Quotulatiousness

August 2, 2014

“So that’s what the economists at Treasury mean by ‘priming the pump'”

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Government, Humour, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 11:28

Kevin Williamson explains that the government is staffed by deviants under-employed workers who have to find ways to spend their time in the office creatively:

Behind closed doors, in private offices off Washington’s corridors of power, there are a lot of mouses getting double-clicked, if you know what I mean. At the Environmental Protection Agency, a senior official spent so much time watching pornography while on the federal clock that the Office of the Inspector General dispatched a special agent to look into it — and the official continued watching porn while the OIG agent was in his office. At the Federal Communications Commission — which, among other things, polices pornography — employees routinely spend the equivalent of a full workday each week watching porn. At the General Services Administration — which, like the FCC, has a lot of fingers in a lot of pies, being charged with minimizing federal operating costs — employees spend up to six hours a day watching porn on the taxpayers’ dime. At Commerce, paralegals were paid upward of $4 million to do no work — any guesses how they filled their days?

It’s a lucky thing that federal employees have such good insurance plans when it comes to workplace-related troubles such as repetitive-stress injuries: One especially heroic employee at Treasury viewed more than 13,000 pieces of pornography in the space of a few weeks, surely setting some kind of gherkin-goosing record in the process. I assume he told his superiors he was busy debugging his hard drive.

If war is politics by other means, as Clausewitz insisted, then administration is a tug of war.

A very lonely tug of war.

It is not just pornography. Federal employees fill their days with online shopping, watching television, trolling dating sites in the hopes of having a relationship with someone other than themselves and the nice webcam ladies at Smut.com

But look on the bright side:

The fact that our bureaucrats spend their days working as amateur snake charmers is, counterintuitive though it may sound, the good news. Rather than fire these tireless onanists, the federal government should upgrade their broadband and invest in … whatever matériel these ladies and gentlemen need to keep up their fearless campaign of hand-to-gland combat. If their brains ever get full use of the blood supply while they’re in the office, mischief surely will ensue.

Better their hands are in their pants than on the levers of power.

June 5, 2014

A visual history of pin-up magazines

Filed under: History, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

Pin-Up Magazines book

A review of a new three-volume history of the girly magazine:

Taschen delivers as only Taschen can with Dian Hanson’s History of Pin-Up Magazines, a comprehensive three-volume boxed set chronicling seven decades in over 832 munificently illustrated pages, tipping the scales at nearly seven hardbound pounds. Although each volume is ram-packed with a bevy of sepia sweethearts, hand-tinted honeys, and Kodachrome cuties squeezed between dozens of lurid full-page vintage magazine covers, the accompanying text is so compelling that you’re apt to actually read these books too. And there’s a lot to learn about the history of pin-up magazines, more than you’d ever imagine, and this set leaves no stone unturned and no skirt unlifted. From the suggestive early illustrations of the post-Victorian era to the first bare breasts, the intriguing sources that fueled the fires of popular fetish trends, and the many ways in which publishers tried to legitimize the viewing of nude women while gingerly dancing around obscenity laws, we watch this breed of pulp morph and reinvent with fiction or humor, and later the marriage of crime and flesh. We see the influence on pin-up culture in the wake of the First World War and with the advent of World War II and the rise of patriotica. We follow the path of the bifurcated girl, to eugenics, the role of burlesque, and the legalization of pubic hair. We venture under-the-counter, witness the death of the digest and the pairing of highbrow literature and airbrushed beauties. Hanson even treats us to a peek into the lesser-known black men’s magazine genre, and the contributions made by erotic fiction and Hollywood movie studios.

