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62% of Internet users are on porn sites, panel told

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Pornography on the Internet has emerged as a billion-dollar industry that is targeting children, according to testimony this past week before the state's Information Technology Commission.

"I don't think anybody is grasping the severity of the problem," said Patricia Adams, president of College Capital, an education-based Web site. "About 62 percent of users at any one time are on pornography sites."

Adams' testimony was part of an ongoing series of commission meetings to find ways to curb pornography.

Crafting legislation that would do that is proving difficult.

"Even though I'm appalled at it and I would like to see us stop it, I just don't know what you do," said Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City. "I'm not anxious to go out there and restrict the Internet in any way."

He said he doubts the commission will propose any legislation restricting pornography.

The money spent on Internet pornography worldwide is staggering, said Wyldn Pearson, chief technology officer for Satel, a Salt Lake-based technology consulting company.

According to Pearson, 100 new porn Web sites are added every week.

"As a 15-year veteran in the computer security and technology industry, I have watched the Internet pornography industry grow from nothing to the single highest-grossing industry on the Internet," he said.

It's an industry some analysts say generates $5 billion to $6 billion in annual sales.

John Harrington, chief executive officer of Snug Networks, a Salt Lake business providing secure Internet messaging services, showed commissioners how prolific pornography sites were by typing in certain key words in the Google search window. Within 0.37 seconds, 784,000 matches appeared.

"I can assure you that behind these links the first thing you will see when it pops up is stuff that is blatantly illegal in every state," Harrington said.

Some children are exposed to it by unsolicited e-mail, in which pornographic pictures are sent to personal accounts, Adams said, adding that 30 percent of unsolicited e-mails contain pornographic information.

"It's not a link to pornography, but when you open it up it has a picture," she said.

Last month the U.S. Attorney's Office in Utah said federal prosecutors were helping the state investigate spam e-mail porn but were far from filing charges or seeking indictments.

Part of the solution to blocking unsolicited e-mail may come through new technology one Draper-based company hopes to offer.

Scott Nelson, chief marketing officer for Cerberian, an Internet management service company, told the commission the filtering of pornographic e-mail in real time will be available later this year.

The company already offers Internet filtering and monitoring of Web sites through an outsourcing, subscription service that scans the context of words, so it can distinguish, for example, between a medical site and a pornography site.

Some products already exist that block e-mails after the initial opening. Cerberian's filtering technology will block the message before it's opened.

"It will be able to go into the e-mail and use the dynamic searches that they have to block it," said Kib Pearson, president of Satel.


E-mail: danderton@desnews.com