Civil Liberties

Honored to Be Caught Looking at Porn


"Morality in Media (MIM) should be honored that a project it launched to combat Internet obscenity has been criticized in short order by two of our nation's leading left-leaning daily newspapers," says the group's president, Ralph Bob Peters, responding to last week's New York Times story about MIM's government-funded monitoring of online pornography and a July 15 Washington Post op-ed piece attacking the program. But Peters doesn't sound honored; he sounds miffed. "I am troubled by the fact that [the Justice Department] has publicly praised on a number of occasions," he says, "but to my knowledge has not initiated a single prosecution in response to a citizen complaint submitted to the site."

Maybe that's because MIM, contrary to the impression left by the Times, does not actually sift through the complaints it receives via its site, looking for cases that have the best chance of being successfully prosecuted for obscenity. "Except for complaints that lack necessary information or are obvious mistakes or hoaxes," Peters reports,"all citizen complaints are forwarded to the Justice Department," totaling more than 66,000 in the last few years. At the same time, Peters implies that MIM's investigators are applying some sort of legal analysis:

The Supreme Court has set forth a three-part test to determine whether sexual material is obscene and therefore unprotected by the First Amendment, and the investigators' determinations as to which complaints to pursue are guided by that test. If they weren't, we really would be wasting our time.

Yeah, then they really would be wasting their time (not to mention our money).