Insomnia (insomnia) wrote,
Insomnia
insomnia

John McCain wants to bust your blogs.

The legislation, drafted by Sen. John McCain, would require millions of commercial Web sites and personal blogs to report illegal images or videos posted by their users or pay fines of up to $300,000. These risks alone may be enough to encourage sites like LiveJournal/6A to either ban sex-oriented communities or journals, or possibly ban all minors from the site in order to avoid the costs involved in monitoring their own site. It could also force independent webloggers and community moderators to shut down their weblogs, communities, and personal sites, in order to avoid liability or possible prosecution.

The proposed legislation would require Web sites such as LiveJournal, MySpace, or pretty much any other commercial website that features user profile information to remove all sites created by former sex offenders.

Never mind the fact that plenty of those reported as sex offenders aren't really sex offenders at all. Some of them were minors who had sex with other minors. Some were 19-year-olds who dated -- and went on to marry -- 16-year-olds. Some of them had their place searched for other violations, only to end up busted for something as innocent as a Traci Lords video, or any one of the many former porn stars who were underage at the time of their careers. Some were framed by their spouses in messy divorce cases, in order to gain custody of the kids. In fact, these divorce-related accusations are so common that there are lawyers who specialize in them. And, well, some just made a stupid mistake and did their time.

Sex offenders are actually less likely than non-sex offenders to be rearrested for any offense, and only 5.3% of sex offenders are arrested for another sex crime after their discharge from prison... which is another way of saying that the exceedingly tough parole requirements given to child sex offenders unfairly punish 19 people who have done their time and learned their lesson, in order to try to discourage the behavior of one.

Despite this fact, the 19 out of 20 former sex offenders who aren't doing anything wrong will most likely find themselves unable to get general accounts on Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, or any other service that happens to also have at least one application that is geared towards community. They will be legally barred from creating email addresses outside of whichever email address they register with the authorities, and that email address will be flagged as being that of a registered sex offender, and, therefore, incapable of being used for online communities, services, etc.

Using such a definition, the very act of getting a job with an accompanying new email address, registering an internet domain name, or using numerous webservices that routinely protect the anonymity of ordinary users by providing anonymous email forwarding, could be a parole violation. In order to prevent these sorts of violations, ordinary users will be increasingly pressured to have their privacy and their rights to anonymous web and email usage curtailed.

Also, I don't see any guarantees in McCain's legislation that would prevent employers from screening their job applicants against the sex offender list, so getting a legitimate job after they get out of prison might be a great deal harder.

Lastly, though, it just doesn't work. Some of you who have registered an email address with a given service may have noticed in the past that there are numerous ways to send email to your account at email address variations that weren't obviously listed as being your email address, but which directly correspond and forward to your account. This is commonplace, and could be used by any registered sex offender to get around list-based screening of email addresses without specifically creating a new email address and violating their parole. The only way for lawmakers to prevent this from happening in the future will be to impinge upon your rights to privacy and anonymity on the internet... and many lawmakers will gladly use such an excuse to do this.

Really, what McCain is proposing is essentially a form of collective punishment, not only against those formerly accused of a sexual offense, but also against websites and their customers. It completely ignores the way websites, email, and the real world typically function.

Everyone gets it in the neck, and has their rights curtailed. Innocent people will have to waive their anonymity to use major websites, so that former sex offenders can supposedly be kept off the internet... which, of course, won't work.

So, love the Internet... tell McCain to stop proposing "feel good" draconian legislation on an industry that he doesn't understand the workings of, in ways that will have sweeping, draconian results.
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