Senate Proposes Giving The FCC Authority To Regulate Internet Content… For The Children

from the but,-of-course dept

Long ago politicians figured out that the way to get controversial or overly broad legislation through Congress was to simply say it’s to protect the children. No politician wants to see a commercial from opponents in their next election about how he or she voted against protecting the children. However, it’s for that reason that you should look extra carefully at such legislation, as it very rarely actually does much to protect any children, and quite often sneaks in things that are quite dangerous (not just to children). The Senate Commerce Committee has passed a bill, for the children of course, that would push the FCC to investigate next generation “v-chip” technology to allow parents to block their kids from seeing certain content. Now, it’s a noble idea — but in practice… it can be quite troublesome. As Sean Garrett highlights, the law actually is a backdoor way to allow the FCC to regulate online content. Right now, the FCC can only regulate content broadcast over the airwaves, though there have been some efforts underway to give them regulatory say over other content as well. However, doing that directly would be controversial, so this bill lets them sneak the FCC’s regulatory authority into the internet tent, for the sake of the children, of course. One section would require the FCC to look into new content controls for all “wired, wireless, and Internet platforms.” In other words, it would open the door to the FCC having some regulatory power over all forms of content. That’s well beyond the FCC’s charter and should be seen as quite problematic, especially since there’s a huge difference between broadcast content and communications. Unfortunately, this legislation seems to think that communications networks are no different than broadcast systems.

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Comments on “Senate Proposes Giving The FCC Authority To Regulate Internet Content… For The Children”

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Richard Ahlquist (profile) says:

No Effing Way

There is no way, this goes right along with the Communications Decency Act (as far as it being STUPID) and I will fight it tooth and nail. The same thing I said about the CDA in 1995/96 applies;

“Now some of you are saying “What of the Children??” I say..What happened to their parents? I’m not their child’s parent so why should I be striped of my rights to hold an adult discussion because someone’s parent refuses to supervise them online? Now some of you are saying “You cant watch a child 24 hours a day!”. Passwords are meant to keep people out, you the parent can inconvenience yourself on my behalf and that of the other citizens of the net who want their freedom back. Many probably think “The Internet should be for everyone!!” and you know you’re right! I agree wholeheartedly! Its the worlds best place for education and research! BUT remember Central Park in New York city is for everyone too, would you let you children wander there alone? How about Compton California? A swamp in a national park?

YOU took on an awesome responsibility by bringing life into this world, not I. If you cannot handle this responsibility then get help, but don’t you come into cyberspace and try to impose your reality here..Its a whole new world…Its Glorious, its beautiful, its fun, but beware, for there are monsters that lurk in the dark.”

I still stand by that and now I am the father of a 5yr old girl. Do not hide from knowledge.

Dawn D. Jenkins (user link) says:

Re: No Effing Way

I agree that our children need more Parental supervision when they are on the internet. One way to make sure of that is to put the computer in the room that gets the most traffic. In other words, take them out of the children’s bedrooms! I think the same thing should be done with the television. Only put them in public rooms. My own children are grown, but I may soon be a grandma, and this is the same advice I will give my kids. Parents are the key to this whole problem.

Overcast says:

Oh, just what we need. Less free speech.

Each day we seem to get a step closer and closer to a complete police state.

You think they’ll really regulate the smut online? Or will they squelch political dissent, prosecute ‘hackers’ and illegal file downloads?

I think it’s the latter, there will likely be even more smut online.

The easy answer has already been given – just limit porn to a .XXX domain suffix – makes it easier to find if you want it, and easier to block if you don’t.

Eric the Grey says:

Re: Re: Re:

It would be nice to see the additional TLDs put in place, but for some reason, the powers that be have chosen not to make use of them.

Perhaps we need a new HTML tab. Use standard movie ratings for each site, G, PG, X, etc. Browsers can be updated to automatically filter by rating, if available.

