The Daily Caller

The Daily Caller
Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum smiles during an event at the Keene Public Library, Friday, Jan. 6, 2012, in Keene, N.H. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke) Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum smiles during an event at the Keene Public Library, Friday, Jan. 6, 2012, in Keene, N.H. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)  

‘Vigorous’ Santorum crackdown may catch Internet porn viewers with pants down

Internet pornography could conceivably become a thing of the past if Rick Santorum is elected president.

The unapologetic social conservative, currently in second place behind Mitt Romney for the GOP nomination, has promised to crack down on the distribution of pornography if elected.

Santorum says in a statement posted to his website, “The Obama Administration has turned a blind eye to those who wish to preserve our culture from the scourge of pornography and has refused to enforce obscenity laws.”

If elected, he promises to “vigorously” enforce laws that “prohibit distribution of hardcore (obscene) pornography on the Internet, on cable/satellite TV, on hotel/motel TV, in retail shops and through the mail or by common carrier.”

Although the idea of Santorum vanquishing Internet pornography may seem far-fetched, a serious effort to combat online smut might actually be successful, UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh told The Daily Caller.

“If the government wanted to aggressively move against Internet pornography, it could do so,” explained Volokh. “Here’s the deal: In most parts of the country, a lot of pornography on the Internet would plausibly be seen as obscene.” (RELATED: Full coverage of the Santorum campaign)

There are a few approaches that Santorum could pursue in an attempt to eradicate Internet pornography. “It wouldn’t be that difficult to close down a lot of the relatively visible websites that are used for the distribution of pornography, if they’re in the United States,” said Volokh.

Santorum’s administration could take American-based porn distributors to court for violating obscenity laws, said Volokh, and have them shuttered. But that would leave foreign-based sites untouched.

To black out foreign sites, Santorum would likely need legislative action requiring Internet service providers to use “a mandatory filter set up by the government or by the service providers,” said Volokh.

But the government could also prosecute individual citizens who view porn, and already has the legal authority to do it.

“Although the Supreme Court says private possession is constitutionally protected, it has said that private receipt of [pornography] is not protected,” noted Volokh. “You can’t prosecute them all … but you can find certain types of pornography that are sufficiently unpopular” for easy convictions, he explained.

Most contemporary prosecutions for the receipt of pornography are because the government cannot prove its suspicion that the accused has committed more serious crimes, said Volokh. He speculated that there aren’t more prosecutions because “that prosecutor isn’t going to win a lot of votes in the next election.”

The government would probably need to “find some extra money in the budget for additional porn prosecutors,” joked Volokh. He also cautioned that there would be significant outcry because “sometimes it’s viewed by husbands and wives who watch it to spice up their sex lives.”

Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, noted that “What constitutes obscenity remains maddeningly vague,” but added that he’s not entirely convinced Santorum would be successful in an attempt to snuf Internet porn.