February 13, 2014

Disproportional punishment

Filed under: Law, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:16

In the Washington Post, Jacob Sullum illustrates the weird disproportionality of the sentences handed out to child porn offenders versus the sentences received by actual child abusers:

The legal treatment of people caught with child pornography is so harsh that they can end up serving longer sentences than people who actually abuse children. In a 2009 analysis, federal public defender Troy Stabenow shows that a defendant with no prior criminal record and no history of abusing children would qualify for a sentence of 15 to 20 years based on a small collection of child pornography and one photo swap, while a 50-year-old man who encountered a 13-year-old girl online and lured her into a sexual relationship would get no more than four years.

Under federal law, receiving child pornography, which could mean downloading a single image, triggers a mandatory minimum sentence of five years — the same as the penalty for distributing it. Merely looking at a picture can qualify someone for the same charge, assuming he does so deliberately and is aware that Web browsers automatically make copies of visited sites. In practice, since the Internet nowadays is almost always the source of child pornography, this means that viewing and possession can be treated the same as trafficking.

The maximum penalty for receiving or distributing child porn is 20 years, and federal sentencing guidelines recommend stiff enhancements based on factors that are extremely common in these cases, such as using a computer, possessing more than 600 images (with each video clip counted as 75 images), and exchanging photos for something of value, including other photos. Federal agents reportedly found 200 child porn videos on Loskarn’s hard drive when they arrested him on December 11.

Ninety percent of federal child-porn prosecutions involve “non-production offenses” like Loskarn’s: downloading or passing along images of sexual abuse, as opposed to perpetrating or recording it. As a result of congressional edicts, the average sentence in such cases rose from 54 months in 2004 to 95 months in 2010, according to a 2012 report from the U.S. Sentencing Commission (USSC). The penalties have become so severe, the commission noted, that judges frequently find ways to dodge them, resulting in wildly inconsistent sentences for people guilty of essentially the same conduct.

November 15, 2013

Nadine Strossen is against banning “dangerous” ideas

Filed under: Liberty, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:25

Brendan O’Neill talks to former ACLU president and ardent feminist Nadine Strossen about censorship and the demand to ban “rape porn”:

New York City doesn’t only have better buildings, bridges and burgers than London — it also has better feminists.

As British feminists agitate tooth-and-nail for the banning, or at least modesty-bagging, of lads’ mags, rape porn, Page 3 and pop vids, the NYC-based feminist and former president of the American Civil Liberties Union, Nadine Strossen, tells me she wouldn’t support the censoring or censure or even stigmatisation of any misogynistic material, including the most warped, woman-objectifying porn.

‘As a feminist, I vehemently disagree with the idea that women are sex objects, that women should be raped, that women should be discriminated against or treated unfavourably in any way’, she tells me in her offices at the New York Law School in downtown Manhattan, where she is professor of law. ‘And yet, to paraphrase Voltaire, I would defend to the death your right to say any of those things, and to say them explicitly, and to say them using sexual language.’

But what about the claim that porn, especially the disturbing rape-fantasy stuff, gives some men a skewed impression of women, implanting in their possibly dim-witted heads the idea that women are objects existing solely to satisfy male lust?

‘Well, if the “harm” [she asks for those quote marks] of a certain form of speech is that the idea it is promoting is one of which society disapproves, then that is the exact antithesis of a justification for censoring it’, she says. So far from dodging the cri de Coeur of our censorious age — which is that speech and film and porn and all the rest of it can affect individuals’ view of the world — Strossen turns it into an argument against censorship. ‘Any expression can potentially affect people’s attitudes. That is why speech is so important to protect — precisely because it can influence ideas’, she says.

September 2, 2013

This month in moral panic watch – “rape porn”

Filed under: Britain, Government, Media — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:24

British PM David Cameron has decided that it’s the duty of his government to crack down on internet pornography. In particular, the British government will be attempting to stamp out violent pornography, aka “rape porn”. This may not be his best idea ever:

Lobby organisations like “End Violence Against Women” and sensationalist news rags like the Daily Mail repeatedly claim that watching violent pornography increases sexual abuse and rape by men.

