The Obscenity Prosecution Task Force’s Crusade Against Porn

One of the most controversial recent Department of Justice initiatives is the Obscenity Prosecution Task Force (OPTF) founded in 2005. According to the DOJ’s official website, the OPTF “is dedicated exclusively to the protection of America’s children and families through the enforcement of our Nation’s obscenity laws.” Recently, however, those dubious aims have recently come under fire.

The OPTF specializes in bringing the makers and distributors of hardcore pornography to trial under the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision Miller v. California. Miller held that the first amendment did not protect obscene materials in violation of “community standards”. The OPTF claims that by prosecuting sellers of pornography featuring consenting adults, it will not only protect children by keeping them from being exposed to hardcore pornography, but also that it will lead to a decline in the production of illegal child pornography. However, many feel that this logic is dubious at best. This is largely because the vast majority of these explicit videos are seen by adults who have consented to purchase them as well as numerous experts beliefs that focusing on prosecuting child pornographers is a more effective way to deter them. Many of these experts believe moral policing to be the true reasoning behind the obscenity prosecutions.

Not only do many people question the motives and reasoning of the OPTF, but many law enforcement and government officials are puzzled to find that prosecuting pornographers is seen as a DOJ priority, especially in large cities like Miami where issues such as terrorism, corruption, and crime are regarded as more deserving of the support of federal law enforcement.

Unsurprisingly, many of these cases have not gone very well for the OPTF and have become PR debacles. Perhaps the most notable case that backfired was the prosecution of extreme pornography distributor Ira Isaacs in June 2008 where the 9th Cir. Judge had to declare a mistrial because it was found that he had pornographic material on his personal website. However, the OPTF has still managed to prosecute some forty obscenity cases since its inception attempting to undo what it sees as years of neglect by the previous administration.

Although it can be hard for the average American to feel the prosecution of extreme pornography dealers has an effect on them, many more minor “offenders” are being caught up in the OPTF’s net such as this PA woman who was brought up on charges in 2008 for posting explicit literary erotica on her website. This leaves many worried about where these prosecutions could lead if unchecked.

Ultimately, although the OPTF believes it is protecting the children, it is doing so under false pretenses, with questionable results, and at the expense of the first amendment right to watch consenting non-minors engage in whatever activities they please.

Photo courtesy of Justin Jorgensen.

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Published in: on October 23, 2008 at 5:14 pm Comments Off on The Obscenity Prosecution Task Force’s Crusade Against Porn

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