Towards a Nanny Internet

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Are we moving towards a Nanny Internet? Between network neutrality, laws requiring dating sites to perform background checks and ISPs to rat out their users, laws banning anonymous posting, and cyberbullying legislation, one might argue that the Nanny Internet is shaping up nicely. Or not.

Network neutrality is the idea that ISPs should be forced to charge everybody the same for their Internet use. That means that ISPs could not charge the enormous users of the their Internet access facilities differently than they charge the tiny user. It means they could not tell a large Internet advertiser to pay more for premium content delivery. So instead, they will need to amortize their operating costs against – you got it – their end users. Network neutrality legislation (and make no mistake about it, that is what this is about – passing a law forcing ISPs to charge everybody the same) is presented as “a nondiscrimination law.” Indeed, within the past year there have been at least three different Net Neutrality bills wending their way through the Federal system, all at once.

Then we have the laws that would ban anonymous forum posting, such as the anonymous forum posting law proposed in New Jersey. And, actually, it’s already a Federal crime to use the internet to “to post or email any comment, request, suggestion, proposal, image, or other communication which is obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, or indecent, with the intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass another person.” Married couples around the country violate this law on a daily basis.

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Towards a Nanny Internet

On top of this, we have laws in the works that would require online dating sites to perform background checks of their users, laws that would require ISPs to rat out their users by forwarding to a central agency any and all images – even drawings and cartoons – of children if the image could be considered inappropriate, even if the children don’t actually exist in real life, and laws that would make having unsecured wifi a crime.

Now we have several states looking at passing anti-cyber bullying legislation. Yes, you read that right.

Now, I’m the first one to say that bullying is completely wrong. It’s very wrong, and at school you can be suspended for it (although perhaps not often enough). But it’s not illegal. It’s not illegal on the playground; it’s not illegal in the locker room; it’s not illegal in the girls or boys bathroom. Why should it be illegal on the Internet?

Said Senator John Tassoni, who is pushing a cyber bullying law in his home state of Rhode Island, “The kids are forcing our hands to do something legislatively.”

Other states seem to agree. Arkansas recently passed a law requiring schools to address cyber bullying.

South Carolina has a law that also mandates that school districts address cyberbullying.

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Oregon is right now looking at a law requiring all school districts to put into place strict policies against cyber bullying.

Of course, cyberbullying does not primarily occur during school. At least, not if you are keeping children otherwise occupied.

But that isn’t stopping the legislators and states from passing laws attempting to further regulate Internet conduct.

Let’s see… network neutrality, laws requiring dating sites to perform background checks and ISPs to rat out their users and banning anonymous posting, and cyber bullying legislation.


Welcome to the era of the Nanny Internet.

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Towards a Nanny Internet

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5 Replies to “Towards a Nanny Internet”

  1. And what taxpayer funded persons are going to decide if a doodle is of a child, a midget, a gnome, an elf an alien or just imaginary? Or if a drawn child is 1 thru 15 y/o or above the age of consent. I still can’t get my head around that one. It’s just another road to stop the internet freedom of speech/press. The “powers that be” can’t tolerate the continued growth of this unrestrained candid monster. CilyPudi

  2. Greg, as a non-home-schooler I’m still against cyberbully laws. We’ve got to stop coddling our kids. Cyberbully laws won’t prevent bullies, but teaching our kids to ignore them will.

  3. The Jersey bill, A1327, which sough to make “certain operators of interactive computer services and Internet service providers liable to persons injured by false or defamatory messages posted on public forum websites” was Withdrawn from Consideration on 2/8/2007.

    Wee hah!

  4. Should we outlaw cyberbullying? You write from the POV of a mom who is home-schooling her pre-teen son. If your son was going to school and was at the age where cyberbullies tend to pounce, I believe you might see the issue differently.

    First, I know you’re liberal enough to be against the Bush regime using torture as an interrogation tool. Cyberbullying is a form of psychological torture. It is intended to harrass, humiliate, and distress the victim. It can cause depression, feelings of persecution and paranoia, and has led in some cases to suicide.

    Making the schools or cops nannies in this instance may not be the solution, but these cyberbullies are predators no less dangerous to a child’s emotional well being than sexual predators. Parents need tools to combat this.

    Instead of merely complaining about what you don’t like, why don’t you propose a workable system for combatting cyberbullying?

  5. “Network neutrality is the idea that ISPs should be forced to charge everybody the same for their Internet use.”

    What statement has anybody ever made that comes within 100 miles of that?

    Network neutrality is the idea that after ISP users have already paid for the ability to download content from the Internet, ISPs should not attempt to charge *publishers* on the other end, for publishing content over those wires. This essentially amounts to double-billing for the same service.

    Brad Templeton’s comments on his blog sum up the problem:
    Once again, the goal is to violate the contract. The pipes start off belonging to the ISPs but they sell them to their customers. The customers are buying their line to the middle, where they meet the line from the other user or site they want to talk to. The problem is generated because the carriers all price the lines at lower than they might have to charge if they were all fully saturated, since most users only make limited, partial use of the lines. When new apps increase the amount a typical user needs, it alters the economics of the ISP. They could deal with that by raising prices and really delivering the service they only pretend to sell, or by charging the other end, and breaking the cost contract. They’ve rattled sabres about doing the latter.

    Even your old colleage Paul Vixie wrote the same thing, and for once I agree with every word he said:

    Recently SBC (I mean AT&T, I think, is it Wednesday?) rattled its sabre and said that Google and other content supplying companies should be paying for the use of SBC’s backbone to reach SBC’s eyeballs. Most of us said, uh, what? “Aren’t SBC’s own customers paying SBC to carry that traffic?” Some of us even said “I am not an eyeball, I am a person!” But anyway, from time to time these Internet companies shut down interconnects in hopes of creating new cash flows among eachother, and until the government regulates this, we’re all at risk of higher prices or lower service with zero notice. Some well meaning democrats are trying to challenge this with “network neutrality” legislation, but this probably isn’t their year. Or their decade.

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