, new two-letter TLDs were created for each country. With the boom of the Internet in the ’90s, many people saw the need for some new TLDs to be created. In 2001 and 2002, seven new top-level domains came online. Anyone may register .biz, .info, .name, or .pro, but .aero, .coop, and .museum are reserved for aerospace sites, cooperatives, and museums, respectively. For the Internet porn industry, I propose a new TLD: .xxx.

With the .xxx TLD, all adult-level content could have its own specially designated location. Existing porn sites like playboy.com could still exist, but all graphics and streaming audio/video would have to originate from a .xxx site. This would be an easy change for porn sites to implement, and it would permit a new and simple method of porn filtering by enabling people to block any .xxx traffic to their computers. Operating systems like Microsoft Windows or Linux would have to enable this filtering, or it could be a new feature in browsers like Internet Explorer or Netscape. I can envision Internet service providers advertising their services as “family friendly” by blocking .xxx traffic for all their users. Other ISPs could advertise unfiltered Internet access for adults.

No doubt there would be some objections to this change, so let’s look at the possible objections one by one:

You’re preventing me from viewing porn!
Not so. Adults may choose to block or not to block .xxx traffic on their computers. If your ISP has blocked all .xxx traffic, you may switch to another ISP that doesn’t filter it, or request that your ISP not block .xxx traffic to your account.

I won’t be able to go to my favorite .com smut sites any more!
You could still surf to playboy.com, and there would be no noticeable changes as far as you were concerned. But all the adult content would be coming from playboy.xxx or someothersite.xxx. To you, Mr. Pervert, the impact would be negligible.

There shouldn’t be any restriction on my porn.
Our society has already determined that some porn, such as child porn, is illegal to make, distribute and view. But while some porn is legal, it still should not be viewed by minors. After all, adult material is for–well–adults. A respectable bookstore does not sell adult magazines to anyone under 18. Responsible movie theaters which screen NC-17 or X-rated shows do not knowingly sell tickets to anyone under 18. Likewise, porn sites should not grant access to anyone under 18. Many sites have an entry page that requires you to acknowledge that you are 18 or older before going any further. This proposal would be similar, but it would grant parents greater control over their children’s Internet actions.

My civil rights are being infringed!
No, they’re not. You are still able to view smut. Only the location has changed. Quit your whining.

My freedom of speech is being violated!
Viewing porn online has nothing to do with your freedom of speech. Besides, there are only three groups who may restrict your porn access under this proposal: your parents, if you are still a minor; yourself, if you enable filtering on your computer; or your ISP, if it is a “family friendly” service.

Hey! I run a porn site and my freedom of speech is being violated!
Um, no. You’d still be free to host your porn. But you’d have to place all adult material on a .xxx server. Any adult who wanted to view your site would still be able to do so.

I don’t want to lose my .com/.net/.org site!
You don’t have to. You can still keep your site; the only change would be moving the adult material over to your new .xxx domain. The name of the .xxx site doesn’t matter, but to avoid too many conflicts, I would give .com sites priority in registering their domain names under the .xxx domain.

But it will be too difficult to make this change!
Not if your webmaster is even minimally competent.

I don’t want to make this change!
This change will not affect people who wish to view your site, as they would still be able to do so. The main benefactors of this change are parents who wish to prevent their children from getting boobs in the face, and adults who don’t want that either. Are you saying that you want to peddle smut to kids and the unwilling?

There is one major problem with this proposal: how would you enforce it? I am confident there would be sites that would gladly accept this change, since it would permit them to continue in business, and they would have the peace of mind knowing that parents could easily prevent their young and impressionable children from viewing adult material online. I see this as a very responsible attitude. But there would also be sites resisting this change. Since the Internet is a global venue, it isn’t possible for the United States to pass a law telling a site in Holland or Ghana or China what to do. A global organization with global reach would be able to pass and enforce such a law, but I have an inherent distrust of global organizations, so I would prefer a different path.

The Internet community is capable of self-policing as the need arises. You can see this self-policing in action as people report spam abuses to a spammer’s ISP. If the ISP doesn’t take action, then the complaint is bounced up to the Internet provider of that ISP. One of my happiest moments online came when I read a reply from one such provider, telling me they had cut off an offending ISP from the Internet at my request because of repeated spamming and other violations of their terms of service. Something similar could be done by providers who host sites that don’t honor the .xxx convention.

While there are some issues that would take much negotiation and agreement by the parties involved, I believe that creating a .xxx top level domain and the subsequent code changes that would allow people to filter out any traffic from those sites would benefit both parents and people who choose not to view porn. And since there would be no obstacle to people who still want to view porn and those sites that wish to provide it, it would be a win-win situation all around.

