Somewhere deep in the dusty depths of my desk, a long-forgotten light flickers on. A nearby meter twitches, its needle pulling at the cobwebs as it pushes into the red. What's this? Could the patent Goodwins Sanity Detector really be coming to life after all these years?
It's true. A report from the US's National Research Council, produced after nearly four years of furrowed brows, expert witnesses and interminable hearings, addresses the thorny problem of children and Internet porn. And instead of calling for more draconian laws and ever-tighter lockdowns, it says that there's no simple solution, that common sense and personal responsibility should prevail, and that the sin of porn isn't worth sacrificing the goodness of open access for. As for the tricky business of what happens when Junior does stumble across Pneumatic Mistress Dot Com, the report says that it's not desirable and it probably will happen, but you can minimise the chances and make sure that nobody gets too excited when it does.
Which appears to be the way most people have treated the whole business, on- and off-line, for the past thirty years, and the very epitome of common sense. That a big American report is taking this approach instead of frothing at the mouth and calling for bell, book and candle is the big surprise. Who knows, perhaps sanity will be the new orthodoxy. Why, there could be a reassessment of energy, environmental issues and Middle East politics next... oh, no, the meter's gone off again.
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