Trouble is, unless it is made mandatory and enforceable, it won’t work because too many sites either won’t use it, or will purposely put the wrong rating in place.


buckykat says:

children don't need quite so much protection as th

being 16, i have somewhat more immediate experience at being one of these children the government is trying to protect. they don’t seem to comprehend that children aren’t just passive things that need to be protected, but just people with less experience in life. the only thing they’re trying to protect is their outdated, arbitrary sense of morality.

Elohssa says:

Nuke the Children!

If they regulate U.S. sites, be they porn, gambling, or terrorist rant sites, the sites will quite simply move out of the U.S. It’s simply easier than staying, and it’s probably cheaper in a lot of cases anyhow, since our infrastructure sucks. Other counties gain the tax income, and “the children” aren’t protected from jack.

It’s a lose-lose, yet these 60 year old moralist clowns can’t grasp the concept. They think it’s safe, soft “for the kids” legislation, but it will ultimately ruin U.S. Internet development, and supercharge foreign competition in a young, still developing, GLOBAL market.

We need to remember this crap, for when we are the 60 year old moralist clowns running the show.

Gaas says:

.xxx is stupid

What will .xxx accomplish? Who will decide what is .xxx and what is not? What about the companies that already own .com URLs? Must they now give those up for .xxx?

I am also very disappointed by the democrat-run senate. I knew it would be trouble putting them back in power. They will not reverse any of the republican dumb ideas, but rather take those and make life even more miserable for us.

PTTG (user link) says:

he he

hem hem… he he… ha… ha ha Ha… Ha HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA! The US government thinks it can control the internet. They can’t even control a nation that they blasted back into the pre-stone age. Do they think that a few hundred old white guys who barely know how to type can beat a nation of 15 to 30 year olds who grew up on the net and are on their digital turf? That will be fun to watch!

John (profile) says:


Why should I use the v-chip in my TV to control what my children watch when it’s simplier to complain to my congressman and get offending shows like The Sopranos taken off the air.

Although that was meant as sarcasm, too many people think it’s the government’s responsibility to regulate everything.

Do these TV’s not have an on/ off switch? Why should I be penalized and forced to watch “family friendly” shows when a few, highly vocal, parents either can’t control their kids or can’t use controls already built into TV’s?

First, TV programs had a rating system so parents could decide what was appropriate “for the children”.
That didn’t work, so TV makers were forced to install v-chips in all TV’s made after a certain date “for the children”.

Now people want the same controls on the Internet? Aren’t these people using software like CyberNanny?
Those programs don’t work? Then why would FCC regulation work when companies stake their entire business on being able to filter out unwanted content?

And, of course, we’re back to the usual issue of who says what is “inappropriate”. Do we really need to bring up the endless stories about how filters block medical sites because the site mentions the word “breast”… as in “breast cancer”.

Overcast says:

What will .xxx accomplish? Who will decide what is .xxx and what is not? What about the companies that already own .com URLs? Must they now give those up for .xxx?

Would it matter? They could have first choice at – not losing anything, actually it seems they would be gaining, it would open up domain names already taken as .COM now too as well. I mean – so what if you have to give up for Hotbabes.XXX – did you really loose anything? People act like domain names are some kind of gold they’ve found, when they are simple entries in a DNS database.

Heck, even with just the simple availability of a whole new set of domains, the market would eventually move over to them. I would much rather see industry step up and take an initiative than for government to dictate more to us all.

After all, the dictate now who can and cannot be .EDU, .MIL, .GOV – if there are going to be ‘regulations’ at least give this industry a sensible ‘red light’ district for it. Why not – it’s regulated on Cable, in Stores, and the like as it is now! Don’t see why the same standards couldn’t just be applied. And rather than try to restrict various top level domain suffixes – just offer incentive to move there – like perhaps age verification services based on .XXX domain access. You could simply have users opt in or opt out at the ISP level and do away with MUCH liability.

I fail to see any problem with just making more available.

You would get new search engines tailored to the .XXX domain, more space for sites… everything. It’s like just adding another wing to the mall with specialty stores.

