[Congressional Record: June 26, 1995 (Senate)] [Page S9017-S9023] From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov] Mr. GRASSLEY. Mr. President, there is an article from Time magazine and an article from the Spectator magazine that I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record at the end of my remarks. The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered. (See exhibit 1.) Mr. GRASSLEY. Mr. President, this morning I want to speak on a topic that has received a lot of attention around here lately. My topic is cyberporn, and that is, computerized pornography. I have introduced S. 892, entitled the Protection of Children from Computer Pornography Act of 1995. This legislation is narrowly drawn. It is meant to help protect children from sexual predators and exposure to graphic pornography. Mr. President, Georgetown University Law School has released a remarkable study conducted by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University. This study raises important questions about the availability and the nature of cyberporn. It is this article I ask to have printed in the Record. Later on, on this subject, some time during the middle of July, I will be conducting hearings before the full Judiciary Committee to fully and completely explore these issues. In the meantime, I want to refer to the Carnegie Mellon study, and I want to emphasize that this is Carnegie Mellon University. This is not a study done by some religious organization analyzing pornography that might be on computer networks. The university surveyed 900,000 computer images. Of these 900,000 images, 83.5 percent of all computerized photographs available on the Internet are pornographic. Mr. President, I want to repeat that: 83.5 percent of the 900,000 images reviewed--these are all on the Internet-- are pornographic, according to the Carnegie Mellon study. Now, of course, that does not mean that all of these images are illegal under the Constitution. But with so many graphic images available on computer networks, I believe Congress must act and do so in a constitutional manner to help parents who are under assault in this day and age. There is a flood of vile pornography, and we must act to stem this growing tide, because, in the words of Judge Robert Bork, it incites perverted minds. I refer to Judge Bork from the Spectator article that I have permission to insert in the Record. My bill, again, is S. 892, and provides just this sort of constitutional, narrowly focused assistance in protecting children, while also protecting the rights of consenting adults to transmit and receive protected pornographic material--protected, that is, under the first amendment. Also, according to the Carnegie Mellon University study, cyberporn is really big business. Some computer networks which specialize in computer pornography take in excess of $1 million per year. Later this week, I am going to introduce the Antielectronic Racketeering Act of 1995 which will target organized crime which has begun to use the awesome powers of computers to engage in criminal activity. As we all know from past debates in this body, organized crime is heavily involved in trafficking illegal pornography. The Antielectronic Racketeering Act will put a dent into that. In closing, Mr. President, I urge my colleagues to give this study by Carnegie Mellon University serious consideration, and I urge my colleagues to support S. 892. I yield the floor.
[From the Spectator, Feb. 4, 1995]
An Electronic Sink of Depravity
New York.--If last year it was merely modish to be seen speeding down the information superhighway, this year it is fast becoming essential, at least in America. Hitch your wagon to cyberspace, says the new Speaker of the House, Mr. Newt Gingrich, and your democracy will become absolute, with all America joined together for the first time into one vast and egalitarian town meeting.
Mr. Gingrich made this all clear two weeks ago when he unveiled a new system for bringing Congress to the electronically connected populace, which in honour of President Jefferson is called ``Thomas''. Anyone with a computer and a modem at home or in the office (or even up in the skies, courtesy of USAir's new back-of-the-seat telescreens) may now, with only the click of a few buttons, find the text of any bill, any resolution, any government statement.
Mr. Gingrich is hugely excited by this idea--going so far as to suggest, and not at all facetiously, that perhaps every citizen be given a thousand-dollar tax deduction to allow him to buy himself a laptop computer. Thus will all America be vconjoined, he argues, and thus will its democracy be ever strengthened as in no other country on earth. Fine, say I, and not just because I will become richer by $1,000. For the last three years or so I have been a dedicated and enthusiastic user of the Internet. (The Internet--``the net'' to those in the know--began innocently enough 20 years ago as a vast worldwide network of computers, linked together by government-funded telephone [[Page S 9018]] lines, with high-powered government-funded ``exchanges'' to speed calls on their way, which enabled universities and governments to swap information. Five years or so ago, its controllers opted to make it more democratic, and now anyone is able to connect to it; tens of thousands of new subscribers join every day, and the net is becoming truly global, with at least 20 million regular users.)
I am a typical enough user. I send electronic mail--e- mail--to everyone who is similarly hooked up (it is lightning fast and essentially free); and I browse through the world's libraries and data-bases to do research for whatever book I happen to be writing. I bask happily in the Panglossian principle that the Internet seems to enshrine. By virtue of the net, I have complete freedom to explore and trawl for anything I want in what has become by custom an untrammelled, uncontrolled, wholly liberated ocean of information. The Internet seems and sounds to be something almost noble. One can understand why the US Congress named its own portion of the net after Jefferson: all knowledge there is is on hand for all the people--just the kind of thing the great man would have liked.
But this week, while I was peering into an area of the Internet where I have hitherto not lingered, I discovered something so appalling as to put all such high-minded sentiments into a quite different perspective.
