Justice Department Says Free Speech Not Stifled By Web Labeling Bill
from the first-amendment-interpretations dept
Earlier this year, when politicians were shoving each other aside to introduce legislation “for the children.” A popular bill was the one that would require websites with sexually explicit content to label themselves as such in some form or another. This idea is apparently so popular that, rather than a separate piece of legislation, it’s found itself as an amendment tacked on to various other laws, including the big telecom bill and a spending bill (the type no one ever votes down). Now, the Justice Department has weighed in on the issue — because requiring content providers to label themselves can be seen as a First Amendment violation. Not so, according to the Justice Department who says “this is not censorship.” Why not? Well, because they feel: “it’s not a major break with First Amendment principles.” Of course, they don’t really explain why — and just saying it doesn’t make it so. Plenty of others disagree, and note that this kind of legislation is quite problematic. The problem is pretty straightforward. Where is the line? What needs to be considered sexually explicit? What if it’s considered sexually explicit in the bible belt, but not on a coast? Who gets to decide? Considering how difficult people have agreeing on what is and is not objectionable content, this kind of law just opens up a huge potential mess of problems (not even getting into the fact that any borderline content will likely move to offshore servers). It’s one of these laws that will let politicians claim they’re doing something, while actually creating an even bigger mess.