It's clearly getting towards election season. Our federal government, rather than getting anything important done, is focused on passing all sorts of laws "for the children." No one wants to vote against any such bill, because opponents will use it against them in campaigns. Meanwhile, it always looks good for politicians to talk about protecting children -- even if (1) it does no such thing and (2) it takes away rights from adults as well. In Congress today, a ton of new legislation was suggested... all for the sake of "the children." To be fair, it was mostly a brainstorming session, rather than actual legislation, but it gives you an idea what they're thinking. Many of the proposals involve spying on people and/or restricting aspects of free speech. The problem with both proposals is obvious. While the politicians defend spying on people by noting that those who are involved in questionable activities have no right to privacy, they seem to forget all the privacy the rest of us are giving up for that cause. As for censoring sites (or having search engines, ISPs or some new "search and destroy bots" censor sites for the government) the problem is the same one as always: who determines what's acceptable content and what's not? If the content itself is illegal, then the proper course of action is to go after whoever put the content online. Just because that may be difficult is no excuse for asking others to get involved in mandatory blocking of content (especially when ISP-based blocks tend to have a lot of collateral damage on shared hosting servers). We won't either bother discussing the problems with banning links to certain sites, such as gambling sites. Keeping children safe is a noble goal. However, kneejerk plans to overly protect children at the expense of everyone else don't help very much. They don't go after the root of the problem, and they don't encourage parents to actually teach their kids right from wrong and how to deal with confusing or dangerous situations. Update: In related news, it looks like the Senate doesn't want to be left out in the hysteria. Various Senators seem to be shoving each other aside to put forth a plan requiring websites to label themselves if they have sexually explicit material. Of course, as has been covered numerous times by numerous courts, mandatory labeling of content tends not to pass the First Amendment test. Also, it leaves open a very big question about what exactly qualifies for the label.
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