I had stumbled, not entirely accidentally, into a sinkhole of electronic but very real perversion. The first thing I read, almost as soon as I entered it, was a lengthy, very graphic and in stylistic terms quite competently composed narrative that presented in all its essentials the story of a kidnapping, and the subsequent rape, torture, mutilation and eventual murder of the two victims. That author called himself by a code-name, Blackwind; and while it is quite likely that he is American, almost as certain that he is well-educated and quite possible that he is at least a peripheral member of the academic community, we know, and are allowed to know, nothing else about him.
His anonymity is faultlessly safeguarded by a system of electronics which has been built into the Internet, and which even the police and the other agents of the state are unable, technically or in law, to penetrate. This is, from their point of view, highly regrettable. Blackwind's offerings--and the very similar stories currently being published on the Internet by scores of men who are in all likelihood as deranged as he seems to be--should be subject to some kind of legal sanction, and for one very understandable reason: the victims of the story he has written are small children. One is a six-year old boy named Christopher, who, among other indignities, suffers a castration--reported in loving detail--before being shot. The other is a girl named Karen, who is seven years old and is raped repeatedly by no fewer than nine men, before having her nipples cut off and her throat slashed.
At the moment of my writing this, I find that there are perhaps 200 similar stories presently circulating and available on one of the so-called ``newsgroups'' on the Internet. The choice of tales is endlessly expanded and refreshed by new and ever more exotic stories that emerge into this particular niche in the other every day, almost every hour. You want tales of fathers sodomizing their three- year-old daughters, or of mothers performing fellatio on their prepubescent sons, or of girls coupling with horses, or of the giving of enemas to child virgins? Then you need do no more than visit the newsgroup that is named ``alt.sex.stories'' and all will reliably be there, 24 hours a day, for everyone with a computer and a telephone, anywhere on (or above) the face of the earth.
There are about 5,000 separate newsgroups on the net, each one of them presenting chatter about some scintilla of human knowledge or endeavour. I have long liked the system, and found it an agreeable way to discover people around the world who have similar interests. I used to tell others who were not yet signed up to the net that using newsgroups was like going into a hugely crowded pub, finding in milliseconds those who wanted to talk about what you wanted to know, having a quick drink with them before leaving, without once having encountered a bore.
And so, with an alphabetical list running from `ab.fen'-- which shows you how much fun you can have in Alberta--down to something in German called `zer.zmetz.Wissenschaft.physlk', the enthusiasms of the world's Internet-connected population are distilled into their electronic segments. Alberta-philes can chat with each other, as can German physicists, and those who would bore these are left to chat among themselves. In theory, an admirable arrangement.
By Jeffersonian rights it should be uplifting to the spirit. In reality it is rather less so. In far too many groups the level of discussion is execrable and juvenile. Arguments break out, insults are exchanged, the chatter drifts aimlessly in and out of relevance. This is a reality of the electronic world that few like to admit. It is prompting many browsers to suspect, as I do, that a dismayingly large number of users of this system are not at all the kind of sturdy champions of freedom and democracy and intellect that Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Gore would like them to be.
More probably, to judge from the tone and the language in many of the groups, they are pasty-faced and dysfunctional men with halitosis who inhabit damp basements. And it is for them, in large measure, that the newsgroups whose titles begin with the code-letters `alt.sex' seem to exist. There are 55 of these, offering manna for all diets. Some are fairly light-hearted; `alt.sex.anal', for example contains much spirited chat about amusing uses to which you can put the colonic gateway; `alt.sex.voyeurism' seems to contain reasonably harmless chatter between a whole worldful of civic-minded Peeping Toms, who like to advise one another which public loos in which national parks have eye-sized knotholes in their doors. There is also `alt.sex.nasal.hair', into which I have not thus far been tempted.
There are a number of the groups, though, which are not so amusing. There is `alt.sex.intergen', where the last letters stand for `intergenerational', which is the current paedophile bulletin-board; and there is my current target, `alt.sex.stories'. I came across it by accident, and I double-clicked my mouse to open it, briefly enthralled. It did not take many seconds before I realized I had been ill- prepared for what was on offer.
There is a kind of classification system. Each story entry lists a title, an author (invariably either a pseudonym, or posted via an anonymous computer that has laundered the words and made the detection of the author impossible), and a series of code-words and symbols that indicate the approximate content.
Blackwind's many offerings--there were about 200 stories in all, with Blackwind contributing perhaps 15 of them--usually fell into the categories that are denoted by the codes `m-f, f-f, scat.pedo.snuff', meaning that they contain scenes of male-female sex, female-female sex, scatological imagery, paedophiliac description and the eventual killing of the central victim. You quickly get, I think, the drift. Others are more horrifying still--those that end with the invariable `snuff' scene, but whose enticements on the way include `best', `torture', `gore' or `amputees', and which refer to sex with animals, bloodlettings, sadistic injury, and the limitless erotic joy of stumps.
