About this Author
Ernest Miller Ernest Miller pursues research and writing on cyberlaw, intellectual property, and First Amendment issues. Mr. Miller attended the U.S. Naval Academy before attending Yale Law School, where he was president and co-founder of the Law and Technology Society, and founded the technology law and policy news site LawMeme. He is a fellow of the Information Society Project at Yale Law School. Ernest Miller's blog postings can also be found @

Listen to the weekly audio edition on IT Conversations:
The Importance Of ... Law and IT.

Feel free to contact me about articles, websites and etc. you think I may find of interest. I'm also available for consulting work and speaking engagements. Email: ernest.miller 8T

Amazon Honor System Click Here to Pay Learn More

In the Pipeline: Don't miss Derek Lowe's excellent commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry in general at In the Pipeline

The Importance of...

« Yet Another FCC Decision Regarding the Pulling Capacity of the Penis | Main | Is the FCC the Appropriate Agency to Regulate Speech? »

May 21, 2004

Practical Memetics - The Science of Pornography Addiction and the First Amendment

Posted by Ernest Miller

Posted in accordance with US Food, Drug and Memetics Administration Labeling Requirements
Warning: This blog posting may be dangerously persuasive to pregnant women, those with weak backs and/or heart conditions.

Ok, so the science here isn't particularly compelling, but the Deseret News reports that an anti-pornography group is seeking scientific proof of pornography addiction through magnetic resonance imaging (Group trying to snuff out porn). The group, the Lighted Candle Society, has a poorly titled press release: Major Anti-Pornography Program Scheduled for 12 May in Salt Lake City.

It isn't entirely clear what the MRI brain scans will prove, exactly, but the purpose is clear. Should the researchers prove that pornography is addictive, the Lighted Candle Society will then take that proof into court to sue the pornography industry into submission much as smokers (or their beneficiaries) brought a litigation campaign against Big Tobacco.

Frankly, I don't think that MRI scans can prove what the LCS intends to prove. But what if similar scans could? Is it entirely outside the realm of possibility that science might someday allow us to gauge, at least to a limited extent, the physical response engendered by particular memes? What impact would this have on First Amendment law? Would it be permissible, despite the First Amendment, to censor particular memes that were shown to have scientifically proven adverse effects, much as we outlaw particular drugs? What levels of proof of harm would be needed? I suspect we may eventually have to answer these questions.

Of course, the LCS should be careful what it asks for ... religion itself seems to be a particularly pernicious meme.

Comments (5) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Freedom of Expression


1. Seth Finkelstein on May 21, 2004 05:03 PM writes...

I call this the "virus of Communism" argument. We've been there before.

Permalink to Comment

2. Ernest Miller on May 21, 2004 05:05 PM writes...

Ah, but was there science to back it up?

Permalink to Comment

3. Dave King on May 22, 2004 09:05 AM writes...

It will be insteresting to see where the blame will lie even if they prove pornography effects the mind. Will this fall into the category of fast food, that people know better but do it anyway, or is it like cigarettes where people have been mislead by those who make it and make money off it. Pornography isn't good, but where does the reponsibility lie?

Permalink to Comment

4. Brett Bellmore on May 23, 2004 10:28 PM writes...

I doubt that pornography, as such, is adictive. I think it's quite plausible that activities you might engage in in conjunction with pornography might result in some kind of conditioning process, though.

Permalink to Comment

5. Bob Turner on May 26, 2004 04:29 PM writes...

Pornography is probably good for some people and not good for others....where does the responsibility lie ? ...Well I would see it as a matter of personal choice (responsibility)...others might find society or the government or “the devils will” as important factors for responsibility or blame ...but I can't "get there". Can it be addictive?...almost anything can be addictive.

Permalink to Comment


Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):

Kitchen Academy - Course II - Day 23
Kitchen Academy - Course II - Day 22
Kitchen Academy - Course II - Day 21
Kitchen Academy - The Hollywood Cookbook and Guest Chef Michael Montilla - March 18th
Kitchen Academy - Course II - Day 20
Kitchen Academy - Course II - Day 19
Kitchen Academy - Course II - Day 18
Salsa Verde