Dirty Pixels

A few weeks ago, federal agents cracked down on a worldwide pornography ring. They raided 40 locations around the country-but came up with none of the usual evidence. No seedy apartments with porno magazines strewn around. No steamy photographs. No lists of victims' names. Instead, the agents confiscated truckloads of high-tech computers, disks, and CD-ROMS. They had searched the homes of highly trained computer experts. Their crime: distributing computer pornography. Today's computer technology allows a pornographic photograph to be scanned onto a disk and distributed via modem. Disk catalogs are starting to advertise electronic erotica: Slip the disk into the computer and your screen is transformed into the equivalent of an issue of Playboy. Computer games are beginning to have erotic themes as well-from Leisure Suit Larry, sold in local computer stores, to hard-core games featuring bondage and bestiality. Even computer bulletin boards, used by thousands of Americans for legitimate information exchange, are becoming haunts of pornographers and pedophiles. A new counter-part to phone sex is "cybersex," erotic conversations typed back and forth on a computer screen. Police have even investigated child abuse cases that began when older men struck up conversations with adolescent boys via computer bulletin boards, then arranged to meet in person. Computers are adding a new, interactive dimension to pornography. Old-fashioned photos and magazines were already effective enough in arousing lust and inciting sexual assault, as police records show. But the medium itself was passive. The active part was in the user's imagination. A computer program, on the other hand, requires interaction. You type in commands and tell your character what to do. You can give commands to a female character, and she'll do anything you want-at least anything she's programmed to do. With full-color screens, movement, and sound effects, computers can create the equivalent of X-rated movies . . . where you are a participant. Well, the technology may be new, but the age-old moral law still applies. Jesus taught that looking at someone with lust in our hearts is sin. The images we linger over with our eyes train our appetite-and ultimately influence our behavior. In cybersex, that influence can be even stronger. The interactive format literally rehearses behavior. How can we protect ourselves from computer pornography? The police can't do much about material transmitted via modem because it's protected by the same privacy laws as phone conversations. So Christian parents need to supervise their own children carefully. Today many homes have a computer, often hooked into computer bulletin boards. Don't assume that everything your children encounter there will be benign. Some companies, like Prodigy and Compuserve, monitor their public bulletin boards and occasionally delete obscene material. Christians ought to push for even more stringent monitoring. The futurists tell us we're moving toward a global village. Let's make sure there's not an electronic smut shop on every corner.


Chuck Colson



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