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So since in class we didn't really get to talk about the definition of the "community" of the internet, what do people think? Do people feel like the "community" consists of everyone who can access the internet? Or is the "community" the community of the origin of the page?

Personally, I would side with the community of the origin of the page. You can't call the community everyone who can access the page because different countries and even different cities have different standards. I have a whole issue with this community standards thing because I feel like it's based in a religious definition of morality, which shouldn't apply to a LAW.

I started thinking about all of this yesterday when I saw a special on Leeza about the new sites cropping up on the internet targeted at voyeurs. It allows viewers who pay to watch these girls who live in a house together. The house is wired with webcams in almost every room (I think there is one bathroom without one), and it costs about 30 bucks a month. Now, a lot of people in the FL community where the house exists feel it's obscene and want it to stop. The girls there feel like they are doing what they want with their bodies. Some people have gone to the level of saying that the girls are being exploited, but that's another issue.

Do you think this is obscene, indecent, or neither? Should it be protected under free speech?

Just curious,

-- Aisha Stroman, October 5, 1999


Different definition of 'community' and comments on cyberporn

"Community" is a really interesting term on the internet. The broad definition in Webster's is "the people with common interests living in a particular area" which could definitely apply to USENET groups and even IRC chat rooms. In this way, if I post often or even read postings to alt.ascii-art or alt.anarchism I could be considered as part of the "community." The same goes for permanent or semi-permanent IRC (or other) chat rooms where other people might recognize your handle etc. If we think about the net in this way, I'm not really sure that talking about the "community" in a legal sense as being the origin of your post to USENET seems appropriate.

This reasoning kind of breaks down when you talk about webpages. Where's on usenet you "subscribe" (in some form or another) to a newsgroup, webpages are a little more subversive in that you may actually end up in a page you didn't intend to (through a misleading link). Even in this sense, having the community defined as the origin of the page seems wrong. I can't really think of something more appropriate other than perhaps defining the community (or the type of community) as a number of things, such as: the categories under which the webpage is listed on search engines, other pages of its kind, web rings it belongs to, etc. I don't think this is enough but it's the closest thing I can think of ...

As for the Leeza special on voyeurism, this is a little different in that the "indecent" situations are happening in the real world. There are girls whose lives are being broadcast (including sexual situations) live on the net but these girls *live* in a neighborhood and this stuff is happening right in these people's backyards. I don't see how this is any different from a community protesting about people filming porn (legally) in a house in their neighborhood. I can't remember the details but I think I saw something on tv about a community trying to do this and I don't really know what happened. I'm not really sure of the constitutionality of kicking someone out of neighborhood because the neighborhood considers them indecent ...

-- D J, October 6, 1999

In response to the community question, I think its best to view the Internet community as a collection of concentric circles. For example, the largest circle includes everyone who can access the Internet. This represents the entire Internet community. Within this circle are smaller groups such as the business, entertainment, and educational communities. Common interests are further bounded within these groupings. USENET groups, IRC chatrooms, and web pages are merely the means through which members of a circle communicate.

Looking at the Leeza voyeurism piece, I agree with Dalie. Zoning laws affect the nature and location of businesses. If you are familiar with New York, a few years ago the City Council voted to force the pornography business out of Times Square and Eighth Avenue. Instead of Bills Peep-o-Rama we find now the Disney Store and MTV studios. Regardless of if these Internet voyeur girls are performing indecent acts or not, the neighborhood may have justification for kicking them out.

-- James Kim, October 7, 1999