I’m not opposed to porn on the web at all, and more organization wouldn’t hurt.

It certainly beats more censorship.

brwyatt says:

Do your homework!

Net Nanny, Watchdog, CyberSeive, iProtectYou, as well as THOUSANDS of others. Heck, many OSs are beginning to have this ability built in! Vista, OSX, Linux all have some form in them (although I know Vista’s is limited, and I haven’t looked into OSX’s much and I’m assuming that Linux would have something).

Sooo…. tell me again how this would make any changes other than probably making it too easy to tap someone’s Internet, help the RIAA screw more people, or become like China or North Korea?

Joe says:

Parents need to do their job. Leave my tax $ out o

This is a bogus power grab by government again. I am all for protecting the children, so each parent needs to do their job and quit expecting the government to babysit for them. Be a parent and supervise them. Keep the computer in a common room not in the bedroom.
I already have protection here. All traffic must go through my caching proxy to hit the net. There is a whitelist of approved sites for the kids. They can not go anywhere else. Real simple really, and very low cost. Old 450mhz used hardware running Linux. Wow what a concept of using old hardware to keep it out of the landfill!
Running filtering on the machine to filter is a brain dead idea. Too easy to hack around it.

Lucretious (profile) says:

The second this thing is given serious consideration is the day I get into political protest.

And before any starts in with “Bush administration” rhetoric make sure you understand that this is something both parties have been guilty of supporting. Someone needs to get some balls, stand up and say “screw the children” or “its takes a village… slap your little snot-nosed brat in the mouth”.

lilyofthevalley says:

the adult industry and hollywood exemptions

The FCC does not have the right to regulate the internet…but I’m now waiting for that to change as well. *sigh* I’m not sure who is now going to have to take up the burden of filing suit against this newly proposed illegal measure.

I blame measures like this on the type of folks who, instead of seriously considering the full ramifications of what it means to be a parent in this day and age, would rather have a nanny state do their job for them or so they can sleep better at night because they feel they have done the right thing.

Although I’m not opposed to a .xxx being added as an option, not a directive, the notion that all current adult sites can just swap over to it is a lot more complex than it may seem. For those of you who think it’s such an easy swapover, if you knew anything about the adult industry, you’d know that many domain name extensions are owned by different companies (.com, .net, .biz, etc) and even .org with some lifestyle groups and educational minded adult focuses that have little to nothing to do with what triple x really stands for, hardcore porn, so then if we force them to use only the .xxx there will be lawsuits galore as to whom gets to use the .xxx version.

The other problem with the .xxx as many people have pointed out, is that who gets to decide what is triple x? It may seem clear cut, but I assure you as someone who works in the more cheesecake oriented side of adult (fully clothed fetish models not even touching each other or themselves, as one of my site’s examples), we still have to IRCA tag ourselves as mature/adult because the material is meant to stir an adult audience erotically. We still have to put up advisory pages warning minors and those who live in areas that cannot view any content intended for adults even if they are adults anyway. As another example of another one of my sites, even if the models are fully clothed (and I’m talking opaque full-coverage catsuits, not see through panties and a bra), if they so much as have a handkerchief gag in their mouths, we have to do a 2257 and keep all the indexing records that go along with it for them and anyone else who appears in the depiction due to the current wording of the 2257.

The last problem with this, is that once again, the more mainstream forms of media (Hollywood specificly comes to mind) will just file for an injunction (just like they did for the 2257 record keeping laws which they were of course granted). So while they don’t have to put a xxx extension on, say, the latest James Bond movie site that shows him naked, tied up to a chair and getting his cock and balls beaten, if an adult company that isn’t considered mainstream wants to show the same thing, that company will get pigeon-holed into that extension whether they want it or not.