Since the big Internet craze has calmed down, many once-profitable sites have seen their incomes drop drastically. Many free services have gone the way of the dodo, either from the sites vanishing or cutting back on services. But one sector of the Internet market has been going strong through this economic downturn: pornography.

The Internet has been a boon for the porn industry. Where people once asked for a brown-paper-wrapped magazine from the top shelf or quietly bought movie tickets while dressed in a hat and overcoat, now people can get all the smut they crave in the privacy of their own homes, thanks to the Internet. Porn sites now offer enough picture galleries and videos on demand to fit every discriminating pervert’s desire. And the market is booming.

I don’t care how well Internet porn is growing, since I don’t visit their sites on purpose. But too often I am assaulted with porn even when I have not asked for it–and I’m not the only one. More and more people are complaining about e-mail spam messages which advertise porn sites. These messages are bad enough with their explicit titles and text, but many porn shillers are using the image capability of many e-mail programs to deliver what I call “boobs in your face.” With the younger generation using computers and accessing the Internet, parents are concerned about their kids getting this sort of spam delivered daily to their e-mail inboxes. And I don’t blame them.

Porn sites are also using sneaky techniques to direct extra eyeballs to them. A common method has been registering domain names very similar to widely used sites. For example, people who mistakenly surf to www.whitehouse.COM instead of www.whitehouse.GOV will access a porn site. Many reputable sites have been buying up their misspelled names and alternate top-level domain names like .com, .net., .org to prevent the smut-peddlers from hijacking their visitors, and to make sure that fumble-fingered folk make it to the right site. Typing in www.gogle.com will take you to the Google search site, as will typing in www.google.net. As little as I admire porn peddlers, I have to give the www.whitehouse.com site credit for being slightly more responsible than many other porn sites. When you access their site, you must now click on a link to get to the smut. This gives the unwitting surfer a chance to realize his or her mistake without seeing anything, but too many other porn sites will instantly slap boobs in your face if you type in the URL. And once they have captured your browser, they will often pop up extra windows linking to other porn sites. These pop-ups are more than annoying, for when you close one of them, they usually generate another dozen or so windows into the wild and wacky. You can think of this as a modern-day Hydra like the one Hercules encountered, with extra windows popping up instead of heads.

To block these pop-up windows I use a little program called Pop-Up Stopper by Panicware, Inc. You can download Pop-Up Stopper for free at www.panicware.com. Not only will it block porn pop-ups, it will also block the annoying pop-up advertisements. The only problem I have had with this program comes from those websites which use JavaScript to open up a small window when a link is clicked. I consider this a very minor inconvenience for a very good service, since Pop-Up Stopper may be turned off and on easily while surfing. And Pop-Up Stopper puts a smile on my face every time I hear the sound of another annoying pop-up being blocked.

Because porn is so easily accessible on the Internet, it is incredibly simple for an inquisitive child to get hooked at a very early age. If you have a computer with Internet access in the house and you don’t want your kids to look at porn, then you must take steps to guard them. So what can a concerned parent do to keep children safe from Internet porn? Quite a few things, really. The most important thing is closely monitoring what children are doing on the computer. This can be as easy as sitting with the children and watching what they do, or installing some sort of “nanny” software to supervise, up to more complicated steps such as monitoring the computer logs to see trends in Internet traffic, or configuring your own home network for maximum content control and monitoring. With the current prices of computers and software and the high availability of broadband connections to the Internet like cable or DSL, it is becoming easier and cheaper to configure a home network. I have residential DSL for an always-on connection to the Internet, a designated server computer to manage my Internet traffic, and two computers that my wife and I use. Our server uses Microsoft Windows 2000 Server as the operating system, with Microsoft’s Internet Security & Acceleration software. This is probably overkill for most home networks, but it serves me well. This software configuration creates a good firewall and web cache server for my network. In addition to logging all Internet traffic, I have configured my ISA server to block known porn sites. So if I were to go to www.playboy.com, instead of ogling naked women I’d get a notification that the porn site has been blocked by the server.

While most people don’t have the means to install multi-thousand-dollar software on their home networks, there are many more reasonable options available that can provide monitoring and filtering services for a small home environment. Any broadband Internet connection needs a firewall to provide security from people wanting to hack into your home network, some Internet sharing software to allow everyone on the network to surf over that one connection, and software to monitor and filter traffic. With these things in place, a parent may prevent children from intentionally surfing to known porn sites and monitor Internet traffic to see who is going where. If keeping your young children away from porn is your goal, this will require constant and consistent vigilance because close monitoring of Internet usage is the best way of seeing what the children are doing. This is true whether you are reviewing the server logs or sitting next to your children as they play on the computer.

My next article will delve into a different approach to porn and what can be done by the Internet community.