The big blue

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 August, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 August, 2006, 12:00am

A generation ago, a teenager in search of adult content needed to be resourceful - at the very least they'd have to rummage around under dad's bed for the girlie mag stashed there. Now, access is infinitely easier thanks to that global pornography network politely known as the internet.

According to the Internet Filter Review, the net hosts four million pornographic websites (12 per cent

of the total) and 372 million pornographic pages. In addition, porn features in 70 million daily search-engine requests (25 per cent of the total) and 2.5 billion daily horny e-mails (8 per cent of all e-mails). Proof positive we are obsessed.

In response to the parade of digitised flesh, concerned parents can erect family filters. The filters are a bit of a joke because for every shield there's a sword. Given that kids are 'digital natives' and usually a million times more technically adroit than their guardians, doubtless most can easily beat the filters, switching them off and on at will and tapping friends or file-sharing systems for the prohibited material.

Despite the vilification of digital porn by the likes of Hillary Clinton and the wife of Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen, worse influences exist - in particular, the droves of computer games that train kids how to kill. It never ceases to puzzle me how society is happy to let children play games that centre on stalking and destroying, but if a game contains a scene that shows a glimpse of a naked couple brushing up against each other in a non-violent way the moral guardians go bananas. Presumably, the guardians want to prevent kids thinking that, when they grow up, they just might have more fun in bed than battle.

Either way, the balance could be swinging in favour of the crusaders. Just look at China's 'people's war' against pornography. Last year, more than 200 people were reportedly arrested and almost 600 websites shut down in a clampdown on 'obscene' internet content. Meanwhile, in Australia, a trial aimed at stopping children from accessing inappropriate internet material by blocking porn at ISP level is on the horizon. Once the trial starts, adults who want access to smut will have to contact their ISP to opt out of the filtering. Imagine having to make that phone call. The senator behind the trial cites a survey that found 84 per cent of boys and 60 per cent of girls had been accidentally exposed to pornographic material on the internet, while 40 per cent of boys had deliberately used the internet to access sexually explicit material. Oh no, how terrible - I wonder how many of the unintentional or premeditated voyeurs have become serial slashers.

Libertarians and lechers should pray the developments don't encourage Prohibition-style suppression of porn across the Asia Pacific and beyond. Sure, some porn is nasty and deserves to be wiped off the face of the Net. But most of it is just tacky fun endowed with the happy capacity to distract you from the seriously unpleasant business of work. Not that I have much first-hand experience - of porn I mean - just the occasional glimpse, which, of course, was accidental.