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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  1. icon
    John (profile), 3 Aug 2007 @ 3:14pm

    V-chip?

    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".

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