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Censorship

rfc1394's Journal: Ohio Net-censorship law struck down 121

Journal by rfc1394
In this article, C|Net reports that a federal judge has struck down as unconstitutional a portion of an Ohio statute which attempted to prevent minors from seeing material which would be "harmful" to them, but was so overbroad that it would have covered a considerable amount of material which is legal for adults to view. Basically, if a website operator had reason to believe the material they were showing was visible to minors, and if the material was considered to be harmful to them, they would be in violation of the law. Since about 1/6 of the users of the Internet are minors, it's trivial to argue that anyone running a website would be aware that the material they have is visible to minors even if they had no intention of doing so. If the decision is upheld by an appeals court - very likely in view of similar bans which have been struck down - the state of Ohio could be liable for the plaintiffs' attorneys fees, "which amounted to a requested $488,601 in a similar Internet censorship suit in Virginia."
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Ohio Net Censorship Law Struck Down

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  • That sort of idiocy is on par for this state. Not surprised at all...
    • by techpawn (969834)
      And we paid for them to write it, pass it, send it to court, loose, and we'll be paying for the appeal too I bet.
    • by Sciros (986030)
      It's kind of on par for the WORLD buddy. If you can find some genius-run utopia to move to, power to ya, but it doesn't exist.
    • Sounds like a law Simon Leis would have written.... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_L._Leis%2C_Jr [wikipedia.org].
    • I bet you're from Cleveland aren't you
    • What can you expect from a state that voted for George Bush in 2004?
    • by to_kallon (778547)
      i used to live in ohio, which leaves me confused as to why is the parent marked flamebait...

      i kid, i kid, go bucks, oh - io, and so on.
    • by JimBobJoe (2758)
      That sort of idiocy is on par for this state. Not surprised at all...

      To be fair, the most egregious things you hear from Ohio are stupid decisions made at the municipal level and at the executive level. While really brain dead bills are introduced in the legislature all the time, our state legislature is so dysfunctional and busy raising money that it doesn't bother passing many bills at all. (It's a full time legislature that will pass 200 bills in two years. It's insanely ineffectively.)

      But the flipside o
      • by domatic (1128127)
        Could it be that BuSab is already operating here and we don't know it? (I'm from Ohio as well and welcome my sabotaging non-overlords.)
        • Could it be that BuSab is already operating here and we don't know it?

          Of course, from what I recall of Frank Herbert's stories, BuSab was created because the government was getting too efficient, and changing things too fast for society to acclimate to the changes...


          In any case, that was a reference that I haven't heard in a while. Now I've got to go read Whipping Star again.

  • Since many websites are hosted outside the state/country it seems moot. Well, at least the sites with the material that would harm you to look at it...
    • by hedwards (940851) on Friday September 28, 2007 @02:20PM (#20786475)
      IANAL, but...

      Basically, the jurisdiction would never be in Ohio for websites, unless the site were doing business in Ohio.

      In order to have the jurisdiction be in Ohio, the website would have to do business in Ohio or have a reasonable expectation that the products were being shipped to Ohio. If they don't take orders from people that live in Ohio and have a disclaimer that people residing in the state are not allowed, they should be immune from prosecution in the state as none of the courts there would have jurisdiction over the matter.

      That definitely is not to say that people living in the state couldn't be prosecuted. Basically the only reason why offshore pornographers voluntarily submit to the age verification statutes is that it would represent a large loss of cash flow if they couldn't guarantee that they were in compliance with the letter of the law in the local jurisdiction. Hence the sites which aren't legally required to comply with our legislation doing so to avoid losing out to sites that will.
  • 1/6? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Mursk (928595) on Friday September 28, 2007 @01:47PM (#20786019)
    Where did that 1/6 figure come from? The article seems to use it just to give an example, while the summary seems to quote it as fact.

    I know, I know, I must be new here. But does anyone happen to have any more reliable statistics?

    • 40.7%, actually (Score:3, Informative)

      by PlatyPaul (690601)
      Here's a breakdown of users hitting Google by age group:

      1. 50 and older: 47 million.
      2. 35-49: 42.5 million.
      3. 17 and under: 30.3 million.
      4. 25-34: 19.9 million.
      5. 18-24: 11.2 million.

      So that makes it approximately 40.7% of the Internet population composed of minors (assuming that the breakdown that Google shows is accurate, and that we can reasonably extrapolate their data with only small introduced error, while their data itself may itself be extrapolated from a smaller pool).

