For writing the worst story of my career.
The July 3, 1995, cover of Time Magazine featured, below the glowing face of an awe-struck child, a blaring, bold-type neologism that needed no explanation: “Cyberporn.” “A new study shows how pervasive and wild it really is,” read the cover line. “Can we protect our kids — and free speech?” The story cited a new study that made eye-catching claims: that nearly a million pornographic files were available through online bulletin-board services; that 83.5 percent of images stored there — available to anyone, including minors — were pornographic.
The story was a sensation, inspiring a “Nightline” feature and drawing the attention of politicians. The full text of the Time article was entered into the Congressional Record by Senator Chuck Grassley, who urged his colleagues to act “to help parents who are under assault in this day and age.” With strong bipartisan support, Congress soon passed the Communications Decency Act, as part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which broadly criminalized the transmission of “indecent” and “obscene” materials to underage internet users. (A Supreme Court ruling in 1997 essentially defanged it.)
Today the article has been disavowed by its writer, the veteran tech journalist Philip Elmer-DeWitt, as the worst of his career “by far.” The undergraduate engineering student who conducted the study, Marty Rimm, changed his name and went into hiding after his work was exposed by critics as profoundly flawed. It was, perhaps, the prototypical mainstream moral panic about the internet...
My take: For dredging up this dreadful memory, a link to Apple 3.0 would have been nice.