Apples to Oranges… or Apple Pies to Orgies

July 3, 2008 at 2:33 pm Leave a comment

In my latest post for JETLaw Blog, I wrote about some recent cases involving community standards for obscenity. I’ve never been a big fan of the Miller test being applied to the Internet because of relevance/jurisdictional issues. But the core issue to me is: which community, the Internet one or the geographic one? I first started thinking about this during the first Livejournal censorship fiasco. Because whereas I kept having to gently remind people that it’s not a first amendment problem if a private company tells you what kind of material you can or cannot post in the community that they own, once Livejournal started citing obscenity laws (and Miller in particular) as the reason for the sudden policy change… that’s when I saw a potential problem. After all, the community of people who use Livejournal will be exactly the same whether the servers are located in San Fransisco or Salt Lake City.

So all that said, I found the case of the lawyer using Google trends as “proof” of community standards to be pretty interesting. According to him, the fact that more people run searches about orgies than apple pie means that the residents of Pensacola, Florida may not know as much about their neighbors’ “standards” as they think. So as a little experiment I decided to find out some more about the standards of my current community. Here is a representation of how often Tennessee residents run searches about “porn” compared to “football”:


Hmmm. Well, I’m not sure what this tells us about obscenity standards, but it does show that my friends and neighbors are less interested in pornography during football season. Good to know.


Entry filed under: free speech, google, livejournal, obscenity, online communities. Tags: , .

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Wired Law Blog is written by Casey Fiesler, currently a third year law student. She is armed with Masters degree in Human-Computer Interaction, experience as a freelance and technical writer, and an interest in the intersection of law and new media. This blog covers things that fall into that category, as well as the occasional miscellaneous geeky law news.

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