by Mike Masnick
Fri, Aug 3rd 2007 11:16am
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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