However, the scientific evidence has stubbornly refused to play along with this view:

U.S. Commission on Obscenity and Pornography (1970) found no evidence of a causal link between pornography and rape

Pornography and rape: theory and practice? Evidence from crime data in four countries where pornography is easily available” (1991) B Kutchinsky

Examined what happened to the rape statistics in four countries (USA, Denmark, West Germany and Sweden) during periods where the availability of violent pornography went from extreme scarcity to relative abundance.

Quoting the report: “The results showed that in none of the countries did rape increase more than nonsexual violent crimes. This finding in itself would seem sufficient to discard the hypothesis that pornography causes rape

There’s also the problem that pornography is actually quite popular — with both male and female users — over 40% of all internet users view pornography voluntarily. In fact, large numbers of women admit to enjoying rape fantasies:

Whether the puritans or the feminists like it or not, it is a fact that many women enjoy rape fantasies as explained by this female journalist.

Erotic literature such as Fifty Shades of Grey featuring bondage, spanking, hair pulling, fisting and pinwheeling generated sales of over £10M in six months, to a predominantly female audience.

On a more scientific level, a 1988 study by Pelletier and Herold found that over half of their female respondents had fantasies of forced sex.

Nobody (quite rightly) suggests that women who expose themselves to this sort of “violent porn” literature, or who engage in sexual fantasies of rape are more likely to go out and put themselves into situations where they will be raped.

People clearly understand that there is a world of difference between enjoying rape as a sexual fantasy and the violent, painful reality of actual rape.

The same reasoning must logically apply to men who enjoy rape fantasy and rape porn. There is a world of difference between enjoying rape as a sexual fantasy and the violent reality of actual raping another human being.

To assert that women can enjoy rape fantasy, porn and violent BDSM literature without harm because they understand the difference between fantasy and reality, but men do not is nothing more than misandry.

August 1, 2013

Stereotypes of pornography consumers

Filed under: Britain, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 13:05

James Delingpole had far too much fun writing this column:

You may be aware that David Cameron — as part of a secret, Lynton Crosby-inspired operation codenamed Suck Up Shamelessly To The Embittered Authoritarian Killjoy Harpies At Mumsnet — has decreed that as from next year the default option when you sign a contract with your new internet provider will be ‘No porn in this household, thank you. I think it’s a disgrace.’

Superficially (and does this coalition ever think any other way?) I can see this makes a lot of sense. After all, what do a growing national debt, falling living standards, rising inflation, skyrocketing energy prices, out-of-control immigration, Weimar-style money-printing, a burgeoning new housing bubble, a failed health service and a collapsing infrastructure matter when you’ve got the most important problem of our times, so to speak, in hand, viz. blokes sneaking a quick one off the wrist while their missus has popped down to Waitrose to stock up on Mabel Pearman’s Burford Brown eggs, Isigny Ste Mere unsalted butter and that Duchy Originals cider on special offer at just £1.45 a bottle?

According to James, nowadays women are about as likely to go looking for pornography on the internet as men are:

But according to some of my techie friends, this isn’t the case at all. They’re the ones who have to clear up all the viruses which you accidentally invited into your computer along when you were trying to Google the weather and mistakenly typed in ‘Romanian donkey babes xxx hardcore’ instead.

Here’s what one of them has to say: ‘The very worst I came across was a shared houseful of young ladies. It took over eight hours to do just the first pass with the antivirus software. That pass removed over 58,000 pieces of malware and spyware, and just under 2,000 viruses. It took all the next day to finish cleaning their computer. I told them it was the worst case of an infected computer I had ever come across, and one asked how it had happened for it to be so bad. Easy I said. Porn sites. They all went bright red and then the hilarity ensued, as the finger pointing started.’

[...]

I realise, of course, that there are still plenty of puritans out there who feel differently. To them I quote first Thomas Sowell: ‘What is ominous is the ease with which some people go from saying that they don’t like something to saying that the government should forbid it. When you go down that road, don’t expect freedom to survive very long.’ And second, Pastor Niemoller: ‘First they came for the wankers…’.

