Last week, the House agreed to a Senate amendment to a bill that funds the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. On the next-to-last page, it casually states:
"None of the funds made available in this act may be used to maintain or establish a computer network unless such network blocks the viewing, downloading and exchanging of pornography."
Yes, buried in a bill (HR4899) that allocates $75,000,000,000 for the military, as well as for border security, veterans' health, state education, and Haiti, Congress is preparing to require that all companies doing business with the federal government require internet filtering software.
"Pornography" is not a legal term, of course, so sincere (and not-so-sincere) people can disagree on what qualifies. But American workers, managers, and company owners will have almost no discretion about which millions of websites they will no longer have access to (and not even know it). Private internet filtering software companies will make these decisions. In secret. With no explanation or appeal.
This is an extraordinary assault on the rights of tens of millions of Americans. Of course Congressmembers, urged on by the usual porn-destroys-lives crowd, say "well, people shouldn't watch porn during work." Of course they shouldn't--because they should be working, not relaxing. And so there are many other sites people shouldn't access at work--gambling sites, craigslist, facebook, World Cup soccer, celebrity sites. And yet only pornography has been singled out.