For while he almost had me with his maverick attitude and independent slant. His talk about compromise and ethics reforms. His sudden decision to speak at Bob Jones University without holding to his earlier pledge to tell off the racists running the place was, well, disheartening. Now he has decided to push for a ridiculous legislation that essentially bans sex offenders from using any website that requires registration, including blogs, chat rooms, social networking sites, product review sites, e-Commerce sites, etc. and potentially levies 6 figure fines against individuals who don’t police their blogs’ comments tightly enough or turn in people who post offensive material in comments.
Of course if the the thousands of items of comment spam we get on this blog are any indication there is a hell of a lot of effort going into advertising porn sites on blogs, forums, and chat rooms against the operators wishes. And even a diligent moderator can only catch so much. So I guess limiting the fine to “not more than $150,000” for the first time you fail to delete something fast enough for the government censors and turn over diligent records of the offense is pretty reasonable. How are we supposed to keep track of everything that goes over the tubes of the Interweb? The response may sadly be to stop allowing people to participate on your site, effectively stunting free speech to head of potentially crushing fines.
I haven’t launched into my full rant on the problems with sex offender registries and related legislation, such as failing to adequately distinguish between a 16 year old that got caught having sex with their 15 year old girlfriend or a 13 year old girl being both the perpetrator and victim in the same act and a true violent pedophile. Legislation like this is made so that politicians can brag about fighting child pornography and pedophiles. Everyone hates kiddie porn and pedophiles so they can’t lose. It’s like running for office on my favorite pro-kids, puppies, and apple pie platform – everyone loves children, puppies, and apple pie. Just like the flag burning amendment and anti-gay marriage laws the politicians are pandering to fear and emotion and passing easy laws instead of dealing with tough real problems like Social Security reform, the war in Iraq, or our draconian, labyrinthine tax code.
This law places a ridiculous burden on site operators, particularly since it appears to apply equally to Amazon.com, a 14 year old kid with a Live Journal account, and my Dad’s blogger account. This bill will have little to no effect on child pornography or pedophiles, but has the potential to catch innocent site owners with massive fines that could ruin them, all at the discretion of prosecutors who have every incentive to make a name for themselves fighting kiddie porn and pedophiles and none at all to handle situations like this reasonably.
Anyone running a business whose web site requires registration or an individual with a personal blog or who happens to like free speech and open dialog on the internet should fight this bill that will hurt business and individuals and do nothing to actually protect children. I’m all for protecting children from pedophiles (lock them up and throw away the key) and real child porn is terrible, but the way to handle it through traditional legal channels, not by deputizing everyone with a web site as a government censor, and most of all by teaching parents and children how to be safe and avoid predators both online and offline. There’s a lot to be said for a parent sitting down with a kid at the computer, teaching them how to be safe, and making sure they know where their kids are and who they are with when they leave home.