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Mississippi Kids Deserve to be Protected from Child Pornography and Online Obscenity

This article first appeared on the Magnolia Tribune.

  • Lesley Davis calls on lawmakers to support and pass Senate Bill 2256 and House Bill 1363 this session.

It’s hard being a kid these days. Today’s kids have to deal with all the same challenges we grew up with, but with the added pressures of the internet age. 

A growing threat to their wellbeing is victimization by child pornography. A recent report from the Internet Watch Foundation finds that “the US hosts more child sexual abuse content online than any other country in the world,” with the US accounting “for 30% of the global total of child sexual abuse material.”

A related threat that is orders of magnitude greater than that faced by older generations is the tidal wave of online pornography. According to the research-based non-profit group FightTheNewDrug, “Today, porn sites receive more website traffic in the U.S. than Twitter, Instagram, Netflix, Pinterest, and LinkedIn combined…Studies show that most young people are exposed to porn by age 13, and according to a nationally representative survey of U.S. teens, 84.4% of 14-18 year-old males and 57% of 14-18 year-old females have viewed pornography.” 

Pornographic content today is far worse than the “girlie” magazines occasionally encountered by past generations. FightTheNewDrug says, “it’s estimated that as few as 1 in 3 and as many as 9 in 10 [porn] scenes show acts of physical aggression or violence, while about half contain verbal aggression. These studies also found that women were the targets of aggression or violence about 97% of the time.” 

The group says the new wave of porn is causing serious harm, noting that “the availability, accessibility, affordability, and anonymity of internet porn has had unprecedented negative effects on individuals, relationships, and our culture as a whole.”

Senator Joey Filingane and Representative Price Wallace are acting to protect our kids. They introduced new legislation in the current legislative session to create additional tools to protect our kids from child pornography and the flood of obscenity now available online. 

Senate Bill 2256 and House Bill 1363 would give individuals exposed to child pornography or obscene material on the internet the right to sue and collect damages against commercial entities who knowingly publish such material on the internet. SB 2256 also gives the Attorney General power to seek injunctive relief to force companies that publish sexual material online to publish no material that is obscene or child pornography. 

These bills raise no legitimate free speech concerns. Since the founding, it has been understood that this kind of extreme sexual content was not protected by the First Amendment. The Supreme Court said in 1942 that “there are certain well-defined and narrowly limited classes of speech, the prevention and punishment of which have never been thought to raise any Constitutional problem. These include the lewd and obscene[.]”

In time the Supreme Court further clarified that speech that was merely indecent was protected by the First Amendment. However, material legally defined as “obscene” was not deserving of First Amendment protection. “Obscene” material is patently offensive hard core depiction or description of actual sex acts, which excites lustful thoughts and appeals to a shameful or morbid interest in sex or excretion. Such “obscene” material can be prohibited and punished if, taken as a whole, it lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value. Legally obscene material has no First Amendment protection. Its publication is already punishable as a crime under both Mississippi and federal law. Because prosecutors are often too burdened prosecuting violent and property crimes to bring obscenity prosecutions, other enforcement tools are needed. Creating the right to bring a civil lawsuit will hit the purveyors of obscenity where it hurts them the most – in the wallet.

You can expect that the porn pushers and their sympathizers will attack these two bills with false claims and scare tactics. They have done so whenever these types of bills are up for consideration here and in other states. They will say this could restrict websites from publishing selections from the Bible, Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel frescoes, or medical textbooks. This scaremongering is simply false. Items like these, all of which have serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value, are not legally considered “obscene.” The courts have been crystal-clear that we can restrain obscenity without violating the First Amendment.

Legislators and lawmakers should support and pass Senate Bill 2256 and House Bill 1363 this session. Our kids deserve to be protected from child pornography and obscenity online.

This article first appeared on the Magnolia Tribune and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Read original article by clicking here.

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