And are they simply going to let companies that want to do the changeover not pay any fees for the paperwork/manpower involved? Of course not! They’ll still get charged because someone, somewhere is on the clock making sure all the backwork associated with such a change gets done. Because it’s not like those same politicians are going to suggest the taxpayers pick up the tab for such things. And who is going to pay for all the costs to those businesses for new screen costs on promotional items, the redesign for banner ads, time spent changing links on toplists, link exchanges, and the like? Also…you can’t go back and change old advertising, links shown on boxcovers, or news related articles in hard copy forms…so essentially you are changing your address with little recourse for folks who might be finding you via old material. Sure, the wiser ones might try the .xxx extension, but if you are one of those companies that had to fight for the domain name at that .xxx, what if you lost it to a larger company who had more money to continue the legal fight? Now how do those folks find you? Are you allowed to keep a pointer at your old address (and again, who pays for that “time lost” to the folks who sell domain names and any possible additional bandwidth?) And speaking of transitional time, what happens to those same-domain-different-extension sites while the lawsuits go on? Do they have to get taken down because they no longer comply by a certain date? Will the pointer sites themselves even be allowed to exist?

Not all adult businesses are these mega-corps that might feel a slight sting financially in matters like these. Most adult companies are run by one person, often a couple or a small group of friends, who simply cannot afford to stay in business when legislation like this comes down the wire. It’s why so many folded when the 2257 changes came into effect. Forcing the .xxx issue could have similar effect on the smaller adult businesses again.

One last thing to consider, will the US now attempt to force this measure on sites worldwide? They already have certain lawsuits pending due to international trade restrictions due to the 2257 compliance.

If you’re going to assume something, for the sake of us who will be affected, please don’t. Make informed statements or don’t bother piping in. It’s because of folks like you who assume what you do that we suffer over the dumbest of notions—especially those under the protect the children mantra. We already go to great lengths to do all we can to keep kids off of our sites. Just like boys who found (and are probably still finding) the Playboys tucked under Mom & Dad’s matress or stashed in the garage, there is only so much we, as the content providers, can be held accountable and responsible for, just as the parents themselves as responsible adults who enjoy erotica yet still chose to have children can only do so much to keep material like that from children.

Kids will forever be finding out about sex & erotica in its many inceptions for as long as kids exist. Many adults will forever be overprotecting them, instead of educating them to foster healthy feelings which will lead to sounds choices about it. There is no easy answer here as you just can’t please everyone all the time. But measures like the one proposed in this article are over-reaching (just as the notion to force all adult sites to be .xxx) and simply still will not solve the task at hand.

lilyofthevalley says:

One last thought on the .xxx

And if the mandate goes through that .xxx must be done, will there be a contingency made so that domainers (people who buy domain names in the hope that they will profit for the resale) cannot purchase those “mirror” domain names until such time as this whole thing is sorted out?

Enrico Suarve says:

Re: One last thought on the .xxx

And one other last thought – is the WTO going to force owners of other countries suffixes to obey?

i.e. you get rid of the boobies from .com and are still face with boobies on .be .de .fr .ch……

Or are you going to ban those from the US too?

Oh and what proportion of a breast qualifies for exclusion?

BTR1701 (profile) says:

FCC Regulation

The only reason the Supreme Court has allowed the FCC to regulate things like “decency” on broadcast airwaves is the notion that those airwaves/frequencies are scarce and are a public resource that needs to be managed, just like the national parks or something.

The Court has specifically stated that any attempt to impose the same type of content-based regulation on non-scarce, non-public resources (e.g., internet, cable TV)would be an unconsitutional violation of the 1st Amendment.

And whenever any politician utters the words “Protect the Children”, I reach for either my wallet or my gun because they’re about to try and take away either my money or my freedom.

Curtis (profile) says:

FCC nonfeasance

This lawsuit has demanded that the FCC start regulating the FCC as has ALWAYS been their statutory duty according to the Communications Act of 1934 on page eight in paragraph 51.

Curtis J Neeley Jr v. NameMedia Inc., et al,(10-6091)
Read it yourself from my evidence! Communications Act of 1934 page eight
or directly FROM the disobedient FCC=>[PDF] Communications Act of 1934: as ammended by Telecom Act of 1996

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