The site was launched in June 2002 by Morality in Media (MIM), with a goal of allowing average citizens to report websites having possible violations of federal obscenity laws.
"ObscenityCrimes.org was intended to provide a link between citizens, whose homes and children are assaulted by Internet obscenity, and federal prosecutors, who enforce federal Internet obscenity laws," Robert Peters, president of MIM said. "MIM forwards complaints submitted to ObscenityCrimes.org to the Justice Department in Washington and to local U.S. Attorneys."
While the organization claims to have created the site for people who are "unintentionally exposed to pornography on the Internet or whose children are exposed to pornography on the Internet," anti-porn activists have routinely used the website to report material that they don't approve of.
This may account for the poor prosecution rate of referred cases: out of 70,000 referrals, there have been few if any reported prosecutions; a situation the organization blames on a lack of follow-up by law enforcement, Congress and the President.
"ObscenityCrimes.org has not achieved its laudable purpose for the reason that the Justice Department and FBI have prosecuted very few Internet obscenity crimes," Peters said. "Rather, with the apparent blessing of President Bush and Congress, they have focused almost exclusively on curbing sexual exploitation of children and now trafficking in women and children."
The truth is that many materials MIM activists see as "obscene" may not meet the legal definition of obscenity and are thus not prosecutable under current statutes.
But the group keeps trying; with efforts that include using private investigators to target individual websites.
"In 2002, MIM also retained the services of two retired law enforcement agents to follow up on select complaints and to prepare investigative reports which provide information about various pornographic websites," Peters said. "MIM also forwards these reports to the Justice Department and local U.S. Attorneys."
MIM is also concerned about children's access to adult materials and is targeting free sites.
"Evidence also abounds that large numbers of children stumble into and seek out hardcore pornographic materials on the Internet," Peters said. "At this time, 'adult' obscenity laws are the main legal weapon that society has against websites that allow children to view hardcore pornography free of charge and without proof of age."
While Peters claims that "the explosion of 'adult' obscenity on the Internet contributes to sexual exploitation of children," he still wants to see law enforcement resources that are already struggling to keep up with the needs of child protection, further diluted to focus on pursuing legitimate adult websites.
"'Adult' obscenity (hardcore pornography that does not depict actual children) also causes great harm," Peters said. "Among other things, addiction to hardcore pornography contributes to sexual harassment and violence against women and to the breakup of marriages."
Regardless of imminent changes in the political landscape with the upcoming elections, adult operators can expect that MIM will continue its campaign against free speech.
"The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that the First Amendment does not protect obscenity, and opinion polls indicate that adult Americans support enforcement of federal obscenity laws," Peters said. "Hopefully, the next President will speak out forcefully against obscenity and nominate individuals to lead the Justice Department, FBI and U.S. Attorney Offices will enforce obscenity laws effectively."