The Cyberporn Debate
Please Note: Some of the links on this page are inactive or no longer exist but have been retained for historical purposes. They are denoted by the text [BROKEN LINK].
The July 3, 1995 Time magazine cover story on "Cyberporn" by Philip Elmer-Dewitt, is based on its exclusive access to Marty Rimm's Georgetown Law Journal paper, "Marketing Pornography on the Information Superhighway." Already, the Rimm study and the Time cover story are providing ammunition for conservative special interest groups, lobbyists, and elected officials. However, as documented in the series of critiques which follow, both the Rimm study and the Time cover story contain serious conceptual, logical, and methodological flaws and errors. These flaws and errors are sufficiently severe that neither the Rimm study nor the Time cover story should be taken seriously by policy makers considering issues involving the Internet and the so-called "Information Superhighway."
Our objective is to provide a forum for a constructive, honest, and open critique process. We do not debate the existence of pornography in "cyberspace," though we do dispute the findings presented in the Rimm study and the Time article concerning its extent and consumption on the Internet. Pornography exists and is transmitted through many media, including cable television, books and magazines, video tapes, private "adult" bulletin boards, the postal mail, computer networks, interactive media like CDROM, fax, and telephone, to name a few. The critically important national debate over First Amendment rights and restrictions on the Internet and other emerging media requires facts and informed opinion, not hysteria.
We do know know whether Senator Grassley was misinformed or deliberately misled on the facts he presented. We do know that the numbers he presented were 100% incorrect. The most critical error in Grassley's statement is that the 900,000 files (which were not all images, by the way), were from adult bulletin boards, not from the Internet.
The June 26 Congressional Record also contains remarks from Senator Exon regarding the Time cover story:
As you read through the material on this page, keep Senators Grassley and Exon's remarks in mind.
[BROKEN LINK] "How Carnegie Mellon University Helped, Hyped, and Hosed Marty Rimm" [Declan McCullagh]
"Cyberspace to Congress: The Net is Mainstream -- and it Votes" [Donna L. Hoffman, January 1996]
"Critique of 'Wired for Sex' on A&E Investigative Reports" [Edward D. Isenberg, January 7, 1996]
"The Rimmjob Method" [Mike Godwin, October 1, 1995]
[BROKEN LINK] "Some Thoughts on Carnegie Mellon's Committee of Investigation." [Jim Thomas, September 13, 1995] - Probing and insightful essay on the importance of conducting a thorough inquiry of the Rimm project.
"The Case of the Two Cybersex Studies. [Declan McCullagh, July 24, 1995]
Unpublished letter to the editor of Time Magazine. [Survey Working Group of the Internet Research Task Force]
"The Ethics of Carnegie Mellon's 'Cyber-Porn' Study". [Jim Thomas, Professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice, Northern Illinois University, July 11, 1995]
[BROKEN LINK] "Rimm Study Disclaimer"[Adam Epstein, listed as a contributor to the Rimm study]
"Time Waited for No One (Or At Least Not For Me): Why I Picked a Fight With The Newsmagazine That Fed The Great Internet Sex Panic" [Mike Godwin, Electronic Frontier Foundation]
"Critique of the Rimm Study". [Brian Reid, Digital Equipment Corporation, July 6, 1995]
In his response to Hoffman & Novak's critique, Rimm describes Reid as "a highly respected network engineer."
Rimm's reply to Reid's Critique. [July 10, 1995]
"A Detailed Analysis of the Conceptual, Logical, and Methodological Flaws in the Article, 'Marketing Pornography on the Information Superhighway". [Hoffman & Novak, version 1.01, July 2, 1995]
"A Detailed Critique of the Time Article, 'On a Screen Near You: Cyberporn' " (DeWitt, 7/3/95). [Hoffman & Novak, version 1.01, July 1, 1995]
"A Preliminary Discussion of Methodological Peculiarities in the Rimm Study of Pornography on the 'Information Superhighway' " [David G. Post, Visiting Associate Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center, June 28, 1995]
Criticisms of the Time Article and the Rimm Study [Jim Thomas, Professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice Illinois University, June 25 through July 2, 1995
Critique of Rimm Article on Online Pornography" [Lisa Sigel, doctoral candidate in Social History, Carnegie Mellon University, and Geoffrey Sauer, doctoral candidate in Cultural Theory, Carnegie Mellon University, July 4, 1995].