It is important to note that no one polices or, to use the Internet word, `moderates', this group, (Some of the more obscure and non-sexual newsgroups do have a volunteer, usually a specialist in the field, who tries to keep order in what might, if unchecked, become an unruly discussion.) On `alt.sex.stories' there is only one man, a Mr. Joshua Laff of the University of Illinois at Urbana, who oversees the group, in a somewhat lethargic way. He helpfully suggests the code- words for the various kinds of perverse interests. He indicates to people who want to talk about sex stories, rather than actually contributing them, that they would be better advised to post their gripes on `alt.sex.stories.discussion', next door, and so on.
But Mr. Laff has no admitted scruples about what is permitted to go out over the air. So far as he is concerned, the First Amendment to the Constitution protects all that is said on `alt.sex.stories' as free speech. What is demonstrated on these thousands of electronic pages is a living exhibition of the birthright of all who are fortunate enough to be born in the land that has given us the National Rifle Association, the Reverend Jimmy Swaggart, and Blackwind.
In truth, Mr. Laff and those who support the published existence of such writings are technically right. No obscene pictures are published--these could be banned in law. No obscene truths are proffered, so far as we know--no confessions of real rapes, nor of actual acts of pedorasty. And since all the stories are prefaced with warnings that those under 18, or those of sensitive disposition, should read no further--devices that presumably attract precisely those they purport to deter--so, the authors seem to agree, their ramblings do no harm at all.
Most individual states legislate firmly or less so against printed pornography: but so far no one has successfully prosecuted the Internet--not least for the reason that with so amorphous, so global and so informal a linking of computers, who out there can be held responsible? People like Blackwind simply open accounts at what are known as `anonymous posting systems', and their words become filtered through two or three computers in such a way that the original source can never be known, and the perpetrator of any possible crime becomes impossible to find. And, anyway, those who endlessly cry First Amendment! Here we want to say that the publishing of more words, even those from so clearly depraved an individual as Blackwind, can do no harm at all.
Commonsense would argue otherwise. A long and graphic account of exactly how and at what hour you wait outside a girls' school, how best to bundle a seven-year-old into your van, whether to tell her at the start of her ordeal that she is going to be killed at the end of it (Blackwind's favoured modus operandi), how best to tie her down, which aperture to approach first, and with what--such things can only tempt those who verge on such acts to take a greater interest in them.
Surely such essays tell the thinker of forbidden thoughts that there exists somewhere out there a like-minded group of men for whom such things are really not so bad, the enjoyment of which, if no one is so ill-starred as to get caught, can be limitless. Surely it is naive folly--or, at the other end of the spectrum, gross irresponsibility--to suppose otherwise. [[Page S 9019]]
Such material is not, I am happy to say, universally available. Some of the big corporations which offer public access to the Internet--America On-Line, CompuServe, Prodigy, Mr. Murdoch's Delphi--have systems in place that filter out the more objectionable newsgroups. On America On-Line you may read the ramblings on `alt.sex.voyeurism' and probably even `alt.sex.nasal.hair', but you may read no `alt.sex.stories', nor may you learn techniques for having real relationships, as paedophiles like to say they have, with young children. But for those with the wherewithal to find more robust and uncontrolled access to cyberspace--and that means, quite frankly, most of the world's computer users, be they 90 years old or nine--all newsgroups are equally available, the evil along with the excellent. The question we have to ask is whether that should continue to be the case.
One might not mind so much if the material were being confined to the United States, where most of it originates. But in fact it manages to seep its electronic way everywhere, from Wiltshire to Waziristan. And crucially, no mechanism is yet in place allowing foreigners--whose laws might well be far less tolerantly disposed to it--to filer it out.
A computer owner in Islington or Islamabad can have easy and inexpensive access to material over the net which would be illegal for him or her to read or buy on any British or Pakistani street. In China, pornographers would be imprisoned for publishing material that any Peking University students can read at the click of a mouse; and the same is true in scores of other countries and societies. The Internet, we smugly say, has become a means of circumventing the restrictive codes of tyrannics. But the reverse of this coin is less attractive; it also allows an almost exclusively American contagion to ooze outwards, unstoppable, like an oil spill, contaminating everyone and everything in its path.
We cannot, of course, prevent: such things being thought. We may not prevent them being written for self-gratification alone. But, surely, science and the public can somehow conspire and co-operate to see that such writings as are represented by `scat.pedo.torture.snuff' and the like are neither published nor read, and that they do not in consequence have the opportunity to spread outwards as an electronic contagion from the minds of those who, like Blackwind, first create them.
The Jeffersonian model for universal freedom which Mr. Gingrich so rightly applauds could not take into account the barbarisms of the modern mind. Nor could it imagine the genius by which such barbarisms can be disseminated as they are today, in seconds, to the remotest and still most innocent corners of the world. Someone, perhaps even the Speaker of the House of Representatives, is going to have to consider soon the implications, for ill as well as good, of our venture out onto the information superhighway, or else there are going to be some very messy electronic traffic accidents.