New Study Charts Popularity of Pornography on Internet

Article excerpt

ON-LINE PORNOGRAPHY is popular, profit-driven and ubiquitous, encompassing an unusual, wide-ranging repertoire that includes everything from pedophilia and bestiality to pursuits seemingly more appropriate for the bathroom, a new study says.

Many of those images, according to researcher Martin Rimm, are originally posted on the Internet by pornographers who run pay-as-you-go bulletin board services - essentially using the Internet as a sophisticated advertising and marketing vehicle to lure new customers to their systems.

The report, funded by Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, is drawing interest in Washington, where Congress is wrangling over what, if anything, to do about cyberporn when it deregulates the telecommunications industry.

Researchers suggested on Monday that their study is the first systematic look at pornography on the information superhighway, and is the only study on pornography - electronic or published - that focuses on what people actually consume, not what they tell researchers they consume.

The study is scheduled to be published next week in the Georgetown Law Review, but advance galleys were released to the press Monday. It reports that about 20 percent of all communications by volume and 83 percent of all photos downloaded from Internet's Usenet usegroups were sexual in nature. Usenet constitutes about 11 percent of Internet traffic. Additionally, the researchers identified individual consumers in more than 2,000 cities in all 50 states, and 40 countries worldwide.

The 18-month study is based on an analysis of 450,620 images, animations and text files that had been downloaded from Usenet groups and "adult" bulletin board services about 6.4 million times. Rimm said the study was created to examine the relationship between pay-for-porn bulletin board services - some of which earn their operators more than $1 million per year - and the popular, but free, Usenet groups that specialize in sexually explicit topics with names like alt.sex.bondage.

The study found that just two commercial bulletin board services accounted for 36 percent of the sexually explicit photos found embedded in Usenet news groups over 18 months.

In addition, the study says, "The more sophisticated computer pornographers are using databases to develop mathematical models to determine which images they should try to market aggressively. They are paying close attention to all forms of paraphilia, including pedophilic, bestiality, and urophilic images, believing these markets to be the most lucrative."

Mike Goodwin of the Electronic Frontier Foundation in Washington, which opposes all forms of censorship on the Internet, said Monday that Rimm's study used "questionable methodology. …