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IP: schwartzgram from the Washington Post
From: Dave Farber <farber () cis upenn edu>
Date: Mon, 13 Oct 1997 18:15:04 -0400



Date: Mon, 13 Oct 1997 18:01:55 -0400 (EDT)
From: schwartj <schwartj () twp com>

=A0I wrote a column I thought you might be interested in. The URL


=A0Here's the text:

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0Sex, Lies and How They Affect the =A0Internet

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0By John Schwartz =A0Washington Post Staff Writer =A0Monday,=
 October 13,
1997; Page F19 =A0The Washington Post

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0If the Internet were Richard Jewell, it would be payback=

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0Jewell, of course, is the luckless security guard who was=
fingered by the FBI as the prime suspect in the 1996 bombing =A0at Atlanta's
Centennial Olympic Park. Newspapers and =A0television newscasts nationwide
picked up the leaked =A0accusation, but the Justice Department later cleared
him. Now =A0Jewell and his lawyers are quietly extracting large cash
settlements from media companies that repeated the libel: the =A0Atlanta
Journal-Constitution, NBC, CNN and more.

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0What does this have to do with the Internet? Let's look at=
 the =A0very
strange and sad story of Brian Poulsen, a California =A012-year-old found
hiding in the home of a Virginia man who =A0had sent him a bus ticket and
now has been charged with =A0sexual abuse. Early stories quoted law
enforcement officials =A0saying the two had met via "Internet chat rooms."
That was all =A0it took. The news media instantly picked up the "dark side
of =A0the Internet theme" sounded by reporters, columnists, =A0dial-a-quote
psychologists and advocacy groups whenever a =A0crime has any connection to
the online world at all.

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0Last week, however, investigators changed their story: The=
actually occurred on a telephone 900 party line called =A0"Hollywood Hell
Hole" that was advertised in Rolling Stone =A0Magazine. So once again, law
enforcement has blamed a =A0suspect before all the evidence is in.

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0But don't expect any apologies to the Net or those of us who=
a lot of time there. Diane Harrison, case manager for the =A0California
branch of the National Center for Missing and =A0Exploited Children,
responded to the news that the accusations =A0against the Internet were
unfounded with a resounding =A0whatever.

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0"It's still a lure, whether it be Internet or telephone,"=
said in a Washington Post interview. "We anticipate that we =A0will be
seeing more of these crimes because kids have access =A0to both computers
and phones."


=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0As Donna L. Hoffman, a Vanderbilt University business=
who's studied these issues, puts it, online technology =A0"does not create
human vices. . . . It's always interesting to me =A0that the Internet is
indicted or blamed when we should really be =A0indicting ourselves."

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0It's much simpler, she says, to blame the Internet rather=
 than to
ask whether we're properly supervising our kids and making =A0use of various
software "filters" to keep some of the bad stuff =A0out.


=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0Earlier this year, the Supreme Court struck down the law as
unconstitutional. But Flores is undaunted, saying that because =A0the Net
was developed in part with government money, the =A0government ought to be
able to regulate it.

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0Why do I worry about this tendency to blame the Net for so=
societal ills? In part, it's because I believe in accuracy, =A0and many of
the accusations against "The Internet" are simply =A0wrong. Virtually none
of the online chat rooms that get written =A0about in the news media
actually exist in popular, easy-to-use =A0form on the Internet; instead,
they can be found via commercial =A0online services such as America Online.
The parts of the =A0Internet that are akin to giant libraries of information
often have =A0no mechanism for interaction among users.

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0John Schwartz's e-mail address is schwartj () twp com 


=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0The case of Sam Manzie, a New Jersey teen accused of=
 =A0strangling an
11-year-old, has reignited the angry debate online =A0over the media's
relationship to the Internet. To tap in, go =A0directly to discussion groups
on the Usenet, available through =A0many Internet Service Providers and
commercial online =A0services. For a quick start via the Web, go to Deja
News =A0(www.dejanews.com); enter the word "Manzie" and you'll find
vigorous discussion in many newsgroups -- especially the one =A0devoted to
the band Smashing Pumpkins =A0(alt.music.smash-pumpkins), where Manzie was a
frequent =A0visitor. Watch the locals abuse reporters who come online
seeking information! You can find a copy of Manzie's home =A0page at
http://cgi.pathfinder.com/@@Og3xkAUAxB () kcriQ/netly/njsuspect/index.html.

=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0=A0) Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

"Photons have neither morals nor visas"  --  Dave Farber 1996

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