Letter submitted to the New York Times regarding Peter Lewis' article (7/3/95) on the Rimm pornography study. [David S. Touretzky, Faculty Member, CMU Computer Science Department]
Comprehensive set of links to internal CMU documents providing a unique and oft-times disturbing glance into the CMU administration's evolving response to the Rimm situation.
Includes CMU policy statements on the ethical conduct of research, letters and observations from various "Rimm-watchers," and contact information for all CMU administrators.
[BROKEN LINK] "Cyberporn Researcher Linked to A.C. Pranks." [Ray Robinson, The Press of Atlantic City, August 30, 1995]
[BROKEN LINK] "Time magazine's bogus cyberporn cover - and censorship." [David Kline, San Francisco Examiner, July 21, 1995]
[BROKEN LINK] "How Time Magazine Promoted a Cyberhoax." [Jeff Cohen and Norman Soloman, Media Beat, July 19, 1995]
[BROKEN LINK] "Pornography in cyberspace poses dilemma." [Dwight Silverman, Houston Chronicle, July 23, 1995]
(audio file) requiring RealAudio player. National Public Radio: John McChesney reports a new study has intensified the ongoing debate about pornography on the Internet. [Interviews with Hoffman, Godwin, and Rimm, July 11, 1995, All Things Considered, 6.5 minutes]
"Fire Storm on the Computer Nets: A new study of cyberporn, reported in a Time cover story, sparks controversy." [Philip Elmer-Dewitt, Time, July 24, 1995]
Letters to Time on the Cyberporn cover story.
[BROKEN LINK] "A Gross Distortion of the Porn Picture," [Jack Kapica, The Globe and Mail, July 14, 1995]
"Jacking in from the 'Mr. Toad's Wild Ride' Port: Porn-O-Plenty," [Brock N. Meeks, CyberWire Dispatch, July 13, 1995]
"ONLINE - Time's Story on Cyberporn of Questionable Validity," [Robert Rossney, San Francisco Chronicle, July 13, 1995]
"The Web: Heading for Content Ratings?" [Scott Rosenberg, San Francisco Examiner, July 12, 1995]
[BROKEN LINK] "Is Rimm's Porn Study 'Cyberfraud'?"[Ray Robinson, The Press of Atlantic City, July 12]
"Internet is not awash in filth," [Paul Pihichyn, Winnipeg Free Press, July 12, 1995]
"Internet Porn Survey Raises Debate," [Associated Press, July 10, 1995]
"The porn polemic," [Scott Rosenberg, San Francisco Examiner, July 6, 1995]
"Jacking in from the 'Point-Five Percent Solution' Port: Washington, DC --Time magazine's credibility is hemmorhaging" [Brock N. Meeks, CyberWire Dispatch, July 4, 1995].
"Would-be Censors Base Arguments on Bogus Research," Tomorrow column [Howard Rheingold, July 2, 1995]
[BROKEN LINK] "Debate continues to heat up over sex on the Net," [Rory J. O'Connor, San Jose Mercury]
[BROKEN LINK] CyberPorn Fear Storm
The Rimm Index. [Jonathan Hardwick, Carnegie Mellon University]
He Says/She Says: linked commentaries on the Rimm study and Time "Cyberporn" article. [Brad Rhodes, MIT]
The Cyberporn Report, Cybernothing.
[BROKEN LINK] Critiques of Time magazine and the Rimm study, Levity.
Pathfinder New Media Message Board. (Pathfinder registration required)
Complaint challenging the Communications Decency Act of 1996 in United States District Court Eastern District of Pennsylvania ACLU, et.al. v. Janet Reno [ACLU, February 8, 1996]
Testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science: In the matter of the Internet and the Management of Objectionable Materials. [Anthony M. Rutkowski, July 26, 1995]
Controlling access to the Internet. [Extensive compilation by Paul Burton, Senior Lecturer, Information Science, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow]
The Freedom Forum First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University.