      The

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by turtledawn (149719)
        How are you defining minor? 18 year olds are not minors in very many countries and certainly not in the US. I came up with 20.1% using the numbers provided.
      • Here's a breakdown of users hitting Google by age group:

        I presume that's generated from the birth dates given when signing up for google services. If so, seems to me there are a number of sources of selection bias and other corruption, notably:

          - It's only people who use google.
          - It's only those who signed up.
          - It counts every ID they sign up for as a distinct user.
          - It's using the CLAIMED age.
      • by Miraba (846588)
        You might want to check your math.

        Assume one hit = 1 person
        Minors = age 17 and under

        Percentage of Google visitors who are minors = minors/total visitors = 30.3/(30.3 + 11.2 + 19.9 + 42.5 + 47) = 30.3/150.9 = 0.200 = 20%
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by garcia (6573)
      According to the shitty links here [internetworldstats.com] (United States' Internet usage) and here [emarketer.com] (users aged 3-17) it says that there are 232,655,287 users in the US total and the 34.3 million aged 3-17. That's about 13% and the article is quoting a little higher than that at ~16.5%

      Whatever.
  • Again and again... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gillbates (106458) on Friday September 28, 2007 @01:51PM (#20786073) Homepage Journal

    Legislators draft laws in an effort to appear "Tough on crime" or to "Protect the children", knowing full well that they won't pass the muster of the courts.

    Why do they do this?

    It's political posturing, nothing more. The laws passed are so vague that they could not possibly stand up to the scrutiny of established case law, much less Constitutional questions. It's an old trick, by which the politician can say to his constituents, "Look! I passed laws to protect children, but that darned Supreme Court struck them down..." By trade, most politicians are lawyers, so they can draft legislation which they know is contrary to established Constitutional and case law and will be struck down. But they get the benefit of the public belief that they are doing something about the child-porn bogey man.

    And what happens? We on /. make much of laws which were never intended to be enforced.

    But what happens when one of these vague laws is enforced, and found not vague enough to be declared unconstitutional? Or the accused can't afford a good lawyer?

    • by vlad_petric (94134)
      Obviously IANAL but I don't see how publishing a paper or a piece of source code showing how to circumvent a DRM protection does not fall under "free speech"

      Of course, when they drafted the DMCA they did want it enforced.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by radarjd (931774)

        Obviously IANAL but I don't see how publishing a paper or a piece of source code showing how to circumvent a DRM protection does not fall under "free speech"

        The paper or source could would indeed be speech. All of copyright law is something of a limitation on the freedom to speak, and courts have consistently and continually recognized the tension between the two. The Constitution itself recognizes limits on speech -- after all, it is the basis for Copyright law. (The DMCA itself was actually passed under the Commerce Clause, but we'll ignore that hiccup for this.) There limits on speech besides copyright, such as threatening another or the overused example

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by benfinkel (1048566)
          I believe there are two currently recognized standards that the federal government can invoke to restrict free speech:

          The Clear and Present Danger standard, which is the trickier of the two, and the Time, Place, and Manner standard, which is more often invoked.

          An example of clear and present danger would be the old "yelling fire in a crowded theater" gag, since it that speech can reasonably be expected to cause a clear and present danger to those around you.

          The time, place, and manner standard is what would
          • The Clear and Present Danger standard, which is the trickier of the two

            Actually that was replaced long ago by Brandenburg's standard wherein the advocacy of lawless action may only be prohibited where that speech is directed toward inciting imminent lawless action, and the speech is likely to produce that action.

            Anyway, there's others as well.

            Also, it is 'falsely shouting fire, etc.' Truthfully shouting fire is not only lawful, it's a good deed.
  • Solution (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 28, 2007 @02:12PM (#20786371)
    The solution is obviously to get rid of all the children.
    • The solution is obviously to get rid of all the children.

      Kick them off the net? Or "Send your kid to Kamp"? B-)

      Seriously, though: The internet was created by adults for adults. As such it has its share of "neighborhoods" that are "not safe for minors". They're the virtual equivalent of singles bars, strip-joints, adult bookstores, red-light districts, criminal and gang hangouts, etc.

      What parent would let their child go unescorted to such places in the real world? Why should parental responsibility end
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Greyfox (87712)
        Given the stories of bad parenting that hit the news on a regular basis, I think it's perfectly reasonable to say that my regime would confiscate children at birth and raise them in Clean Government Facilities. There they will have the benefit of a uniformly nurturing environment, a standard educational system and they will be taught from a very early age that their supreme leader (Me) is their friend and only cares for their well being. In return, society as a whole will never again have to bear the burden
      • by nsayer (86181) *

        Seriously, though: The internet was created by adults for adults. As such it has its share of "neighborhoods" that are "not safe for minors". They're the virtual equivalent of singles bars, strip-joints, adult bookstores, red-light districts, criminal and gang hangouts, etc.

