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.

Filed Under: fcc, for the children, legislation, senate

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  1. identicon
    lilyofthevalley, 5 Aug 2007 @ 1:57am

    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? can't go back and change old advertising, links shown on boxcovers, or news related articles in hard copy 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.

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