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Only 1 percent of Web pages have porn?

Back in the early days of political flaps over the Internet and pornography, an undergraduate student at Carnegie Mellon University named Marty Rimm published what purported to be a breathtaking expose of pornography online.

Rimm's study was uncritically reported by Time magazine, which in turn was waved around on the floor of the U.S. Senate by proponents of Internet censorship. It became famous in part because of one key figure: 83.5 percent of images on Usenet discussion groups were pornographic.

Now a new study, performed by a statistician commissioned by the U.S. Justice Department, is reporting nearly the opposite result: that only about 1 percent of Web pages contain sexually explicit material.

That study was described in the San Jose Mercury News and was based on search data that Google was forced to turn over to the Feds earlier this year. (The Justice Department's initial request was far broader.)

The analysis was performed by Philip B. Stark, a professor of statistics at the University of California-Berkeley, and is part of the Justice Department's legal defense of the Child Online Protection Act. The ACLU has sued to overturn the law, and a trial is currently underway in federal district court in Philadelphia.

Somehow, though, it doesn't seem like the 1 percent figure is that shocking -- at least not enough by itself to convince a judge that a federal criminal law is necessary to stop Junior from stumbling across porn.