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FBI: Adequate Laws Exist to Combat Child Porno

WASHINGTON - The FBI told a senate panel Thursday afternoon no more new laws are needed to deal with online child pornography, insisting existing prohibitions are more than adequate to prosecute kiddie porn purveyors.

"The laws are pretty well defined," James H. Burris, deputy assistant director of the FBI's Criminal Investigative Division told the Senate Commerce Committee. "We have…arrested thousands of predators who would use the Internet to entice children into exploitive situations."

Nevertheless, Burris called child pornography a "big problem," noting that the Internet has facilitated an overall growth industry in pornography.

"More than ever, sexually explicit materials are cheap and distribution channels are widespread," he said. "With that comes the proliferation of obscene material and child pornography."

Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) told the panel legal Internet sites containing pornography have grown from 14 million to 260 million in 2003. He said the number of child porno sites - all illegal -- is approximately 100,000.

"While the debate between protecting children from Internet pornography and maintaining First Amendment rights continues in our courts, the business of Internet pornography continues to boom," he said.

James Weaver, a Virginia Tech professor, put the online pornography issue in a broader context when he referred to the "marriage" of pornography producers and corporate America.

According to Weaver, 2005 revenues for the adult entertainment industry projects out to $12.6 billion with $4.3 billion generated by the sale or rental of adult videos and another $2.5 billion through the Internet.

Moreover, he said, DirecTV earns over $20 million per month from adult films and AT&T "generates similar income distributing pornography via its broadband Internet services."

He also noted that all of the top 50 U.S. hotel chains - with the exception of Omni Hotels, offer pornography with sales accounting for nearly 70 percent of their in-room profits.

"Basically, the profiteering from sexually explicit media by mainstream companies has helped to legitimize pornography as 'normal' and 'commonplace' for millions of Americans," Weaver said.

Perhaps another reflection of the corporate influence in the skin trade was the first ever appearance by an adult entertainment official before the Senate Commerce Committee.

"It is my hope that my remarks will bring some balance to a discussion before this Congress that is too often dominated by a vocal minority intent on vilifying expression protected by our Constitution," said Paul Cambria, counsel to the Adult Freedom Foundation.

Cambria said on an average day, approximately 60 million unique viewers go to adult entertainment Websites.

"Contrary to the claims of those who wish to stifle any adult expression with an erotic theme, the adult entertainment industry does not exploit children," he said. "The industry does not employ child performers and does not condone access to [those] materials created for the entertainment of adults."

He added, "Every American Website is governed by the requirements of federal obscenity laws. Similarly, these Websites must also comply with strict federal child pornography laws."

Despite those laws, Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) is pushing for a 25 percent excise tax on Internet pornography transactions to finance better filtering tools and techniques for parents.

"Despite filtering and blocking technologies, children are accessing more and more sexually explicit material at home on their family computer," Lincoln told the panel. "With the spread of wireless handheld devices, the Internet can also bring inappropriate materials to places like the school bus or the mall, where parents can't always be present to provide the necessary level of supervision."

A March 2005 report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project shows a sharp increase in the percentage of parents who use filters. The study also shows that a substantial number of parents have implemented "house rules" that detail when and for how long children can use the Internet.

"The statistics show that parents continue taking their online parenting responsibilities seriously," said Tim Lorden, executive director of the Internet Education Foundation. "While there are no silver bullets to the problem of Internet pornography, the studies and research show that a holistic parenting solution can go a long way."