Q: Am I breaking the law by watching and/or downloading porn online?

With a few notable exceptions, possession of material which is offensive (as defined by your local community standards) is illegal in most places in the United States. If your community is Las Vegas, or Tahoe, Nevada, or even New York City, you have little to worry about. However, if you live in a conservative community, and the local authorities confiscate your computer for some other reason, you can technically be hit with a violation of local decency laws. Of course, few people are prosecuted for this activity. If you are watching porn online, or receive it through your cable or satellite TV provider, you are arguably not in “possession” of the illegal material. However, if minor children are involved, either viewing pornography with you (or if you consume pornography where they can see it), you are in very real danger of being prosecuted (and for good reason!). For these reasons, it is generally unwise to view or download porn on a shared computer, even in the privacy of your home. To be totally safe, Sir Rodney recommend you use a browser cleaner or manually clear your web cache after looking at online porn. Better yet, buy a copy of Evidence Eliminator.

Q: What are browser cleaners? Do they really work?

Browser cleaners are software applications that delete cookies, cache files, and the history log of your browser. Some offer additional pop-up ad blocking capabilities. Sir Rodney believes they may be worthwhile insurance that can contribute toward your peace of mind—especially if your computer may be used by other people. Sir Rodney has come across the following browser cleaner packages, although he has not yet had time to independently test the claims made by each:

Links to browser cleaners:

Q: Can I clear my web cache and cover my tracks manually?

Yes, it is possible to cover your tracks manually, although browser cleaner software can be set to do this automatically and may offer additional protection against the use of surveillance programs and forensic software upon your computer’s hard drive.

Assuming you’ve had your fill of perusing porn for the evening or have just been rudely interrupted by an inquisitive spouse, Sir Rodney will walk you through this do-it-yourself process. You may wish to practice at least several times in case you must do this quickly in an emergency situation!

Microsoft’s Internet Explorer now makes it quite easy to “cover you tracks” as it were. With your browser software open, click on Tools on the top menu. Under the Tools pull down menu, select Internet Options. Doing so will produce a pop-up screen.

Next, click on the tab marked General. In the middle you will find a section labeled ‘Temporary Internet files.’ There are two buttons you should click: ‘Delete Cookies’ (removes cookies that may have been placed by adult web sites onto your computer) and ‘Delete Files’ (removes cached or temporary files of the web pages you have visited).

Now, look toward the bottom of the General tab. You will see a section called ‘History.’ Click the button marked ‘Clear History.’ This will remove the record within the browser of your having visited naughty places online.

You should now have your tracks covered fairly effectively, unless your friends, family, or co-workers happen to be both nosey and very technically inclined. Now, wipe off your keyboard and monitor and as my dear grand-dad, Lord Rodney, would say “smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.”

Q: What qualifies as child pornography?

That’s a complicated question. Obviously, any material showing people under 18 actually engaged in sexual activity qualifies as child porn. Things get a bit fuzzy beyond that. The government has tried to treat content with performers who are 18+ (but posing as under 18) as child pornography, but nobody has yet been convicted. Nude photography of under 18 models may be legal, if it’s sufficiently artistic (the photographers David Hamilton and Lewis Carroll comes to mind). However, if the main purpose of the content appears to be inspire sexual arousal, a photo of an under 18 model might be considered child pornography even if the model is clothed. This is a complicated area of the law and Sir Rodney suggests that great caution is in order. Under no circumstances should you ever sign up for a membership for any site that purports to have content that might be interpreted as child pornography. Do you want to end up like Pete Townsend and find your picture in the paper when the authorities raid the site and find out who’s been buying memberships?

Q: What do I do if I stumble across child pornography?

First, ask yourself if you really “stumbled” across it. If you’re actively seeking out that kind of material, you’ve got a big problem and should immediately contact a reputable therapist before you ruin your life. Do you really want to end up in a cell with a big guy named “Bubba” who gets horny every morning? That likelihood aside, it is possible (especially if you dabble with “free” sites) to run across banners for sites that might qualify as child pornography. What to do? Some people (including one of Sir Rodney’s competitors) think that you should send an e-mail to the FBI, warning them about the site. In Sir Rodney’s view, such an action would be insanely stupid, unless you want to get on the FBI’s list of possible pedophiles. The only reasonable response, when you encounter anything on the Internet that you think may qualify as child porn, is to run a program, like Evidence Eliminator, which will scrub your system of all vestiges of your Web surfing activity. And then forget about it. Chances are, if it’s real kiddie porn, that the FBI already knows about it. (Believe it or not, they actually have Internet access and can click a mouse button as easily as you.) In fact, the FBI has even sponsored child porn sites in order to entrap offenders. Best to keep your distance from the entire situation.

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