Read the full article by Louise Matsakis at Wired.com

In 1995, A bipartisan pair of senators wrote a bill to address growing concerns over minors accessing pornography on the internet. President Bill Clinton would eventually sign the Communications Decency Act in 1996, criminalizing the online transmission of “obscene or indecent” materials to anyone known to be under the age of 18. The Supreme Court struck down the law’s anti-indecency provisions on First Amendment grounds the following year, though many influential parts of the bill remained. But the legislation’s failure in the courts did nothing to dissuade lawmakers from continuing to fight porn online.

Over the ensuing decades, regulators have consistently attempted to stop people—adolescents in particular—from accessing sexually explicit material on the internet. A number of states, the House, the Senate, and UK lawmakers are all currently considering, set to vote on, or implementing legislation designed to curb access to sexually explicit websites or speech. Efforts in individual states and the UK have bubbled up as recently as this week.

The specifics of the bills vary widely, but all are vague and cumbersome to implement, fail to incorporate adult industry stakeholders, and don’t account for inevitable side effects. Lawmakers, though, eternally pursue the public relations boost that comes with fighting against the spread of explicit material online—frequently under the guise of ending sex trafficking and child pornography.

 

Louise Matsakis is a staff writer at WIRED covering cybersecurity, internet law, and online culture. She was previously an editor at Motherboard, VICE’s science and technology site, as well as at Mashable. She is based in New York.

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