July 24, 2013

Anti-porn UK MP gets hacked, threatens reporter who publicized the hack

Filed under: Britain, Liberty, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:13

Apparently British Conservative MP Claire Perry doesn’t know a lot about the way the internet works, despite being described as an “architect” for David Cameron’s proposed porn blocker:

UK MP Claire Perry hacked

Claire Perry is the UK Tory MP who architected David Cameron’s idiotic national porno firewall plan. Her website was hacked and defaced with pornographic gross-out/shock images. When Guido Fawkes, a reporter and blogger, wrote about it on his website, Perry took to Twitter to accuse him of “sponsoring” the hack, and publicly announced that she would be speaking to his editor at the Sun (Fawkes has a column with the tabloid) to punish him for writing about her embarrassment.

Perry is so technologically illiterate that she can’t tell the difference between writing about someone hacking your website and hacking itself. No wonder she’s credulous enough to believe the magic-beans-peddlers who promise her that they’ll keep porn off the British Internet — a feat that neither the Chinese nor the Iranian governments have managed.

July 22, 2013

The latest revival of the anti-pornography crusade

Filed under: Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:10

Laurie Penny explains why the renewed urge to blame pornography for social ills is misplaced:

We’ve been here before. The debate about the causes of sexual violence has been going on since the feminist porn wars of the 1980s, which were both more and less exciting than they sound and involved a great deal of shouting in draughty meeting rooms. The internet is the current culprit, but the arguments against explicit material are exactly the same as they were when the main smut delivery systems were rental videos and grubby mags. In 1981, the writer Ellen Willis noted that “if anti-porn feminists see pornography as a brutal exercise of predatory male sexuality, a form of (and incitement to) violence against women, the right also associates pornography with violence and with rampant male lust broken loose from the saving constraints of God and Family”. Today, the same social conservatives who are cutting child benefit and closing domestic violence shelters still borrow freely from feminist rhetoric about exploitation of women and children when it suits them.

The worst thing about this debate is that it turns a real-world, complex problem into a simple moral choice: porn is either good or bad, right or wrong, and not one shade of grey can be permitted, let alone 50. Having watched a great deal of pornography in the name of research and recreation, I can assure you that not all of it is violent, and indeed that almost any sexual taste, from the placid and petal-strewn to the eyebrow-raisingly reptilian, is catered to online for a modest fee. It is equally true that there is something traumatic about a lot of modern-day pornography, something repressed, violent and deeply involved with a particularly vengeful misogyny that has been on the rise only since women have become more economically independent over the past two generations. Some people like that sort of thing; others have grown up learning it as an erotic script, because sex is fundamentally a social idea. To say that dirty pictures are the problem in themselves, rather than a structure of violent misogyny and sexual control, is to confuse the medium with the message.

One of the most common retorts to the anti-porn alliance is that to campaign against online smut is to do something disgusting and decidedly post-watershed into the wind. The genie of unlimited filth has been let out of its dodgy bottle and no amount of legislation will stop us polishing our lamps.

That’s true, but it’s inadequate. After all, I spend my life, as an idealist and a feminist, arguing that vast, ambitious social change is not only possible but essential. Controlling the consumption of online pornography would require an enormous programme of state and corporate censorship, and the argument against this sort of socio-sexual state control should be not that it is unfeasible, but that it is monstrous. I do not want to live in a world where the government and a select few conservative feminists get to decide what we may and may not masturbate to, and use the bodies of murdered women or children as emotional pawns in that debate.

It is supremely difficult to achieve radical ends by conservative means. Feminists and everyone who seeks to end sexual violence should be very cautious when their immediate goals seem to line up neatly with those of social conservatives and state censors. I believe in a world where violence against women and children is not routine. After all, the idea of a world without sexism is no more unrealistic than getting rid of pornography — and a lot more fun.

