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Bloggers May Be Forced To Report Sex Offenders

Bloggers May Be Forced To Report Sex Offenders

Earlier this month, there was a bit of news that escaped our notice during the transition of ownership here. Senator John McCain introduced a new bill called “Stop The Online Exploitation of Our Children “. CNet reports that it defines previous legislation that was quite vague on as to who has the onus to report; no longer.

This bill clearly states that social networks in particular, such as YouTube and MySpace, now have a similar responsibilty as ISPs do in reporting content that is suspicious for child pornography.

But where does this leave bloggers? Well, they might be in the same boat, but for a different reason.

While I don’t think anyone would have a problem reporting anyone posting such eggregiously awful content as child porn in their comments, the proposed bill goes on a little further. Online sex offenders must register their names, email addresses, and handles they use online. And moreover, “Then, any social-networking site must take “effective measures” to remove any Web page that’s “associated” with a sex offender” or be found liable for violating this bill. How broadly is “social-networking” site defined?

A McCain aide, who did not want to be identified by name, said on Friday that the measure was targeted at any Web site that “you’d have to join up or become a member of to use.” No payment would be necessary to qualify, the aide added.

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Putting the onus on bloggers to police their own comments and forums for convicted sex offenders under this registry is a bit much. And ultimately futile. After all, the truly futile thing about the bill is how transient online identities are. Any individual with two brain cells to rub together can easily create new email addresses, new handles, and new profiles.

While any kind of legislation to protect children is an excellent first step, I think it behooves bloggers (particularly those who live in those jurisdictions where policy and legislation is proposed) to pay attention to this kind of news — not just because its the “right” thing, but because it may inform you of your legal obligations as well. And as a heads up to our blogger friends in the States — Senator McCain’s bill won’t be the first either.

View Comments (6)
  • Senator McCain’s good intentions may ending up screwing over the blogosphere again.

    Although I applaud someone taking serious action against sex offenders, I doubt this law will work because it requires that sex offenders:

    a) tell the government which “handles” they use online so that
    b) those handles can then delete their profile. Is it me, or does the honor system fail here.

    Plus, there is NO WAY I can know who is a sex offender based on comments alone for the simple fact that anyone can make up a user name, alias, etc.

    I can’t believe this guy is actually running for President again (or at least considering). Ironically I was hoping not to be involved in politics online for 2008 as it is a draining process. It looks like I may have drag out the old political blog again. Sigh.

  • Darnell, it would be great if you did. ;)

    I suspect that they’re hoping that a “penalty” system will scare sex offenders into doing it. On the other hand, if jail time and getting brutalized in prison isn’t a deterrent, I don’t see how MORE jail time will ever scare them into giving them a “real” email address (or one that doesn’t change).

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