The Strange New World of the Internet

Time magazine’s July 25, 1994 cover story about “the world’s largest computer network, once the playground of scientists, hackers and gearheads,” posed the question, “Is there room for everyone?” FAQs (Time helpfully added “Frequently Asked Questions” in brackets) covered included “What is the Internet?”,'”How do I get connected?'” and listed some of the best guidebooks ( The Internet: Complete Reference, The Internet Nagivator, and Cruising Online). “Don’t start a ‘flame war’,” the magazine cautioned, “Unless you’re willing to take the heat.” It also featured a section about “Sex and the Net”:

“For those interested in pornography, there’s plenty of it on the Internet. It comes in all forms: hot chat, erotic stories, explicit pictures, even XXX-rated film clips. Every night brings a fresh crop, and the newsgroups that carry it  (alt.sex, alt.binaries.pictures.erotica, etc.) are among the top four or five most popular. The salacious stuff is clearly an embarasment to the Clinton Administration, which has been trying to make a virtue of getting the Internet into schools. The White House is concerned, admits Tom Kalil, an adviser to Vice President Al Gore. But to judge the Net by its smut, he says ‘is like forming an impression of New York City by looking only at the crime statistics.’

For purely technical reasons, it is impossible to censor the Internet at present… But some antipornography activists have found a clever way to cope with that. Form time to time, they will appear in newsgroups devoted to X-rated picture files and start posting messages with titles like ‘YOU WILL ALL BURN IN HELL!’ These typically provoke flurries of angry responses– until it dawns on the pornography lovers that by filling the message board with their rejoinders, they are pushing out the sexy items they came to enjoy.”

“Battle for the Soul of the Internet,” Philip Elmer-Dewitt, Time, July 25, 1994.

 

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