Friday, May 12, 2006

The second front in the war

I have been one of many making as big a stink as I can about net neutrality and the dangers posed by the Big Telco push to kill it. I'd like to think that their pwer grab got a little harder yesterday, though it is too early to really tell.

But today there is whole new angle on the war against blogs.

Congress targets social network sites | CNET
MySpace and other social-networking sites like and Facebook are the potential targets for a proposed federal law that would effectively require most schools and libraries to render those Web sites inaccessible to minors, an age group that includes some of the category's most ardent users.

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.

That's a broad category that covers far more than social-networking sites such as Friendster and Google's It would also sweep in a wide range of interactive Web sites and services, including, AOL and Yahoo's instant-messaging features, and Microsoft's Xbox 360, which permits in-game chat.
The explicit causus belli is the pedophile risk. At the risk of offending the intelligence of readers who have some, I must point out that I am of course not defending those who prey on minors, on-line or otherwise. But this is a complete red herring. The whole den-of-iniquity rap against MySpace is apparently nonsense. And any teenager worth his salt will be able to defeat these firewalls without breaking a sweat.

Call me paranoid if you must (in this context, it is now just a synonym for "prescient"), but I think what really scares these Luddites is particpatory democracy. Kids who grow up blogging and creating their own stuff on the Web are more likely to think for themselves. That is the danger that folks like Fitzpatrick and Hastert really want to guard against.


Blogger Eric Soderstrom said...

I joined myspace for the sake of an upcoming high school reunion. But I don't do much there. There's a link to my Blogger blog.

Having spent a little time exploring, it looks to me that it is less about politics and alternative viewpoints and more like the Information Age version of passing notes in class, decorating your binder, having social cliques (will you accept me as you friend?), and the kind of music you listen to. It's a place to manage and present the image you think you want others to have of you within the constraints of the system itself and your ability to use 3rd party "pimp" tools.

Oh, and boobies. Lots of boobies. Maybe that's why they don't like it. The boobies.

5:09 PM  
Blogger bluememe said...

I have no personal knowledge of this of course, but I've been told that there are boobies on pre-MySpace sites, too. The porn aspect just doesn't make sense as a discriminator here.

And the note-pssing aspect just doesn't seem like the kind of thing that requires federal litigation, either.

I stand by my assertion -- it is participatory politics that scares them, and a participatory Internet starts the younguns down the slippery slope.

6:49 PM  

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