The status of obscenity laws as society begins to operate at an increasing rate on the Internet presents an interesting debate as Internet crime law struggles to incorporate different standards from the world over. An item which violates obscenity laws even in the laws of one State in the United States of America may not rise to the level of violating obscenity in one of the other parts of the United States of America. This is to say nothing of the difficulty in adapting Internet crime laws to incorporate obscenity laws which had adapted from a variety of international cultural norms.
Before even considering whether or not obscenity laws have been in violation of Internet crime standards, it is possible to compare the differing obscenity laws which govern both traditional print media, as well as broadcast standards applied to other broadcast mediums, such as television and radio.
Obscenity laws in many European countries are less restrictive about the display of nudity on television, while the obscenity laws in the United States are extremely inflexible about nudity, or even partial exposure, on television. Internet crime standards have great strides that must be made until Internet crime standards can even consider adapting widely-accepted obscenity laws.
Obscenity laws, however, do not apply exclusively to sensational images, or the depiction of nudity, despite the understanding of obscenity as being primarily concerned with sexually concerned issues. Obscenity laws may also refer to literature which is intended to provoke a response. Obviously, what is inflammatory language in one country will be considered far from rising to the same standard in another culture.
In recent years, one of the primary countries in which obscenity law is applied to language and is concerned with inflammatory statements is in the country of China. The Chinese obscenity laws are sometimes referred to as censorship by observers in other countries, countries which have a greater degree of freedom of the press. Internet crime commentators have pointed out that the stringent censorship through obscenity laws in China was a primary motivation behind Google’s decision to withdraw from the developing Chinese market since, after filtering searches of the Internet, crime could be considered having been committed by Google if it did not strictly adhere to Chinese obscenity laws.
It is difficult to apply the standard of obscenity laws developed by the United States in the 1964 Supreme Court decision in Jacobellis v. Ohio, when Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said that it was difficult to define exactly what obscenity laws should ban, but that it was possible to know and identify obscenity when it is encountered. However, since obscenity laws are written to account for the particular standards of the community in which they are found, it is difficult if not impossible for Internet crime standards to develop a set of obscenity laws that could be widely agreed upon by all of the users of the Internet.