It’s useful to keep in mind when claims about pornography being responsible for cases of sexual assault or rape … as the availability of porn on the internet has increased, incidences of violent sexual crimes have been decreasing in most countries. That little fact seems to get omitted when the accusations are being hurled.

Update: Simon Bisson says that the “key to cleaning up the internet is tackling the darknets, not letting censorship in by the back door”.

The latest proposals to lock down the UK internet in the name of preventing child pornography are at best a misunderstanding of how the dark side of the internet works, and at worst a basis for a censorship infrastructure that could make the Great Firewall of China look like a leaky sieve.

In an interview with the BBC, prime minister David Cameron proposed that search engines should block certain terms, warning users of the consequences of searching for those terms.

While that’s all very well, it’s an approach that’s not going to stop the real trade in illegal images — which never touches the big search engines, and hides behind encryption and custom-built networks that Peter Biddle and three other Microsoft engineers christened “darknets” in their 2002 paper. That flaw makes the proposals both misguided and dangerous, as the Open Rights Group notes in its considered response.

The problem facing anyone trying to block child porn or online drug dealing is that it doesn’t happen on the public internet. Online criminals know what they’re doing is illegal, and they’ll take complex precautions to hide their locations and the services.

[...]

While Silk Road is a publicly-known darknet site, there are many, many more that are only known to a small group of trusted individuals, bound together to secrecy in the knowledge that what they are doing is illegal. It’s on sites like those that illegal images and video are traded and shared, and bought and sold.

You won’t find them in the web space your ISP gives you, or through searches on Google or Bing. They’re squirreled away at the end of a DSL line somewhere well away from the jurisdiction of the UK government, in a country with loose regulations, and looser policing. Or worse still, they’re hosted in the fast flux DNS of a bot network, distributed across the unwitting PCs of hundreds or thousands of innocent users.

Stopping the web’s bad guys is not a matter of censoring the internet. That’s impossible. What’s needed instead is an international agreement on notice and take down for illegal content, and on shared intelligence about the servers and services criminals are using, with cooperation on shutting down botnets and cybercrime syndicates.

June 20, 2013

The UK debate over online porn

Filed under: Britain, Law, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:04

Willard Foxton says that the real problem is that the two “sides” of the argument are not even talking the same language:

Claire Perry, the Prime Minister’s “special adviser on preventing the sexualisation and commercialisation of childhood”, has three demands which she claims will save the world from the horrors of porn. First, that internet service providers and other internet companies block child pornography at its source; second, that any sort of simulated rape pornography is banned; and third, that pornography is banned from public WiFi.

On the face of it, these all seem like reasonable demands. I mean, if you oppose them, you must be some kind of filth peddler or mad porn obsessive, right? Or you might just be a person who understands how the internet works, and therein lies the problem. Let’s tackle Perry’s demands one by one and explain, patiently, why she is wrong.

Firstly, her request that internet service providers block images of child abuse “at their source”. It sounds perfectly reasonable, doesn’t it? Indeed, it’s so reasonable that they already do, and indeed have been doing since 2007. It’s done through a system called Cleanfeed, which is a rare example of a British state-funded IT project that works like a charm. They way it works is, any time a website is reported as illegal to the police, it’s added to a list. Any sites on that list are inaccessible from British ISPs. It’s a very secure system, and very hard to work around – it works so well that we’ve exported it to Canada and Australia.

Perry also wants Google to “do more” to block child porn. As I’ve said before on these pages, Google (and other large search providers), already have enormous departments devoted to blocking it, with thousands of employees checking YouTube for offensive images. On top of that, very little of the material that so offends Perry is available though a simple Google search; most of the illegal stuff is hidden in Internet Relay Chat file servers or on the dark web, accessible only via anonymising browsers like Tor.

