Putting lipstick on the Internet pig

One item that grabbed my attention recently was the CP80 Internet Channels Initiative which, let me say up front, is the technological equivalent of putting lipstick on a pig.

CP80’s concern is pornography: They see the ’Net as a veritable cyclone of perversity that threatens the very fabric of American society.

The chaps pushing this initiative are from an outfit named ThinkAtomic, which is described as a “high-tech think tank” and is based in Orem, Utah.

The idea behind CP80 (which originally stood for Clean Port 80) is this: There are 65,536 possible ports (essentially communication endpoints for data exchanges using IP), and they should be treated as television channels.

In CP80’s alternate universe, there would be a channel for clean general content — presumably Port 80 — and another for porn — Port 666, perhaps?

Presumably there would be yet more channels dedicated to content that other groups might think should be controlled. (Gee, d’ya think that politics might get involved?)

The pitch is that defining what content is available on what channel — and having strict laws that punish those who use channels improperly — would make filtering easy.

CP80 expert Jill Manning, a marriage and family therapist in Orem, recently testified before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution. She discussed the “negative effects of Internet pornography on marriages and families” and called the CP80 proposal “a fresh, thinking-outside-the-box solution that we desperately need.”

Among those on board is, no surprise, Sen. Orrin Hatch. That’s the same great philosophical thinker and upholder of rights who espoused the view that technology be developed to destroy the computers of people who illegally download music.

CP80 plays directly into the agendas of those whose political ambitions require the public to toe the line. CP80’s FAQ reads, “We expect their [sic] to be a government agency that is responsible for the upkeep of the standards and fighting any violators of the law.”

Upkeep of standards. Hum. Standards. What could possibly go wrong with that idea? Where in this brave new world would the text of Nabokov’s Lolita fit? How about the movie? Most importantly, who would decide?

The reliance on law to constrain content is a nightmarish prospect because, if we can’t effectively define pornography in the real world, why would new laws for controlled Internet channels make things any better? No amount of lipstick can make this pig good-looking.

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