        What parent would let their child go unescorted to such places in the real world? Why should parental responsibility end when the world is virtual?

        Now, I'm on your side. But I will play devil's advocate here and say that the difference between the real world and the virtual one in your example is that zoning laws are typically supposed to make it longer-than-bike-riding distance for a kid to travel from his or her home or school to the Red Light District(tm). And the proprietor is supposed to watch everyone coming in and shoo them away if they're don't at least look like they're a grown-up.

        On the Internet, there are no such distance limitations.

    • by PhxBlue (562201)

      I think Charles Dickens had A Modest Proposal along those lines as well, once upon a time.

  • I'm more concerned with the word 'harmful'. You could argue that the average age of marriage was 12 only 200 years ago. Seeing naked people can be done by simply changing clothes near a mirror. Is porn then 'harmful'? Is a website promoting violent movies 'harmful'? the desensitization of society has been documented as harmful. If yes to that, is a site suggesting that we should change the government 'harmful'? in China they certainly think so. At what point do you draw the line? Who gets to decide what is
  • The secret to getting (re)elected in Ohio is to talk about children every time you see a camera or microphone.

    Ohio politics are absolutely offensive to me. The top priority of our politicians should be protecting our rights, not doing our parenting for us.

    I'm seriously considering getting the hell out of this purple state and heading for a real blue state. Unfortunately, even some blue states care more about "the children" than protecting our rights these days--see Hillary Clinton for a perfect example.
  • Thanks to our public education system you can filter out minors by asking questions about geography or world history (many kids don't realize that the US was fighting Japan and the Germans at the same time during WWII). Or you could test if they know the difference between "you're", "your" and "ur"
    • The problem with this, of course, is that when today's minors become adults, they still cannot tell "your" from "you're".
    • Thanks to our public education system you can filter out minors by asking questions about geography or world history (many kids don't realize that the US was fighting Japan and the Germans at the same time during WWII). Or you could test if they know the difference between "you're", "your" and "ur"

      But most adults don't know the difference either!

      Accessing porn should not require a grammer test :P
      (What is the adjustive in the following sentence "Mary grabbed hold of Reginald's quivering member and began s

      • I think access to pornography and gambling online should require a certain level of education. If you're an adult and don't have the fortitude to make it through school to know what the difference between "there", "their" and "they're" then I suspect you likely have poor impulse control and shouldn't be on those sorts of websites either.

        Of course my idea is completely unconstitutional in the US.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    TFS gives a tantalising link to material "which is legal for adults to view", imagine my disappointment when the link turned out to go to a news article instead.
  • in all my life (Score:5, Interesting)

    by epine (68316) on Friday September 28, 2007 @03:36PM (#20787603)

    In all my life I've never seen a scientific study about what kind of content has the potential to harm children and why. I'm sure most of my adult peers managed to expose themselves to harmful content as children. Only the least enterprising children fail to accomplish this. And what is the end result? We're all convinced we came out fine, by the skin of our teeth, but the next child won't? What exactly was impared? Our gullibility? Our willingness to vote morons into power?

    Obviously there are some children who are adversely affected by coverage of the real world on the six o'clock news. But I have a feeling this bill is not targetted at that content.
    • I was scared shitless by the first gulf war, cried a lot, i was like 5, i didnt understand it wasnt happening here. Got my parents to buy me a globe though...
  • As was noted yesterday, the internet uses 10% of electric power consumption in the U.S. A significant portion of the internet is devoted to p0rn. This p0rn contributes nothing of value to our society or culture. I believe that this portion of the Internet should be shutdown in order to prevent global warming and save the earth for our children.

    Would you be willing to give up your p0rn for the sake of the children?

    • by akasch (1159557)
      porn is bad and should be abolished but the internet is, should be, and will remain free - it became self-aware at 1:37 am May 13 1994
    • I have a 9 month old child, and I have no problem with him seeing tasteful porn (kama sutra, joy of sex, etc)
      Sex is natural, I hope he has it, and maybe even children of his own.

      I do have a problem with him watching movies like saw and hostel.
      I hope he doesn't torture-kill people for fun

      What is wrong with society that violence is fine, but sex? no we should ban that...
  • Solution (Score:2, Insightful)

    I am no lawyer but if your children are on these sites and it is illegal for someone to expose them to 'harmful' content then shouldn't the parents be prosecuted for not monitoring their activities?

I have never seen anything fill up a vacuum so fast and still suck. -- Rob Pike, on X.

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