Request copies and reviews of Cyberporn studies for Senate
Tue, 31 Oct 1995 08:43:55 +1100 (EST)
>In a later hearing (22 September) I was asked by the committee about a study
>by Professor Thimbleby of Middlesex University, which it was said suggested
>that the first eight categories of information on the Internet related to
>pornography. I was not aware of the study at the time and so could not
>comment on it.
>Could anyone assist me with:
>* References for the original papers are and where I could obtain copies,
>* Reviews of the papers.
I haven't seen the original. Here are two - count 'em two stories from
Reuter's on the Thimbleby paper. It was also monstered as a form
intellectual slumming as well but I can't remember where I saw that.
INTERNET IS COMPUTER RED-LIGHT DISTRICT, ONE EXPERT SAYS
(c) 1995 Copyright The News and Observer Publishing Co.
(c) 1995 Reuter Information Service
NEWCASTLE, England (Sep 13, 1995 - 01:36 EDT) - The Internet is fast
becoming an electronic red-light district, distributing violent pornography
and helping organize pedophile rings, a computer expert said Tuesday.
But there is still no reliable way of detecting or intercepting disturbing
messages or images to protect vulnerable users like children, Professor
Harold Thimbleby told Britain's most prestigious annual science festival.
"Some people see the Internet and the World Wide Web as an important step
toward democracy, education and peace, and of benefit to everyone from
children to entire nations. They see Utopia in the electronic 'global
village'," Thimbleby said.
"The reality is rather different from the vision. The Internet brings
pornography and computer viruses; it tells you how to take drugs and make
bombs," Thimbleby told the festival of the British Association, which
promotes science in Britain.
"The Internet has been called a global electronic village. If so, most of it
is a heavily used red-light district."
Pornography, much of it far more graphic than that available in sex shops,
was easily available.
"I have found text, film and sound material that I find extremely
disturbing, for example involving instructions for killing minors," the
professor of computing research said.
Paedophiles and other groups use the net to organize rings and meetings for
sexual and other encounters.
"Some bulletin boards were supposedly in aid of victims, but were also used
to make new contacts and to share techniques of, for instance, child
entrapment," he said.
Thimbleby said the top eight most frequently used "search words" on the
Internet related to pornography.
His research also showed that more than 10 percent of shops on the Internet
sold erotica, while around 10 percent of bulletin boards accessed in a
random sample were pornographic.
Current efforts to screen offensive material include self- censorship by
sites on the net, who restrict access to adults, and software which can be
installed on a computer to stop users like children getting hold of
But none of the systems were foolproof, Thimbleby said.
HUNT FOR PORNOGRAPHY SAID TO MOTIVATE MOST INTERNET INQUIRIES
(c) 1995 Copyright The News and Observer Publishing Co.
(c) 1995 Times of London
NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE (Sep 13, 1995 - 01:36 EDT) -- The Internet is in reality
a heavily used red-light district, piping pornography into millions of homes
around the world, the British Association for the Advancement of Science was
told Tuesday (Sept. 12).
A survey of a commonly used "search engine" through which users access
material has shown that half of all searches are aimed at locating
pornography. Professor Harold Thimbleby of Middlesex University told the
association's conference in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, in north-east England, that
he had been "shocked and horrified" by the material and how easy it was to find.
"These are not just pictures of nudes," he said. "You can find any
perversion whatsoever and get full details. There are even instructions for
paedophiles on the best way to entrap children and kill them. This is very
nasty material and it is more prevalent and much easier to find than most
Professor Thimbleby examined a list of one million searches made through a
search engine. The user keys in words he wants information on and the search
engine identifies "sites" on the Worldwide Web where the words are
mentioned. Search engines, or "web crawlers," are the commonest way of
identifying sites of interest.
He obtained a list of search words, arranged them in order of frequency and
found the top eight related to porn. The first non-pornographic search word,
ninth on the list, was "Ebola." The research was done during the Ebola virus
epidemic in Zaire.
Professor Thimbleby found that even bulletin boards purporting to be
helplines for victims of sex abuse had a sinister side. Some contained
detailed descriptions, written as if by an abused child, which he believes
were produced by abusers as a form of pornography. A bulletin board supposed
to provide advice for amputees was almost entirely devoted to ways of having
intercourse with them.
"There is a very large amount of paedophilia and bestiality on the
Internet," he said. "The pictures are of very high quality but in some
respects the textual descriptions of what the pictures show are even worse.
I now know things I wish I didn't know. The numbers of sites and searches
aren't so important as the ease with which they can be accessed. My
nine-year-old son could do it, if he wanted to.
"The material includes high-quality graphics, instructions, stories, movies,
shop catalogues, for both conventional sexual interests as well as all
Preventing access was very difficult, he said. A program called SurfWatch is
available, which can be installed on a computer by parents and, in theory,
prevents access to forbidden sites. But the system is easy to subvert and
requires skill that would not be beyond teenage hackers, Professor Thimbleby
He saw no simple technical solution but educating children, parents and
schools about the dangers would help. One problem was that the Internet had
very little interesting material, he said. "When it has more, it is just
possible that pornography will slip into its statistically appropriate place
as one aspect of humanity, but not the most prominent on the Internet."
Asking parents to be responsible for their children's access to the Internet
"seriously underestimates the difficulty when children often have much
better technical knowledge," he said.
Journalist at Large
"The shallower you are, the more ground you cover."
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