Meddling With The Internet: Eff Warns Against Juvenile Justice Bill

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has recently posted a warning on its Web site concerning the “bloated” Juvenile Justice Bill (H.R. 1501), which presently has four versions of the bill, passed in both houses of Congress in different versions, and is currently in conference committee (House version available on THOMAS).

The bill has a requirement that publicly-funded libraries (and schools) install Internet content filters on their computers to block access to illegal content (i.e. child porn, obscenity, etc.) for all users and to block legal but somewhat explicit content for children (“material harmful to minors”).

EFF says that “It is physically impossible for any software to block “illegal” content, since only a court can deem it illegal on a case-by-case basis. Filtering software is notoriously imprecise, and does not perform as advertised (or as believed by Congress) – it both fails to block a wide range of “obscene”, “indecent”, or “harmful-to-minors” [material], including a wide range of news coverage, political content, and health-related material, even sites that provide facts about filtering software in some cases. Much of this material is First Amendment protected, even for minors, making the bill unconstitutional.”

Institutions that do not comply with these requirements would be stripped of their “E-Rate” (Education Rate) funding (Sec. 1401). There are many other troubling sections of the proposed bill involving censorship in one form or another.

In addition, the EFF also notes that the Senate version of the Juvenile Justice bill contains a provision that will force large Internet service providers (ISPs) to give filtering software to their customers, free or at-cost.

EFF says in conclusion that the filtering provision makes no sense. [We agree -ed.]

Then, in addition, the Senate version adds “insult to injury” by further including a ban on online advertising or sale of firearms or explosives, and the provision to encourage the formation of an industry cartel to restrict access to constitutionally protected content (“violent” material”), depictions of illegal activity, etc.).

This is all very interesting from a global perspective when the U.S. is the world’s major weapons manufacturer and exporter under the same U.S. government’s blessing. [RSH]

COPYRIGHT 1999 Information Intelligence, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group

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