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Daily Democracy

Ryan Blethen discusses the press, media and democracy. Daily Democracy is part of the Democracy Papers, a series of articles, essays and editorial opinion examining threats to our freedoms of speech and the press.

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December 12, 2007 3:19 PM

Nanny state

Posted by Ryan Blethen

Harold Feld at Wetmachine has a good post on the SAFE Act, which was passed last week by Congress. The bill would force Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to keep tabs on who is downloading child pornography, and report offenders to the authorities.

My knee-jerk reaction is that this is a bad piece of legislation. Child pornography is not going to be stopped, let alone curtailed, by ISPs working as the eyes of government. WiFi is a powerful tool to get communities not served by broadband on the Internet. This disincentives can be used as another excuse by media conglomerates to avoid areas that are not demographically on the high-end.

Feld's post was helpful because this is an issue I have not been following. I agree with Feld's assessment that the Democratic leadership looks bad by pushing this bill through with parliamentary tricks. Feld, who works for the Media Access Project, raises some important questions about the effect the bill will have on WiFi, and certain communities. Feld writes:

Adding another expensive infrastructure change would be a serious killer. If that's the case, then many valuable projects that service thousands of women and children living in impoverished communities will lose their access. Ms. Pelosi and the luddites supporting this bill may not understand why this is important, but I would invite them to go to the neighborhoods serviced by these projects and tell the people living there that the lifeline they have to educational opportunities, medical resources, and hope for economic advancement is getting snuffed out because middle class white folks think it's worth it on the off chance it will prevent some child pornography trafficking. I'm sure that will be a big winner next November.

His post is lengthy, but worth the read.

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