If one percent of the web is porn, is that a lot?

One percent may sound small, but where there are billions of web pages, there are millions of porn pages

The answer to this question has apparently become relevant in a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union against the U.S. government over the long-dormant Children's Online Protection Act.

How much porn is really out there on the Internet? The answer is that about one percent of web pages "contain sexually explicit material," according to a "confidential" analysis of Google and Microsoft search data done at the behest of the Department of Justice, which wants to reactivate the law that the ACLU successfully blocked.

But that one percent figure begs a second, apparently more significant question: Is one percent a lot -- or not?

One newspaper headline from last week proclaims: "Study finds web isn't teeming with sex." Another asserts that "99 percent of the Internet is porn free." So at least two headline writers believe that one percent is not a lot when the subject is Internet porn.

That's the ACLU's position, too. The civil liberties group argues that the study results do not bolster the government's attempt to revive the challenged law.

"One of the things we think came out of the government's study is that the chance of running into graphic content on the Web when filters are on is extremely low,'' ACLU attorney Catherine Crump told the San JoseMercury News.

Hey, I'm as glad to see that law go as the next civil libertarian, but I can't help but notice the importance of "when filters are on" in that sentence.

But back to the number: What does one percent of web pages really mean? The answer is truly a "go figure," and one would think you'd start with the total number of web pages. Good luck. You can find all kinds of guesses out there on that figure, ranging from tens of billions to hundreds of billions. Take your pick.

Whatever you choose, though, you're talking a mighty big number, a number so big that one percent of it will leave you with a mighty big number.

So the question seems a bit silly. Of course, one percent is a lot. Of course, the web is teeming with sex. There's a lot of smut on the Internet, and children, left to their own devices, will find it, and it will find children.

And it strikes me that we didn't need a taxpayer-funded study to reach any of these conclusions. Nor do they justify ham-handed legislation.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Paul McNamara

Network World
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?