Alito Demands More to Combat Internet Porn

WASHINGTON — Supreme Court Justice nominee Samuel Alito spoke during a Senate Judiciary confirmation hearing today, telling members that the government must step up its efforts to combat the spread of pornography.

Alito said the legal system has been struggling with laws that were written before the Internet came into existence, and that older laws are no longer enough to deal effectively with the distribution of sexually explicit material online.

Much of Alito’s concern revolved around minors, who he described as “often more savvy about computers than the parents who are supposed to be restricting their access.”

The full text of Alito’s statement on Internet pornography follows:

“I think that the problem of protecting children from pornography on the Internet illustrates the fact that, although the task of the court is to apply principles that are in the constitution and not make up its own principles, [it has to] apply those to different factual situations when the world changes.

“And in particular, in the First Amendment context, when the means of communications change, the job of applying the principles that have been worked out, and I think in this area worked out with a great deal of effort, over a period of time in the pre-Internet world to the world of the Internet is a real difficult problem.

“Congress and the judiciary have been struggling with it. Constitutional law, as you know, draws a distinction between obscenity, which has no First Amendment protection, but which is subject to a strict definition, and pornography, which is not obscenity but is sexually-related materials.

“With respect to minors, the Supreme court has said it is permissible to regulate the sale of pornography to them and has greater authority than it does with respect to distribution of pornography to adults.

“In the pre-Internet world, the job of preventing minors from purchasing pornography was a lot simpler. If they wanted to get it, I guess they would have to go to a store someplace and buy it.

“On the Internet, of course, it is readily available from any computer terminal, and a lot of minors today are a lot more sophisticated in the use of computers than their parents. The ability of parents to monitor and supervise what they are doing is greatly impaired by this difference in computer aptitude.

“I can't say much more than that, but it is a difficult question. And I think there needs to be additional effort in this area, probably by all branches of government, so that the law fully takes into account the differences regarding communication over the Internet and access to materials over the Internet by minors.”