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The Thought Police and the question of children's rights

technofile  by al fasoldt

Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology

Simple gray rule

The Thought Police and the question of children's rights 

By Al Fasoldt

Copyright © 1991, The Syracuse Newspapers

I'd better tell you at the beginning that this week's column is not for children, in case you want to put this issue of Stars Magazine out of reach of any kids in your house.

And now let me tell you an extraordinary tale and ask you what you think about it.

On one of the national computer networks, a message writer recently told a story of incest. He wrote about it in an "adult" topic area, in which thousands of messages on dozens of sex-related subjects are posted each week.

The message writer was not the victim of incest; he was the instigator.

His message brought an onslaught of replies and comments from other users of the telecomm service. He made it clear that he was not seeking help. Rather, he was merely explaining why he thought his actions and philosophy were "right."

Most of those who usually banter back and forth in the adult topic areas told him that he was wrong. Some even said they would turn him in to the authorities.

That's where the story stands. I have no idea what has happened to the message writer. But I am disturbed about this.

I suppose I feel like I have been peeping into somebody else's private life, and I want to look away. I'm not the kind of citizen who turns others in.

But I understand the motives of those who want to call the cops. Incest, especially when it involves children, is clearly illegal and immoral. Children need defenders, and the only ones they have are adults who care.

What would you do? Looking up the full name and address of someone on the telecommunications services is fairly easy. Calling the cops is a little harder.

But the whole idea of "thought police" makes me worried, too. Wouldn't others who are actually seeking help for such problems be afraid to write about their experiences if they thought they'd be tracked down and arrested for expressing themselves?

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