educational

The War On Adult?

Alex Henderson
On Dec. 1 in Washington, former CIA Director George Tenet addressed an information-system security conference, warning that al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations could use the Internet to carry out cyber attacks against the United States and calling for greater Internet governance.

Tenet asserted that the Internet "represents a potential Achilles' heel for our financial stability and physical security if the networks we are creating are not protected," and warned that terrorists are "undoubtedly mapping vulnerabilities and weaknesses in our telecommunications networks."

Tenet indicated that access to the Internet may need to be limited to those who can prove that they take security seriously, saying, "I know that these actions will be controversial in this age when we still think the Internet is a free and open society with no control or accountability, but ultimately, the Wild, Wild West must give way to governance and control."

And although Tenet's statements were general rather than specific, he did say enough to worry some civil libertarians — including three high-profile First Amendment lawyers with a long history of representing adult oriented businesses: Gregory Piccionelli, Jeffrey J. Douglas and Lawrence Walters. Tenet didn't actually mention adult entertainment Dec. 1, but Los Angeles-based Piccionelli says that if adult-oriented webmasters read between the lines, they have every reason to be worried — especially if the United Nations were to become involved in some type of international agreement on Internet security.

9/11-like Cyber-terrorism
"As more and more business is conducted electronically online, we're going to have to do everything possible to defend that system from cyber terrorism," Piccionelli said. "I fear the possibility of a cyber version of 9/11, which might bring the Internet down for a day or two and could provoke countries around the world to create some kind of hasty international legislation through the U.N. — and I am especially fearful of repressive countries like Saudi Arabia and Syria having a voice in such a treaty. That would be disastrous for adult online material, which is absolutely loathed by Islamic governments in those countries."

Piccionelli stressed that cyber security and free speech on the Internet are not mutually exclusive, noting, "I would much, much prefer that international agreements on the Internet occur in trade organizations such as NAFTA and GATT — the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade — instead of the UN, where the more repressive governments would have much more of a voice. Agreements through the trade organizations would be much better for adult businesses."

Like Piccionelli, Walters is troubled by Tenet's assertion that Internet access may need to be restricted.

"I think what we're going to see in the future is al-Qaida and other terrorist groups being used as the reason why we have to give up our freedoms and why the Internet has to be governed," Walters said.

Asked what adult-oriented webmasters need to be aware of in light of Tenet's statements, Walters replied: "Adult webmasters need to be concerned about the interception of email and instant message communications. They need to be concerned about the monitoring of private chat rooms and discussion boards."

The idea of restricting Internet access isn't any less troubling to Douglas, who heads the board of directors of the Free Speech Coalition.

"When a person who has been in charge of the intelligence community talks about having an end to the Wild Wild West of the Internet, I find that to be a very disturbing and chilling notion," Douglas said. "Government monitoring of the Internet is one thing; restricting access to the Internet is something fundamentally different."

First Amendment activist Kali Morgan — who is well known in Philadelphia's S&M community and sells fetish clothing along with some sex toys on her website and in her store, Passional — stresses that small businesses of an erotic nature need to pay especially close attention to any Internet-related legislation that comes about. But Morgan — who once worked as a professional dominatrix — is philosophical, asserting that attacks on sexual expression inevitably create an even greater appetite for that expression.

"Does what George Tenet have to say about the Internet worry me in terms of my civil liberties being curtailed?" Morgan asked. "In the long run, no, but in the short run, it could make my life a little less convenient. As a small business owner, I may have to incur extra expenses in order to make sure that I'm not in violation of any new laws governing the Internet."

War On Adult Sites?
Joan Irvine, executive director of the organization Adult Sites Against Child Pornography, fears that the war on terrorism is becoming a war on adult-oriented websites. Irvine said: "I've spoken to people in the adult entertainment industry who have been approached by the Department of Homeland Security about content they had on their sites, which wasn't political in any way. Homeland Security is supposed to be about the war on terrorism, not going after adult sites."

Similarly, L.A.-based entertainment attorney John Anello Jr. — who has directed several fetish fashion videos — emphasizes that while the U.S. government must do everything possible to safeguard against cyber sabotage, the war on terror must not include a war on all forms of erotic online expression.

"If a website is saying 'praise Allah' and telling you how to build bombs and carry out attacks, webmasters have every right to refuse that type of site," Anello said. "But there is a big difference between a threat to kill people and looking at porn, and I don't see online porn as a threat to our national security."

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