Senators Want Websites To Be Labeled; Will Senators Label Their Own Websites As Clueless?
from the been-there,-rejected-that dept
Well, here we go again. It seems we can't go a month without some politicians coming out with some legislation to "protect the children" -- even though the reality is that the laws proposed are likely to have the opposite impact. The latest is an old idea, brought back to life, that websites should be forced to label themselves if they have content that is "harmful to minors." Then, the theory goes, filters could look for those labels and block any such site. There are numerous problems with such a plan -- starting with the fact that it's simply not constitutional (regulating free speech and all), and an almost identical law was thrown out years back for exactly that reason. But, on a more practical level, the problem is much easier to understand: how do you define what is and is not "harmful to minors?" Remember a couple of weeks ago where YouTube declared some videos about self-examination for cancer were "explicit" materials? In fact, it's actually quite difficult to tell, and it depends on a variety of factors, from the location, how old the child is, what the community standards are and (most importantly) how the child has been raised by his or her parents. And, of course, that brings back the key issue: why isn't this something that is up to the parents? Also, of course, this law will only cover websites in the US, meaning that it won't actually "protect" children from sites made or hosted outside the US. And, even if they could somehow get others to adopt it, it might be worth reminding politicians that the internet remains quite global -- and, in other parts of the world, they may view things quite differently when it comes to determining what is "harmful" to minors. Part of the problem, though, is that politicians think they can just snap their fingers, announce a bill and that it will magically work. Instead, these things are a lot more complicated, but you don't win political points for "protecting the children" by admitting that there's no easy solution and that parents need to be a lot more involved in educating their children.