I’ve just GOT to QUIT reading the news. It is just too PAINFUL.
Congress targets social network sites, by Declan McCullagh
“When children leave the home and go to school or the public library
and have access to social-networking sites, we have reason to be
concerned,” Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick, a Pennsylvania Republican, told
CNET News.com in an interview.
Fitzpatrick and fellow Republicans, including House Speaker Dennis
Hastert, on Wednesday endorsed new legislation (click here for PDF)
that would cordon off access to commercial Web sites that let users
create public “Web pages or profiles” and also offer a discussion
board, chat room, or e-mail service.
This is so wrong and stupid and pointless and out of contact with
reality, I don’t even know where to start… I’m flabbergasted.
I could go on and on in great detail about the specifics of why this is
POINT ONE: wireless Internet access is sooner, rather than later, going
to be omnipresent; and an overwhelming majority of kids are going to
have devices that allow this. Many kids already have access to Instant
Messaging services via their cellphones (even low end phones often have
Yahoo Instant Messenger and/or AIM clients installed). This makes
location based restrictions of the type described essentially pointless.
This is going to become increasingly true, and the level of utility of
such access devices (and the software on them) is only going to increase
POINT TWO: the most essential features of today’s Internet are
interactive two-way communication and content creation… you want a
prominent example of the “unintended side effects” of this legislation?
Wikipedia. More or less THE definitive reference work on the
Internet. Anyone can sign up for an account, which provides access to an
internal messaging system, and the ability to create “web pages” and a
“profile”… is Rep. Fitzpatrick proposing that we ban young people and
teenagers from accessing Wikipedia?!?
The future of the Internet IS interactivity, virtual presence, public /
private spaces… lets set aside the practicality of implementation and
enforcement of a regime which bans young people from participation in
online communities and content creation vehicles… here’s a more
fundamental question: even if we could do it: should we? Take
every trend we see now, and project it twenty years into the future…
and then imagine the gap between the level of utility, and the quality
of the experience, provided to youth using a “crippled” interface, and
individuals with a fully functional one.
If you want a metaphor, think: Apple IIe vs. Windows XP Media Center
What kind of social and economic impact would this have on our nation’s
productivity, vs. that of other, less paranoid nations?
The only saving grace of the situation is the utter futility of
attempting to limited access in this fashion… but the results, for
those kids dependent on public resources, are going to be extremely
Side note: would someone PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE sponsor a survey of
American children under the age of 13 in order to determine how many of
them have an account on MySpace or similar services (Gaia Online,
NeoPets, etc.) … despite COPPA? Based on what I’ve seen, an
overwhelming majority of children in Middle or Junior High School with
access to a computer (or friends with such) have such accounts… and
every single one of them lies about their age, just enough to enable
them to access “advanced” features – AKA CHAT and MESSAGING!!! DOH!!!
Such a survey would provide definitive and devastating evidence of the
futility of measures of these sorts, and document the massive level of
informal civil disobedience being engaged in by American youth in
response to them.