From the Ashes of COPA: Labeling and Registration
Operators of Web sites with racy content must label their sites and register in a national directory or be fined, according to a new U.S. Senate proposal that represents the latest effort among politicians to crack down on Internet sex.
The requirements appear in legislation announced Thursday by two Senate Democrats, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Max Baucus of Montana, that they say will “clean up the Internet for children.”
The proposal, which the senators describe as a discussion draft, relies on the idea of embedding a new tag–such as –in all Web pages that the government deems unsuitable for minors. Then future Web browsers used by minors could be configured to reject L18-labeled Web pages.
An earlier Web-labeling ideaThe Department of Justice during the Clinton administration proposed Web labeling, but a federal court took a dim view of it. Here’s an excerpt from the 1996 opinion.
The government’s tagging proposal would require all content providers that post arguably “indecent” material to review all of their online content, a task that would be extremely burdensome for organizations that provide large amounts of material online which cannot afford to pay a large staff to review all of that material. The Carnegie Library would be required to hire numerous additional employees to review its online files at an extremely high cost to its limited budget. The cost and effort would be substantial for the library and frequently prohibitive for others.
“We want to keep our kids safe when they’re on the Internet,” Baucus said in a statement. “Parents and teachers shouldn’t worry about their kids when they’re on the computer at home or in the classroom. This bill will help keep kids safe and give parents peace of mind.”
Web sites with “harmful to minors” content on pages that are initially viewable to visitors must use the tag to be devised by the U.S. Department of Commerce or face civil fines. Pryor’s office says the federal government would be able to “shut down” noncompliant sites, but that portion is not actually in the bill.
Another section of the Cyber Safety for Kids Act of 2007 would require the owner of any Web site with adult content on it to say so when registering the domain with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. The owner must also give ICANN the Web site’s Internet Protocol address and other information.
“The labeling part of it is going to be constitutionally problematic,” said Marv Johnson, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. “They are in essence requiring labels on this material. There are some cases that have talked about labels on movies, which is why that’s ‘voluntary’ rather than government-mandated. They’re going to have some problems with that.”
Hmmm. Interesting suggestion. Need to ponder this thoroughly… anyone have anything to say about it?
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