Society - Internet

False information and a lack of truthful information can open doors to intrusive regulation and legislation.
      The figures given were found to be inflated beyond recognition. Pornographic image files were found on only three percent of newsgroups on Usenet — which is but one part of the Internet and represents approximately 11.5 percent of cyberspace. In short, an estimated .345 percent of the Internet was found to contain pornography, probably a smaller percentage of cyberspace than the quantity of real estate devoted to “adult entertainment” in Manhattan. And the majority of that portion of the Usenet was found on adult bulletin boards which charge fees, generally requiring proof of age before anything could be viewed. “If anything, pornography on the Web may be harder for minors to reach than the same material would be in a store,” says columnist Chris Cyr. “With all of the tools available for parents to keep objectionable material away from their children, it is hardly necessary for government intervention.”

      The study — and Time’s story with it — promptly came under scrutiny from respected academics and Internet users. Donna Hoffman and Thomas P. Novak, associate professors at Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management, investigated and concluded that “Given the vast array of ... flaws in this study ... Time magazine behaved irresponsibly in accepting the statements made by Rimm in his manuscript at face value.”

      But it wasn’t simply an uninformed accident. “Time reporters were made aware that the study appeared to have serious conceptual, logical, and methodological flaws that Time needed to investigate prior to reporting its story,” said Novak and Hoffman.

      “Time presented, around lurid and sensationalistic art, an uncritical and unquestioning report on ’cyberporn’ based on Rimm’s flawed study,” said Hoffman and Novak. “This has had the extremely unfortunate effect of giving the study an instant credibility that is not warranted nor deserved and fueling the growing movement toward First Amendment restrictions and censorship.”


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