Look, everyone wants to protect children, but you can't just throw out liberty and reasonableness to catch a handful of child abusers.
Millions of commercial Web sites and personal blogs would be required to report illegal images or videos posted by their users or pay fines of up to $300,000, if a new proposal in the U.S. Senate came into law.
The legislation, drafted by Sen. John McCain and obtained by CNET News.com, would also require Web sites that offer user profiles to delete pages posted by sex offenders. ...
After child pornography or some forms of "obscenity" are found and reported, the Web site must retain any "information relating to the facts or circumstances" of the incident for at least six months. Webmasters would be immune from civil and criminal liability if they followed the specified procedures exactly. ...
Internet service providers already must follow those reporting requirements. But McCain's proposal is liable to be controversial because it levies the same regulatory scheme--and even stiffer penalties--on even individual bloggers who offer discussion areas on their Web sites.
That's crazy. Since when is it fair to put an obligation on ordinary citizens to report crimes and to threaten them with jail and huge fines if they don't? I expect that most people wwill eagerly remove child pornography from their website if they find it, but who wants to face a $300,000 fine if they aren't quick enough to fill out a hoard of government forms?
Plus, where does this line of reasoning end? What other crimes will we be forced to report? Most people have other things to do than to bother about catching criminals and filling out forms for the bureaucracy... that's why we hire police officers. Will truck drivers have to report speeders? Will fraternities have to report underage drinking, or questionable sexual contact? Will businesses have to monitor their employees for tax fraud?
Protecting children from abusers is a job that belongs primarily to their parents, secondarily to the police, and only tangentially to society as a whole. Threatening webmasters with jail time won't win a lot of allies, no matter how good the cause is. This sort of legislation is particularly ridiculous considering all the "shield laws" that protect journalists from having to even testify about crimes, much less actively report them.
Plus, does anyone see a problem with the fact that teenagers are supposedly wise enough to get abortions without parental consent but are apparently not capable of deciding whether or not to pose for dirty pictures? Irrationality and inconsistency are signs of bad laws.