Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

“If large numbers of people believe in freedom of speech, there will be freedom of speech even if the law forbids it. But if public opinion is sluggish, inconvenient minorities will be persecuted, even if laws exist to protect them.”     George Orwell

December 12, 2006

John McCain Wants To Regulate Blogs

by Doug Mataconis

Arizona Senator, and 2008 Presidential candidate, John McCain has proposed extending federal obscenity laws to require extensive reporting and regulation by social networking sites and blogs:

Millions of commercial Web sites and personal blogs would be required to report illegal images or videos posted by their users or pay fines of up to $300,000, if a new proposal in the U.S. Senate came into law.

The legislation, drafted by Sen. John McCain and obtained by CNET News.com, would also require Web sites that offer user profiles to delete pages posted by sex offenders.

In a speech on the Senate floor Wednesday, the Arizona Republican and former presidential candidate warned that “technology has contributed to the greater distribution and availability, and, some believe, desire for child pornography.” McCain scored 31 of 100 points on a News.com 2006 election guide scoring technology-related votes.

(…)

Internet service providers already must follow those reporting requirements. But McCain’s proposal is liable to be controversial because it levies the same regulatory scheme–and even stiffer penalties–on even individual bloggers who offer discussion areas on their Web sites.

In addition to turning every blogger and web site operator who hosts any kind of a public discussion area into, effectively, an agent of the police, McCain’s legislation would also have a significant impact on social networking sites:

The other section of McCain’s legislation targets convicted sex offenders. It would create a federal registry of “any e-mail address, instant-message address, or other similar Internet identifier” they use, and punish sex offenders with up to 10 years in prison if they don’t supply it.

Then, any social-networking site must take “effective measures” to remove any Web page that’s “associated” with a sex offender.

Because “social-networking site” isn’t defined, it could encompass far more than just MySpace.com, Friendster and similar sites. The list could include: Slashdot, which permits public profiles; Amazon.com, which permits author profiles and personal lists; and blogs like RedState.com that show public profiles. In addition, media companies like News.com publisher CNET Networks permit users to create profiles of favorite games, gadgets and music.

What would happen if this law is passed and upheld in Court, of course, is easy to predict. Unfettered public discussion forums would, largely, become a thing of the past as most web site operators will not want to invest either the time or the resources into policing every conversation that takes place. Debate and discussion will be limited. All of which argues quite strongly that these regulations would violate the First Amendment.

All of this is being done, of course, to “protect the children.” The problem is there’s no evidence I’m aware of that children are being victimized by people who post comments on blogs.

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9 Comments

  1. John McCain’s entire political career is based on the principle of silencing as much speech as possible. That was the reason behind campaign finance restrictions and that is the reason behind this obsenity law.

    Comment by Kevin — December 12, 2006 @ 9:07 am
  2. No apologist for McCain am I, but Declan McCullagh has a proven track record of distorting the provisions of legislative proposals.

    McCain specifically referred to child pornography, which enjoys zero First Amendment protection. McCullagh suddenly substitutes the term “obscenity,” which is an entirely different legal term of art and which enjoys some First Amendment protection, including the right of possession. (“Obscenity,” incidentally, is not just “naughty pictures,” but hard-core XXX material.)

    So McCain gets a thumbs down, but so does McCullagh for yet more sloppy journalism.

    Comment by KipEsquire — December 12, 2006 @ 10:20 am
  3. Kip,

    Regardless of the legal status of child porn itself, there is an issue about whether the burden that McCain’s proposed law would impose is reasonable under the circumstances and the impact it would have on otherwise protected speech.

    Also, to listen to McCain, you’d think this was a widespread problem. According to things I’ve read, the actual amount of child porn or other illegal material available on the internet is relatively small.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — December 12, 2006 @ 10:38 am
  4. Kip, point taken on the specifics…

    But I find this another reason to dislike McCain. He does not believe in free speech. He is simply an authoritarian for “conservative values”, rather than a true lover of freedom. Count me in with Kevin on this one, things like this add to the reasons I’ve already decided that I will not vote for him in ’08.

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — December 12, 2006 @ 10:39 am
  5. [...] (HT:The Liberty Papers) [...]

    Pingback by Think Progress » John McCain’s War on Blogs — December 13, 2006 @ 3:11 pm
  6. [...] McCain quiere que los propietarios de un blog sean responsables por todo cuanto se diga o se enseñe en los comentarios de los mismos y en los perfiles de sus usuarios. Dice la propuesta que los sitios web comerciales y los blogs personales tendrán que informar de imágenes o videos ilegales puestos por sus usuarios o pagar multas de hasta $300.000. [...]

    Pingback by A John McCain no le gustan blogs | Mentiras Piadosas — December 14, 2006 @ 12:57 am
  7. Instead of quibbling, people should look at the facts: we’ve lost our right to free speech. This freedom no longer exists, if legislature like this is being presented in Congress.

    This is wrong. I, for one, am standing up for my rights as a writer and citizen of these United States, to have freedom of speech. If and when it comes down to it, I will defend my rights as a citizen of this, my once beloved country, to say what and how I feel.

    I will continue to blog proudly.

    Comment by blubeagle — December 14, 2006 @ 11:27 am
  8. [...] (HT:The Liberty Papers) [...]

    Pingback by info-overload.net » Blog Archive » John McCain’s War On Blogs — December 14, 2006 @ 6:44 pm
  9. No way in hell will trolls ever be stopped.

    Comment by snoopdog troll — December 16, 2006 @ 3:13 pm

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