The Great Internet Porn Debate

There’s an interesting conversation going on at WordPress, the hosting site for many of our blogs. It’s a conversation about how to handle porn blogs.

Here’s a little bit of background: As some of you might know, a few months ago, I volunteered to write a weekly post on a site called Best Blog, which is dedicated to promoting the diversity of writing on WordPress. It’s run by a courteous, thoughtful man named Ken. The reason he sought out volunteers to help with his site is because he lives in China and the Chinese government blocks access to WordPress. There are ways to get through the “great firewall” but they’re not perfect and they don’t always work. Hence, the delegation of this fun job to volunteers, of whom I am the newest. This blog is on the WordPress front page along with a few other links that direct people to sites that might interest them. Its audience is wide and broad: pretty much anybody with a WordPress blog might stumble into it at one time or another.

Which brings me to porn. A few days ago, someone brought up on the WordPress comments board the issue of what to do about the many sites on WordPress that contain “adult content.” This writer was offended by these sites — as I am. I hate clicking on the next blog button and hoping I’ll see something interesting and then seeing instead someone’s breasts. Another writer suggested that maybe the links on the wordpress front page, the ones that catalog blogs, including the most hit on blogs and posts, and Ken’s Best Blog effort, be shut down because they link to porn. Thinking that maybe Ken’s Best Blog might have mistakenly offended someone in that comment forum, I went over and checked it out. (Turns out, the woman who began this discussion was concerned about the automatic listing of “top blogs” and “top posts” which is not a subjective listing, but just a tally of the number of hits a site receives. She didn’t care in the least about Best Blog; but it did offend her greatly to keep seeing porn sites and posts listed as “top ten” most beloved blogs or posts — something that bugs me too. If you’d like to see what she has to say about this issue, it can be found here.)

My answer is at the end of the link. It’s kind of rambling. I hadn’t really thought it through. But this is the executive summary, Dear Reader: I don’t like porn. But I like speech, and craziness and experimentation. And I don’t think private parties, like the great people at WordPress who just want to write code and think up cool new widgets, should have to go into the business of spotting adult sites and tagging them with a warning label. We’re adults. If we don’t like something, we’re capable of clicking right on by. And when private entities, who are unsupervised, get into the business of censorship they make regrettable mistakes. And those mistakes can’t be rectified. At least when the government tries to censor someone, they can be sued and a first amendment loving judge (there are still quite a few of those in America) will make them stop because this debate has pretty much been resolved in America: the answer to offensive speech is more speech not less.

Still, I don’t like porn and I wish it didn’t exist. I also wish loud shouting about politics didn’t exist. I wish kids didn’t eat lunchables and Big Macs. I wish there weren’t violent video games. I wish people praised each other rather than condemned.

Tell me, if you have a moment, what you think about tagging sites for adult content. And tell me what you wish didn’t have a place in our world and what you wish there was more of. It’s a meme of sorts. Or a meta something.

Best, BL

(Oh, and P.S. I forgot to mention, because it hardly needs to be said, but all discussions here obviously have to be civil. One of the most basic rules of effective advocacy, not to mention one of the best ways to proceed in life, is to be civil to those with whom you disagree. For that reason, ad hominum attacks and accusations are just not a good idea and I’ll delete them when they show up. If you want to convince someone to respect your position, you have to behave in a way that will encourage people to respect you.  If you’re not nice, people won’t respect you and there’s a good chance they’ll write off your opinion.  And for all readers who’d rather talk about books and food and stationery items, the channel on this blog has been re-set to exactly that.)