Update: At Techdirt, Tim Cushing addresses the common claim by grandstanding politicians that child pornography is easy to “stumble upon”:

How hard would it be to access child porn if you weren’t looking for it specifically? The Ministry of Truth puts your odds at 1 in 2.6 million searches. (MoT points out the odds will fluctuate depending on search terms used, but for the most part, it’s not the sort of thing someone unwittingly stumbles upon.)

All those demanding Google do more to block child porn fail to realize there’s not much more it can do. The UK already has an underlying blocking system filtering out illegal images at the ISP level, and Google itself runs its own blocker as well.

The above calculations should put the child porn “epidemic” in perspective. As far as the web that Google actively “controls,” it’s doing about as much as it can to keep child porn and internet users separated. There are millions of pages Google can’t or doesn’t index and those actively looking for this material will still be able to find it. Google (and most other “internet companies”) can’t really do more than they’re already doing already. But every time a child pornography-related, high profile crime hits the courtroom (either in the UK or the US), the politicians instantly begin pointing fingers at ISPs and search engines, claiming they’re not doing “enough” to clean up the internet, something that explicitly isn’t in their job description. And yet, they do more in an attempt to satiate the ignorant hunger of opportunistic legislators.

If Google is “the face of the internet” as so many finger pointers claim, than the “internet” it “patrols” is well over 99% free of illegal images, according to a respected watchdog group. But accepting that fact means appearing unwilling to “do something,” an unacceptable option for most politicians.

June 15, 2013

Ontario’s abusive relationship with sex ed

Filed under: Cancon, Health, Media — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:31

In Maclean’s, Emma Teitel talks about the failure of Ontario’s sex-ed classes to keep up with the times:

In the fifth grade, my friends and I had a special afternoon tradition. When school let out at 3:30, we would walk to Katherine’s house (a pseudonym), raid her fridge, go upstairs to her bedroom, lock the door and watch Internet pornography. Where were Katherine’s parents? They were at work. But it wouldn’t have mattered. When they were around, we just turned off the sound, or read erotic literature on a website called Kristen Archives. This is how we gained the indispensable knowledge that some women like to be ravished by farmhands, and others, by farm animals. The year was 1999. We had not yet sat through our first sex-ed class, but when we did, almost two years later, it was spectacularly disappointing. We had seen it all, and now we were shading in a diagram of the vas deferens.

Since our special after-school tradition came to an end over a decade ago, Friendster, Myspace, Facebook, Flickr, Formspring, Instagram and Twitter have emerged. But against all logic, nothing has changed in the sex-ed business. Our century is literally on the cusp of puberty, and yet despite these enormous social and technological changes, we remain largely incapable of giving kids the resources they need to deal with their own puberty. I’m talking here, specifically, about the province of Ontario. As you read this, kids from Sarnia to Kingston — kids who, on average, have viewed Internet porn by age 11 — are probably shading in the exact same vas deferens diagram I did. There’s nothing wrong with the vas deferens — or so I’m told — but surely there is more to sexual education in the 21st century than anatomy and colouring. Ontario currently boasts the most out-of-date sex-ed curriculum in Canada. It was last revised in 1998, which means sex ed was out of date when I took it.

[. . .]

Kids shouldn’t watch porn, but they do. We can’t un-invent the Internet. And we can’t reverse puberty. Case in point: In 2001, one of the most determined voyeurs in our special after-school group skipped sex ed at the request of her religious father — for whom an hour of vas deferens shading was just too much to bear. He told her to go to the library instead, which was fine with her. Who, after all, could resist an afternoon with the Kristen Archives?

