Kelly over at A Yoga Coffee Outlook posted a comment about an initiative to ask Adult websites to require a password-protected login before allowing even free access to explicit adult content.
Kelly's response is quite insightful and an opinion that I agree with completely. To expound on her point of view, to address some misconceptions about the Internet and generally express my personal irritation with using the “what about the children?” argument to intrude on our constitutional rights, there some points I would like to make.
Internet regulation is extremely difficult and expensive to enforce.
The Internet is a global phenomenon. Many sites are run from outside the United States. Laws regulating content not only violate 1st Amendment free speech rights of US citizens, but also require cooperation from other governments if the violating sites are run from severs on foriegn soil. Efforts such as these (or other regulations on things like file shareing and online gambling), if put into law, are phenomenally difficult to enforce and defend in the courts.
Porn is an economic driver of technology.
Since the inception of the Internet, adult sites have been one of the primary ways to monetize the technology. Online Pornography, like it or not, is a very lucrative business. If their current practice of allowing free viewing is a effective marketing technique (which we must assume it is) there is no motivation for the sites to voluntarily require passwords to view free content. This being the case any initiative is doomed to failure.
There is no central authorizing body.
There is no central repository of personal information that can be accessed to verify a person's age. As such there is no way for any site to verify that a visitor is over the age of 18 and eligible to view free content. Most sites with adult content make an effort to validate their viewer's age, but without making the visitor jump through hoops (which again, the industry is not motivated to do) and collecting credit card or other information, there is no easy way to confirm the visitor is of legal age. If 'password protection' was enabled it would probably be extremely easy to circumvent, especially for a teenager that has grown up in the current technological environment.
The burden of responsibilty for protecting children must rest squarely on a parent's shoulders, not on the benevolence of an adult website provider or on the government.