Decency on the internet, 20 years on

Recently I was curious about what people were saying about the internet in 1994. I stumbled upon this article in The New York Times, Smut Ban Backed for Computer Net. Even the title strikes me as quaint. This seems to be describing an early version of the Communication Decency Act of 1996. Signed by Bill Clinton and unanimously overturned by the Supreme Court. From the article:

The measure, attached without any debate to a sweeping proposal to overhaul the nation’s communication laws, would levy fines as high as $100,000 and prison terms up to two years on anyone who transmits material that is “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy or indecent.”

No one disputes that sex is abundant on the Internet, where magazines like Playboy offer nude pictures at no cost and electronic bulletin boards share information on a wide variety of practices, from masochism to French kissing.

For instance, by clicking an electronic mouse on the Playboy menu, a person can summon up color pictures of the latest Playboy model. Playboy, in a provocative move to enter the age of high technology, is asking for women to apply for a future portfolio called “Women of the Internet.”

Much more explicit fare, in text and pictures, can be found in other locations. One site on the World Wide Web, called “For Your Eyes Only,” offers the likes of the Leather and Fetish Community Outreach and quick access to on-line forums devoted to bondage, domination, submission and masochism.

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