May 23, 2013

Pornography isn’t the problem – you are the problem

Filed under: Health, Media, Science — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:43

In Psychology Today, David J. Ley explains that there’s no such thing as pornography addiction or sexual addiction:

Porn is not addictive. Sex is not addictive. The ideas of porn and sex addiction are pop psychology concepts that seem to make sense, but have no legitimate scientific basis. For decades, these concepts have flourished in America, but have consistently been rejected by medicine and mental health. The media and American society have accepted that sex and porn are addictive, because it seems intuitively true — we all feel like sometimes, we might do something stupid or self-destructive, when sex is involved. But, this false belief is dangerous, and ultimately not helpful. Because when people buy into the belief that porn is addictive, it changes the argument, and all of a sudden, it seems like it is porn and sex that are the problems. Porn addiction becomes a label, and seems to be an explanation, when in fact, it is just meaningless words and platitudes that distract from the real issue. But sex and porn aren’t the problems. You are.

People do have a strong response to video pornography. Internet porn is very good at triggering male sexuality. The economic forces of the open market have driven modern internet porn to be very, very effective at triggering male sexual buttons, to get them aroused. But women actually have a stronger physiological response to porn than men and based upon this research, women should be more addicted to pornography than men. But the overwhelming majority of the stories we hear about are men. Why is this? Because one part of this issue is an attack on aspects of male sexuality, including masturbation and use of pornography, behaviors which society fears and doesn’t understand.

Porn can affect people, but it does not take them over or override their values. If someone watches porn showing something they find distasteful, it has no impact on their behavior or desires. But, if someone watches porn depicting acts that they, the watcher, are neutral about, then it does make it slightly more likely that they express interest in trying that act themselves. Take anal sex for instance. If a porn viewer finds it disgusting, watching anal pornography isn’t going to change that. But, if they are neutral on it, then watching anal porn probably will slightly increase the chance that I would be willing to at least give it a try. But, there is the crux of the issue — the people who gravitate towards unhealthy, violent porn, are people who already have a disposition towards violence. So — the problem is not in the porn, but in those people. Regulating porn access really is going to have no impact on these people as they can (and do) find far more violent and graphic images in mainstream Hollywood films like Saw.

Here’s some often-ignored empirical science about porn — as societies have increased their access to porn, rates of sex crimes, including exhibitionism, rape and child abuse, have gone down. [...] Across the world, and in America, as men have increased ability to view Internet erotica, sex crimes go down. Believe it or not — porn is good for society. This is correlational data, but it is extremely robust, repeated research. But, it is not a message that many people want to hear. Individuals may not like porn, but our society loves it, and benefits from it.

H/T to Radley Balko for the link.

April 12, 2013

The nasty phenomenon of “revenge porn” websites

Filed under: Business, Law, Liberty, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 11:19

In the Guardian, Adam Steinbaugh looks at the legal side of fighting against “revenge porn”:

A jilted ex-paramour seeks vengeance on a former lover. His trump card is a nude photo he acquired in happier times. In the dark corners of the internet, revenge porn sites are happy to help out, posting these photos alongside the subject’s full name, address and even phone number. The result for the victim can be anything from terrible embarrassment to potential job loss, and all accompanied by threats and harassment from people whose greatest contribution to society is usually surpassed by the average YouTube comment.

While ex-lovers act out of malice, the site operators act with sociopathic greed. With embarrassing photos often featuring prominently in Google results, the sites often advertise “independent” takedown services charging upwards of $300 (£195) to quickly remove photos — cheaper and faster than hiring a lawyer. Those extortionate services usually turn out to be fronts run by the site owners themselves. One even concocted a fake lawyer (“David Blade III, Esq”) to give his business a more legitimate face.

While the people who upload the photos can almost certainly risk significant civil liability, revenge porn sites are protected in the United States by the Communications Decency Act. The CDA requires that responsibility for tortious acts online (like defamation or invasion of privacy) lie with whoever created the content, not those who facilitate its dissemination.

