Censorship - The debate
Censorship of pornographic material of all types is not a new phenomenon and has been debated nearly every time a new medium of distribution has emerged. The Internet has been no exception in this regard. Given that the issue has been around for a while, it is necessary to understand some of the general arguments made for and against the censorship of pornography before discussing the specific challenges brought about by the Internet.
The types of arguments dealt with in this section will focus on John Stuart Mill's harm principle. According to Easton, both English and American jurisprudence on free speech and censorship are rooted in the democracy and truth justifications of Mill. Underpinning this debate has been the harm principle. Mill's harm principle states that "the only ground on which intervention is justified is to prevent harm to others; the individual's own good is not a sufficient justification.
Mill's influence is substantial in Canadian, American and English democracies because they are all varieties of liberal democracies. A liberal democracy is a representative democracy where a large part of what the citizens do or don't do is believed as being none of the government's business. Essentially, Mill's harm principle has been a central part of the debate in deciding what is legitimately the government's business and what is not. In the case of pornography, those against and those for censorship or regulation at some time have to deal with Mill's conception of harm to some. Lee Groake summarizes the situation nicely by stating:
"the classic defense of freedom of expression is John Stuart Mill's On Liberty. It is difficult to exaggerate its influence and it is enough for us to note that its account of freedom of expression has become a rarely questioned part...