Senate Bill 49 – Protecting children in the 21st Century Act

So after Danah Boyd’s post, I thought it only prudent to take a look at the actual text of Senator Ted Stevens’ proposed bill. Now granted, this bill is being proposed by a Senator who after the last election is now in the minority party and the likelihood of this bill passing is small but it still bears our attention.

The problem I see with this bill, as with many bills proposed by either party, is that on the surface it appears to address a certain obvious problem. In this case, the general theme is that we are trying to protect our children from digital predators, unscrupulous marketing agencies, oh yes, and themselves. It sends the message, what sort of person would NOT want to protect our children? And places those who oppose the bill’s other tenets in a very uncomfortable position. The question is, what is the unspoken intent and resultant fall-out of this bill should it become law?

Back to our examination…

Title I–Protecting children lists as its primary aim, “To stop the video transmission of child pornography in video format.”

This section appears to focus primarily upon video rental agencies. It amends the language in the Communications Act of 1934 and essentially increases fines associated with violations. It also orders the removal of explicit material from the home page of any site (which assumes that the site has a redirect to the home page and that searchers aren’t going directly to an internal page).

Title II–Deleting Online Predators intends to develop Internet education and awareness programs for children whilst protecting them by including “protections against commercial social networking websites and chat rooms.”

This section operates on three assumptions, entitled “Findings.”

  1. Sexual predators approach minors on the Internet using chat rooms and social networking websites.
  2. Sexual predators can use these chat rooms and websites to locate, learn about, befriend, and eventually prey on children by engaging them in sexually explicit conversations, asking for photographs, and attempting to lure children into a face to face meeting.
  3. With the explosive growth of trendy chat rooms and social networking websites, it is becoming more and more difficult to monitor and protect minors from those with devious intentions, particularly when children are away from parental supervision.

This section appears to address specifically schools and libraries as it replaces existing language and mandates

“enforcing a policy of Internet safety for minors that prevents cyberbullying and includes monitoring the online activities of minors and the operation of a technology protection measure with respect to any of its computers with Internet access that–
(I) protects against access through such computers to visual depictions that are–
 (aa) obscene;
 (bb) child pornography; or
 (cc) harmful to minors; and
(II) protects against access to a commercial social networking website or chat room unless used for an educational purpose with adult supervision

This section also discusses regulating “Commercial social networking websites” and chat rooms by adding the following to existing law.

(J) COMMERCIAL SOCIAL NETWORKING WEBSITES; CHAT ROOMS
Within 120 days after the date of enactment of the Deleting Online
Predators Act of 2006, the Commission shall by rule define the terms
`social networking website’ and `chat room’ for purposes of this
subsection. In determining the definition of a social networking website, the Commission shall take into consideration the extent to which a website–
    (i) is offered by a commercial entity;
    (ii) permits registered users to create an on-line profile that
includes detailed personal information;
    (iii) permits registered users to create an on-line journal and share
such a journal with other users;
    (iv) elicits highly-personalized information from users; and
    (v) enables communication among users.’.

Yet this section kindly allows for the disabling of this restriction during “adult or educational use.”

Title II also directs the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to:

  1. Issue a consumer alert regarding the potential dangers to children of Internet child predators, including the potential danger of commercial social networking websites and chat rooms through which personal information about child users of such websites may be accessed by child predators; and
  2. Establish a website to serve as a resource for information for parents, teachers and school administrators, and others regarding the potential dangers posed by the use of the Internet by children, including information about commercial social networking websites and chat rooms through which personal information about child users of such websites may be accessed by child predators.

Yet notice that the definitions of social networking website and chat room are not defined as are the other gray areas in this bill. If this bill is passed, how broad a stroke could be applied to such definitions?

Title III–Children’s Listbroker Privacy intentds to ensure that the “sale or purchase” of personal and private information pertaining to minors is restricted.

This section makes it unlawful:

  1. to sell personal information about an individual the seller knows to be a child;
  2. to purchase personal information about an individual identified by the seller as a child, for the purpose of marketing to that child; or
  3. for a person who has provided a certification to engage in any practice that violates the terms of the certification.

With two exceptions, parental consent and “certification” which seems to be a rather large loophole:

(2) CERTIFICATION- Subsection (a)(1) shall not apply to the sale of personal information about a child if the purchaser certifies to the seller, electronically or in writing, before the sale is completed–
(A) the purpose for which the information will be used by the purchaser; and
(B) that the purchaser will neither–
    (i) use the information for marketing that child; nor
    (ii) permit the information to be used by others for the purpose of
marketing to that child.

It is expected that this will be enforced by the FTC and potentially by the Federal Reserve System, the FDIC, and a number of other federal organizations.
The one part I don’t entirely understand is Sec. 304. Actions By States. It sounds as if the Attorney General of any state may bring civil action in order to enforce this law (if passed) but there may be other allowances.

[tags] dopa, s49, senate, legislation, tedstevens [/tags]

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