by Joseph Pratt
The issue of Internet privacy rights in America has been a hot topic of late. The latest flashpoint was a showdown in San Jose, CA pitting the Department of Justice against the giant search engine Google. Essentially, the Department of Justice wants to rewrite and make constitutionally viable the federal Child Online Protection Act of 1998, which was overturned on constitutional grounds in 2004.
A common misconception is that this whole brouhaha stems from a governmental crackdown on child pornography. It isn't. It's instead a measure designed to curtail the easy access of material considered 'adult' to minors through the Internet. Loosely speaking, this federal act takes search engines to task, at least partially, in shielding kids from pornographic and objectionable material. Search engines, like Google, maintain that it's not their job to police information, but the users. The major search engines, in sympathy with what's socially acceptable, employ standard search filters which must be disabled before making searches for raunchy material.