Alito Weighs in on Internet Porn

Author:
Publish date:
Social count:
0

Saying the courts and Congress have been struggling with the issue, Supreme Court Justice nominee Samuel Alito told a Senate Judiciary confirmation hearing Tuesday that the government needs to do more to square existing law with the communications technology that has allowed for the distribution of pornographic material.

Referrring specifically to protecting minors from Internet distribution of porn, Alito said that applying rules carefully crafted in a pre-Internet era to today's world is "a real difficult problem," particularly when minors are often more savvy about computers than the parents who are supposed to be restricting their access. "The ability of parents to monitor and supervise what they are doing is greatly impaired by this difference in computer aptitude," he said.

Below is Alito's full response to the question.

"I think that the problem of protecting children from pornography on the Internet illustrates the fact that, although the task of the court is to apply principles that are in the constitution and not make up its own principles, [it has to] apply those to different factual situations when the world changes.

"And in particular, in the First Amendment context, when the means of communications change, the job of applying the principles that have been worked out, and I think in this area worked out with a great deal of effort, over a period of time in the pre-Internet world to the world of the Internet is a real difficult problem.

"Congress and the judiciary have been struggling with it. Constitutional law, as you know, draws a distinction between obscenity, which has no First Amendment protection, but which is subject to a strict definition, and pornography which is not obscenity but is sexually-related materials.

"With respect to minors, the Supreme court has said it is permissible to regulate the sale of pornography to them and has greater authority than it does with respect to distribution of pornography to adults.

"In the pre-Internet world, the job of preventing minors from purchasing pornography was a lot simpler. If they wanted to get it, I guess they would have to go to a store someplace and buy it.

"On the Internet, of course, it is readily available from any computer terminal, and a lot of minors today are a lot more sophisticated in the use of computers than their parents. The ability of parents to monitor and supervise what they are doing is greatly impaired by this difference in computer aptitude.

"I can't say much more than that, but it is a difficult question. And I think there needs to be additional effort in this area, probably by all branches of government, so that the law fully takes into account the differences regarding communication over the Internet and access to materials over the Internet by minors."

Related