Communications Decency Act Madness
Was this really necessary?
I don’t know of anybody who is less technology-aware than a government. With one hand, they say to television manufacturers and television producers and stations, “Hey, we have a great idea – let’s ban violence from TV by giving the power to parents to be able to make choices they feel is right for their children.” Everybody says, “Great idea!” (well, not everybody, but enough), and boom, the “v-chip” is law. A simple computer chip will be placed into future TV sets which allow parents to “ban” certain programs from being watched by their children. Simple. Efficient. Do-able.
Now, elsewhere in the same exact bill the United States Congress, enjoying the paradoxes of government apparently, says, “Well, that’s all good and fine for TV, but what about this dang Internet thing, which is a world-wide computer network? Could we require a similar provision be incorporated into Web browsing software sold in the U.S. and then ask people to honor this feature on their Web pages?” Nah………. That would be easy and sensible.
Instead, the U.S. Congress, apparently delusional about its actual power and ability to control content on 21 million Web pages world-wide instead went with content-based banning of material. The same material found freely within your local public library. The same material protected by the U.S. Constitution. The same content that the courts have already ruled is impossible to ban (in most cases) in a publicized format (e.g.- Playboy) without allowing free access to the material to adults. Homer: DUH! Difficult to enforce. Stupid. Entirely un-doable.
So what went wrong here? Well, the same thing that went wrong that allowed another provision in the bill to make it through as well (which isn’t talked about as much in the press) — the banning of any information pertaining to abortions being displayed on-line. Huh? Good ole’ Henry Hyde, an old Republican from one of them mid-western states, got this one through. Has he lost his mind?? Apparently, the answer to this question, and the broader question of whether sanity exists anywhere within the U.S. Congress this week, is clearly NO.
While clearly all of these provisions will be struck down shortly in the courts as being too broad and meaningless (and the Justice Department of the U.S. has already agreed not to prosecute anybody on these laws for the time being), this should send a clear shiver up your back. Why? Well, under the law as passed and part of U.S. law today, support resources for almost any sexual abuse topic or survivors of rape and the like would be banned. Abortion information would be banned. Information vital to the well-being and support of millions of people across the world would be limited and severely affected. And as Dave Barry likes to say, “I am not making any of this up.”
Conservatives and those in the religious-right in America, along with their lobbying groups, are to blame for this crap. Send a clear message to your representative in Congress that you won’t stand for this censorship online. No one government can attempt to control the information flow on the entire Internet and if they try, they will quickly find out how powerful free information wants to be.
For more information about this topic, please consult the Electronic Freedom Foundation’s Page on this issue.