Morality in Media Calls Upon the Family Online Safety Institute to Stop Providing Visitors to Its Website With Direct Links to Websites That Traffic in Hardcore Pornography and to Stop Providing These Pornographers With Special Recognition and Benefits for Using the ICRA Labeling System

NEW YORK, Dec. 9 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- On December 11, the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) will hold a conference entitled "Safe At Any Speed: Rules, Tools and Public Policies To Keep Kids Safe Online," at the Newseum in Washington, DC. Conference Sponsors include Microsoft, AT&T, Google, Verizon, MySpace, Comcast, AOL, USTelecom, British Telecom, CITA Wireless Foundation and Sprint. Morality in Media President Robert Peters has sent a letter to Stephen Balkam, CEO of FOSI, calling on FOSI to stop providing visitors to the www.fosi.org website with direct links to websites that traffic in hardcore pornography and to stop providing these hardcore pornographers with special recognition and benefits for using the ICRA labeling system. That letter states in part:

What prompted this letter was the discovery that the www.fosi.org website provided visitors with links to commercial websites which pay FOSI to become "Associate Members." Many of these websites promote live sex webcams, phone sex lines, pornographic DVDs, and sex toys. Some of the sites also display hardcore pornographic photos and video that can be viewed free of charge and without proof of age. Of its Associate Members, the www.fosi.org "Associate Members" page says:

FOSI's Associate Membership exists to allow smaller companies...to support FOSI's twin aims of protecting children from potentially harmful material and protecting free speech on the Internet. FOSI is proud to count many companies...as Associate Members...As an Associate Member you will enjoy the following benefits: The right to [use] a specially designed logo on your on- and offline materials...Priority technical support...

The www.fosi.org "ICRA - a webmaster's view" page added this:

As a web author, we invite you to use our system to...label your online content in a way that can be processed by computers...ICRA makes no value judgments at all about any content...Labeling with ICRA is a clear sign of good online citizenship and responsible practice...By adopting it you're helping to avoid burdensome government regulation...As a webmaster of one or more sites labeled with ICRA, you are eligible to join the Family Online Safety Institute as an Associate Member. This can help boost your online visibility by having a link from this (high traffic) website and your overall marketing opportunities by association with many of the leading names on the Internet.

In other words, one benefit that FOSI offers to online sex businesses that use its ICRA rating system is the additional business that association with FOSI can bring. Sounds quid pro quo to me.

As I write, the "Associate Membership" page no longer includes a list of "Associate Members," with links to their websites. But presumably, FOSI still intends to provide pornographers with recognition and benefits for using the ICRA labeling system, while turning a blind eye to the essential nature of their businesses, which is to exploit one group of human beings in order to appeal to base sexual desires in other humans, and to the reality that many online pornographers are violating federal obscenity laws.

Mr. Balkam, I do not fault FOSI for attempting to encourage online sex businesses to use the ICRA rating system. I do fault FOSI for a program that is intended to confer respectability on these sordid and often criminal businesses and to imply (assert) that its voluntary rating system is preferable to and an adequate substitute for vigorous enforcement of federal obscenity laws against hardcore pornographers.

Filtering technology is part of the answer to protecting children from online smut, but not all parents will use it. As children get older, they can also access the Internet from outside the home. Furthermore, it is unlikely that all or even most online smut merchants will voluntarily use the ICRA rating system. Adult predators also use "adult pornography" to stimulate themselves and to arouse and instruct their child victims, and there is growing evidence that many predators begin their downward spiral not with child porn but "adult porn." Countless marriages are also being destroyed by pornography addiction, which hurts many children.

In a statement published in TIME ("The Candidates on Faith," Aug. 7, 2008), President-elect Barack Obama stated: "[W]e must remember that there are a range of moral-values issues that must be addressed in our families." At FOSI's Conference, MIM strongly urges participants to consider that pornography is one such "moral-values" issue and that one way to protect children and their parents from pornography is to enforce federal obscenity laws, which will help reduce the supply of it. Enforcement will also convey the message that pornography is a moral peril. Youth in particular need to hear that message - and it wouldn't hurt coming from an organization with the name "Family Online Safety Institute." FOSI must also stop providing links to online pornographers and conferring recognition and benefits on them.

SOURCE Morality in Media



RELATED LINKS
http://www.fosi.org
http://www.moralityinmedia.org

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