April 9, 2013

Psychic harm

Filed under: Law, Liberty — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:16

David Friedman comments on a controversial blog post by Steve Landsburg:

Steve Landsburg’s piece [link], responding in part to the Steubenville rape case, makes the same argument from the other side. We — at least Steve (and I) — don’t feel that the argument for banning pornography or contraception is a legitimate one. Our reason is that the “harm” in those cases is purely subjective — I haven’t actually done anything to you, so your unhappiness at my self-regarding behavior is your problem, not mine, and you have no right to use the legal system to make me conform to your wishes. And even if you argue that I have done something to you — acted in a way that resulted in your knowing what I was doing, knowledge that pained you — that doesn’t count, because “knowledge that pains you” isn’t injury in the same sense as causing you to get cancer is.

Which gets us to the part of Steve’s post that gives lots of people reason, or excuse, to attack him. Suppose an unconscious woman is raped in a way that results in no injury — in the Steubenville case, “rape” actually consisted of digital penetration. She only finds out it happened several days later, at which point the harm is purely subjective, consists of her being offended at the knowledge that it happened. Why is this different from the subjective harm suffered by the person offended at someone else reading pornography? It feels different — to me and obviously, from his post, to Steve. But is it different, and if so why?

That, it seems to me, is an interesting question, one relevant to both law and morality. It is ultimately the same question raised by Bork, although from the other side. Bork was arguing that the harm caused by the use of contraception and the harm caused by air pollution were ultimately of the same sort, that it was legitimate to ban pollution hence legitimate to ban contraception — his article was in part an attack on Griswold v. Connecticut, the Supreme Court case that legalized contraception, a fact I had forgotten when I started writing this post. Landsburg is arguing that rape that does only subjective harm is of the same sort as reading pornography that does only subjective harm (unlike Bork, it isn’t clear that he is thinks his argument is right, only that he thinks it interesting), that it is not legitimate to ban the reading of pornography hence not legitimate to ban that particular sort of rape.

I agree with both Bork and Landsburg that there is a real puzzle in our response to the legal (and moral) issues they raise. Hence I disagree with the various commenters whose response to the Landsburg piece was that it showed he was crazy, evil, or both.

March 9, 2013

More on EU proposal to ban all forms of pornography

Filed under: Europe, Liberty, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:37

In the Telegraph, Bruno Waterfield follows up on yesterday’s story (linked here):

Controversy has erupted over next Tuesday’s European Parliament resolution “on eliminating gender stereotypes in the EU”, meant to mark international women’s day, after libertarian Swedish MEPs from the Pirate Party spotted the call for a ban in the small print.

While not legally binding, the vote could be the first step towards European legislation as the EU’s assembly increasingly flexes its political muscle within Europe’s institutions.

The proposal “calls on the EU and its member states to take concrete action on discrimination against women in advertising… [with] a ban on all forms of pornography in the media”.

Kartika Liotard, a Dutch left-wing feminist MEP, is seeking “statutory measures to prevent any form of pornography in the media and in advertising and for a ban on advertising for pornographic products and sex tourism”, including measures in the “digital field”.

The MEPs are also demanding the establishment of state sex censors with “a mandate to impose effective sanctions on companies and individuals promoting the sexualisation of girls”.

March 8, 2013

EU politicians perform modern day King Canute act

Filed under: Europe, Liberty, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:55

Yup. They’re standing up for equality on the internet by calling for a ban on online porn:

MEPs are being urged to back a non-binding resolution that calls on the European Parliament to, in effect, ban pornography from the internet. A group of Euro politicos hope the web filth block will bring about a “genuine culture of equality” online.

A motion was tabled this week by the EU’s committee on women’s rights and gender equality. A report titled Eliminating Gender Stereotypes in the EU urged all members of the European Parliament to support the draft resolution.

The panel stated that a policy to put an end to stereotypes portrayed in the media would “of necessity involve action in the digital field”. The committee added that the EU would be required to coordinate action to develop a “genuine culture of equality on the internet”.

Older Posts »
« « This is why I recently stopped linking to the National Post| Jack Layton biopic provokes outrage … because there isn’t a French version » »

Powered by WordPress