March 16, 2005

ETech day 2: How sex laws drive innovation

It's a well understood idea nowadays that porn built the internet; credit card transactions, protected content, video streaming are all web features which surfaced first in the context of porn web sites. But as a separate question, does the search for porn which is locally illegal or socially unacceptable drive consumers, rather than producers, to become early adopters?

  • Lots of people want porn
  • But it's not always legal or socially acceptable
  • However people routinely use technology
  • So innovative ways to look without being seen will always be popular

And it turns out that technologies which support privacy and anonymoity can easily be repurposed (not necessarily as the inventors intended) to support porn viewing.

On the internet, porn quality started out poor – ASCII art. But it was still immensely attractive to consumers because anonymity was even better than VHS or magazines since the acquisition could be largely anonymous or at least free from personal interaction. Also, makes it unclear what "contemporary community standards" should be applied. Standards where the consumer is, or where the producer is? If the producer is outside the jurisdiction of the law where the consumer is, what then?

Anonymity is a obviously a big driver for porn consumers, so anonymous web browsing via proxies is a desirable feature, and is predicted to become a feature of future browsers or operating systems. It can be done right now (eg. Tor ( but it's not user friendly enough yet. Similarly, we now see OTR (off the record) messaging with unique key exchange and the key discarded afterwards.

  • What's good for porn is good for free speech; today's porn tools are tomorrow's human rights protections.

- One comment Not publicly viewable

  1. ASCII art porn? Jeez there's a thought I could do without.

    16 Mar 2005, 01:18

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