Congress Requiring Internet Filtering—Through the Back Door

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Last week, the House agreed to a Senate amendment to a bill that funds the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. On the next-to-last page, it casually states:

“None of the funds made available in this act may be used to maintain or establish a computer network unless such network blocks the viewing, downloading and exchanging of pornography.”

Yes, buried in a bill (HR4899) that allocates $75,000,000,000 for the military, as well as for border security, veterans’ health, state education, and Haiti, Congress is preparing to require that all companies doing business with the federal government require internet filtering software.

“Pornography” is not a legal term, of course, so sincere (and not-so-sincere) people can disagree on what qualifies. But American workers, managers, and company owners will have almost no discretion about which millions of websites they will no longer have access to (and not even know it). Private internet filtering software companies will make these decisions. In secret. With no explanation or appeal.

This is an extraordinary assault on the rights of tens of millions of Americans. Of course Congressmembers, urged on by the usual porn-destroys-lives crowd, say “well, people shouldn’t watch porn during work.” Of course they shouldn’t—because they should be working, not relaxing. And so there are many other sites people shouldn’t access at work—gambling sites, craigslist, facebook, World Cup soccer, celebrity sites. And yet only pornography has been singled out.

No one is sponsoring a regulation that “workers getting federal money can’t waste time at work.” No one is proposing “workers getting federal money who perform poorly because they surf the web should be fired.”

The ferocity with which groups like Enough Is Enough and Family Research Council lie, cheat, and steal in order to oppose pornography is frightening. They are so obsessed with porn—with sex—that they are willing to sacrifice our precious Constitution, which guarantees free expression. And then they scream in outrage when they believe their freedom of religion is trampled, or when they believe their religiously-oriented freedom of speech is curtailed.

Google is fighting the largest government on earth for the right to bring the uncensored internet to a billion Chinese. America spends tens of millions of dollars to bring uncensored information to Iran and North Korea.

There is absolutely no evidence that looking at porn at work is any worse than the other ways people waste time at work. Is it too much to ask that American citizens not be denied information at work just because some frightened, angry people are terrified of everyone’s sexuality?

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