Thursday, September 21, 2006

Same Old Same Old

Today we were treated to the sixth hearing from the House Energy and Commerce committee about child pornography and the Internet. One might think that the Internet's only function is to foster illegal activities by pornographers and terrorists, based on the agenda of Congress, and that the failed energy policy of the nation is hardly a concern to lawmakers. Congressman Mike Ferguson of New Jersey, the author of this Internet Safety Guide, also brought up illegal music and piracy in his opening remarks, as areas of related concern that he was eager for the committee to address (thus implying -- yet again -- that pro-corporate Intellectual Property regulation is analogous to policing clearly reprehensible behavior like child endangerment).

Justifiably illegal exploitative pornography continues to be a hot topic in both houses. On the 19th, the Senate held a hearing on Online Child Pornography with many of the same witnesses who have been testifying in the House. Of course, the Chair of that committee, the much lampooned Senator Ted Stevens, is still claiming that, according to polls, Americans don't want "onerous" network neutrality, so Stevens may have incentive to keep the population distracted, especially when Senator Kennedy is posting oppositional YouTube videos.

What is important about today's testimony on Deleting Commercial Child Pornography Sites on the Hill is that it also focused on financial data and credit card transactions, which could also be surveiled among the law-abiding population. Specifically, lawmakers were eager to regulate "digital currency" on the grounds of this "daily threat to our children." Otherwise the testimony was relatively predictable. The planned appearance of a shadowy "John Doe" in Federal prison for processing kiddie porn finances, which would have added more drama to the proceedings, didn't actually take place.

Although he supported the position of law enforcement, I was impressed by the still courageous stand taken by Congressman Bart Stupak of Michigan against "empty political gestures" and legislation limiting access by schools and libraries that is being "rushed" through the house. In an atmosphere of "government by acclamation" few are willing to defend digital rights or to look back at legislation -- like DOPA -- that harms the information literacy of young people while claiming to be protecting them.

Amazingly, there are two more hearings on the subject before the Energy and Commerce Committee scheduled for next week, one on the "Face of a Child Predator" and a follow-up on the Masha Allen case, which will bring the tally to a counterintuitive total of eight. The committee will also be busy with more "child-safe" media regulation, since there is a hearing on "Editing Hollywood’s Editors: Cleaning Flicks for Families" planned. Somehow, I suspect that film-maker Kirby Dick won't be invited to attend.



Anonymous Trottintoes said...

I think it's great that there is so much legislation going about the epidemic of online child pornography-- while there are issues at stake concerning net neutrality, I think all in all, these measures are undeniably needed to curb these practices.

You hear everyday about a child becoming a victim so I think it's great-- I also tell people to report this type of behavior to Cybertipline, which is a great resource

12:49 PM  
Blogger Liz Losh said...

The victimization of children is certainly a matter in which government must be involved. As a parent myself, I understand your concerns.

My problem with these hearings is that they are pretty much the only legislative discussions on Internet policy that take place on Capitol Hill. I monitor the Congressional testimony schedule on a daily basis, and it's only grandstanding about terrorists and child molesters that I've been seeing, for weeks and even months at a time!

Virtualpolitik is not selective. I try to cover all the relevant rhetoric in public hearings about the Internet and digital media, and this is really all that comes up over and over, day after day.

3:35 PM  
Blogger bob c said...

i am encouraged by the talk on the hill, but action on more fronts that also impact us is needed.i hope i gave my children the tools they will need to combat such dangers. thanks for watching out for us.

7:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Masha Allen is even more victimized now. First by Mancuso and now by the child welfare system with placed her with her "forever mom" Faith Allen. Why would a judge named Cheryl Allen, sitting in the criminal court, place an abused and exploited child with her roomate and namesake? A woman who had changed her name and was a resident of a drug and alcohol treatment center? Inquiring minds want to know?

3:05 PM  
Blogger Liz Losh said...

I can't really speak to the details of a child custody arrangement, which I know from my background in social services can be complicated by a number of factors. My only area of expertise would be the perversity of making a file-sharing connection, which appears to be strangely attached to her unhappy case.

2:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Liz, what do you think about this? How about a book review?

2:11 PM  

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