Senators' Plan To Protect Kids Online: Massive Bureaucracy

from the just-what-we-needed dept

This year there have been tons of stories about attempts by politicians to put in place ridiculously bad laws, all in the name of protecting children. Many of these laws tend to pass, because no politician wants to vote against "protecting the children." However, these laws rarely do much to protect children -- they are simply designed for political purposes, to help politicians claim they're protecting the children in order to get votes. The latest case is no different. We've had a bunch of folks submit the story of John McCain and Chuck Schumer's silly bill to require sex offenders to register their email addresses, which seems to assume that people only have one email address. However, much more troublesome is another, less talked about, aspect of the bill, which would require any site that has user's post illegal images or videos to file a report with a government agency or face up to $300,000 in fines. Based on some readings of the bill, this would mean that if anyone happened to post a comment on your blog that included child pornography, not only would you have to delete it, but you would need to file a report about the incident. On the face of it, the reasoning makes sense. The government certainly would like to know the details of anyone posting child pornography in places. However, the reality suggests that this doesn't make the situation any better. It's just going to be a huge hassle for a lot of people who happen to have sites that allow comments. We get a ton of comment spam that some might consider crosses the line of what's appropriate. Are we going to need to file hundreds of these reports every day to remain in compliance with this law? Does that really help the government, or will it just overwhelm them with useless junk?

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  1. identicon
    Mark, 14 Dec 2006 @ 5:32pm

    Doesn't matter

    Even if this passes, it won't make a lick of difference. Which agency is going to step up and field all those reports? Is the FBI going to drop its investigations of real crimes so they can track down ne'er-do-well blog posters? The bill will pass amid a slew of patriotic flag-waving, and then it will hit with a thud and no one will ever do anything about it. Then, 50 years from now, someone will write one of those columns about weird laws that are still on the books and will mention this as one of them -- "Hey, did you know that every time someone posts something that might be illegal in an online forum you're supposed to file a report with the government? Who knew?!"

    One of the lesser-known bulwarks of democracy is indifference. Politicians didn't start being stupid recently; they've pretty much always had their share of morons. But when they do something that the rest of us find stupid, we ignore it. That's the way it's always been, and so it shall remain.

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