P2P Porn May Be Next Target for Democrats

Matt O'Conner
WASHINGTON — The day after one group of congressmen introduced a proposal to tax adult Internet transactions, another group held a meeting to discuss the possibility of legislation against adult content on peer-to-peer networks.

While Thursday’s hearing included Alaska Republican Sen. Ted Stevens, it was headed by California Democrat Sen. Barbara Boxer, marking the third time in two weeks that a prominent Democrat has targeted the adult entertainment industry.

First, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, held a press conference to grandstand against sexual content in video games. Then, on Wednesday, Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, introduced a sin tax bill in the House that was authored by his colleague, Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., and based on a report from a Democratic think tank.

On Thursday, the Senate panel took to task representatives of the entertainment industry, Internet service providers and P2P companies, threatening them with legislation to restrict usage if they don’t take steps to purge their sites of adult content.

“If you don’t move to protect children, it’s not going to sit well,” Boxer said.

Boxer grilled P2P sites for failing to place adequate barriers to children accidentally accessing adult content through innocent searches.

“We’re going to get specific about this, pornography over the Internet,” Stevens added. “People tell me we can’t do anything about it. I don’t believe that.”

In the past, legislation intended to curb sexually explicit material on P2P networks has met with lukewarm results. The Communications Decency Act of 1996 was overturned the following year by the Supreme Court. Another bill, The Protecting Children from Peer-to-Peer Pornography Act, never made it out of Congress.

The timing of the hearing, directly on the heals of a major announcement regarding the sin tax bill, has drawn criticism from technology analysts, especially since a study by the U.S. General Accounting Office had earlier concluded that file-sharing networks actually do not contain vast quantities of adult material.

“It appears that Democratic senators have decided that their moral issue this week is online porn,” Mike Masnick, CEO of analysis site TechDirt, said. “It just so happens that, right now, everyone feels they need to stand strong on moral issues.”