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 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
, 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
stupid but…
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
over time.
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.


  1. OK, just who are you, and why do you occasionally run through this reality-based blog, screaming, with your hair on fire?
    If you would READ the ARTICLE, it says that k-12 schools and libraries must take measures to block children from posting on social websites like MySpace. It does not block adults, in fact, the law specifically says that any blocking software MUST be removed for adult access, or for adult-supervised child access.
    So don’t start throwing around that “this is teh ENDD of teh INTARNET!!!111! OH NOES!!11!!” crap. There are already restrictions that prohibit children under the age of 13 from using certain internet sites without parental permission, and MySpace’s Terms of Service clearly state you must be 14 or older to use the site, this new proposal is just a way to enforce it on publicly funded internet access points like schools and libraries. This isn’t a call to eliminate access to sites like Wikipedia, and besides, even if it WAS, what would a 10 year old kid have to contribute to Wikipedia? You sound like a nutter when you rant about this.

  2. How do I stick a troll hat on a comment?
    For those of you who won’t bother reading the article, but will bother reading the comments, let me clarify:
    a) the proposal bans ACCESS to sites Wikipedia… a 10 year old might not have anything to CONTRIBUTE to Wikipedia, but they sure as heck have a reason to ACCESS and READ the contents of it
    b) if you can point to any statement in my post that even vaguely suggests that ADULTS might be blocked from access, I’d appreciate it, because I can’t seem to find one, and if there is any lack of clarity, I’d like to correct it
    c) this bill goes much further than any existing law in restricting access for TEENAGERS (15, 16, 17) to all sorts of sites and services – WHETHER OR NOT THE PARENTS HAVE ALREADY GIVEN PERMISSION for them to be accessed … restrictions which, as I point out, will be very easily bypassed via wireless Internet access devices (such as $35 cellphones)

  3. It is unfair to declare someone a troll just because they disagreed with your opinions. And it is quite clear, you have opinions, but they are quite dissociated from the actual facts of the bill in question. I’d put a Dunce Cap on you, because you claim to have read the article but you don’t understand the meaning. You are entitled to a different opinion but you are not entitled to a different set of facts. And the article clearly links to the bill in question.
    Declan Mccullagh’s article is wrong and you are wrong. The bill does not ban access by minors to social networking sites. It merely mandates that publicly funded schools and libraries install filters to prevent access without adult supervision. Go READ THE BILL.
    Shame on you for even giving the slightest credibility to Declan Mccullagh, the man who created the lie that Al Gore “invented the internet” and surely cost him enough votes to have stuck us with our current administration. You have been duped by a shoddy article filled with halftruths. In the future, please stop and think, and do some research, before running in here with your hair on fire.

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