Harmful to Minors

Even the libertarian and most ardent proponent of free speech should care that we continue to allow pornography to run rampant on the Internet. Here’s why.

A proposal by Larry Lessig called H2M (“Harmful to Minors”) would help parents protect children from pornography. Professor Lessig argues that if government doesn’t help parents block unwanted pornography, the loss of freedom of speech will be even greater because parents will turn to private companies for help:

Parents won’t wait for the government to figure out how best to filter harmful-to-minor speech. They will get what they can to block harmful-to-minor speech even if what they get is private and blocks more speech than necessary. For them it’s better than nothing.

After you watch this video, I think you’ll understand the H2M proposal:

H2M is similar to the CP80 initiative. Each is a proposal for 1. a new law which 2. codifies a technology which 3. allows parents to choose whether to block or allow pornography. Ralph Yarro of CP80 has repeatedly said that Internet filters don’t work. I infer that Larry Lessig thinks filters work well enough that parents will use them but not well enough to protect free speech.

I’ve previously written that the role of proper government is to stay small and allow nonprofit companies to compete for social change. In that light, perhaps I shouldn’t favor any legislation that would regulate the Internet. However, I see Professor Lessig’s point: a well defined law may serve all constituent groups better than no law.

5 replies on “Harmful to Minors”

  1. Connor: The parallel between tobacco and pornography for minors seems apt. I wonder if there’s even more there. Many states have disallowed smoking in public places because of second-hand smoke. If there are second-hand effects from pornography (objectification of women, etc.), then perhaps adult viewing of pornography infringes on liberty too. That seems like a difficult position to prove, but groups like Lighted Candle Society are taking that position.
  2. A clarification: I believe such a restriction should only be to protect minors. Consenting adults should have full access to consume whatever garbage they want, thus ensuring their liberty to act like complete morons.
  3. I think the basis for any anti-pornography initiative through government (while encouraging it to stay in a limited role), is that one must prove that pornography negatively affects either life, liberty, or property.

    The stronger argument might be that it affects one’s liberty, in that it becomes an addiction, and therefore should be regulated. In the same way that government restricts minors in purchasing addictive substances (cigarettes, alcohol, etc.), I believe the government should stake steps to restrict access to pornography, another addictive type of material.

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