Web site operators posting sexually explicit information must place official government warning labels on their pages or risk being imprisoned for up to five years, the Bush administration proposed Thursday.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales at an event in Alexandria, Va. stated the above as a law he proposes to help protect innocent people from accidentally stumbling upon pornography on the web.
Many thoughts came to mind while reading this article. One being “enough with the ACLU”. I do not see how they can interpret this as being against the First Amendment.
To make things clearer,
- the law looks to have the websites rate their material, as we see with television shows (TV14LV),
- not put obscene or indecent postings on their opening page, thereby protecting innocent users from seeing anything objectionable when/if they click on the link by accident,
- prevents websites from using deceptive words or images to lure people to their site (such as Barbie or Teletubbies) within their search codes.
I do not think this infringes on anyone’s First Amendment rights as some opponents claim.
A critic of the proposal said that its requirements amount to an unreasonable imposition on Americans’ rights to free expression.
They can express what they want, how they want it, they just have to alert the masses about the content. They are being told to abstain from posting any illicit items on its home page, so that if the visitor sees anything offendable, it is due to their continued curiosity by navigating further into the site. I don’t think this is seen as such an imposition. Why must there be people out there making things difficult just because they “feel it is their right to do so”. They are arguing for the sake of arguing and I have no patience or sympathy for their cause. Their focus should be protecting the innocent, especially children.
The one thing I see as being a little controversial is the mandatory records for Internet providers to keep track of their user’s history. However, we see that phone records are accessible with a search warrant when mandated, therefore why should the Internet be any different? I think legislators should tread carefully on this topic so as not to infringe on anyone’s rights, but I believe it is an important tool to help capture child predators. I don’t believe we should be looking at everyone’s use and history, just the ones that are red-flagged as abusers. The FBI and other law enforcements can use this to prove their case. Again, records are kept with phone conversations, therefore I do not see this as being an infringement on people’s rights.
Now, I would like to see this become law because as I stated above I don’t see any infringements to anyone’s rights. But the news agencies have a legitimate gripe. What happens when they are reporting about a rape, murder, etc? Do they have to label themselves with a higher rating? This is an interesting debate. One that caused a similar bill to dissipate in the 1990s.
I believe all websites should be rated, no matter the content. Use the same codes we use for TV and add additional ones for adult content. News groups can have their own rating with a disclaimer that states that some articles may be offensive to the readers. I think they should abide by the rules of not having anything objectionable on the first page. In this way, everyone can still access the news and they won’t be filtered out.
Websites selling bathing suits and underwear may have to adhere to a stricter rating as well due to US v. Knox stating that any picture depicting close-ups of clothed pubic areas to be considered lascivious. There is an exception whereby if the content is less than a certain percentage of the website, it does not have to be rated. Victoria Secrets will have a problem!
In conclusion, I wish to state that I am an advocate for this proposal. I hope to see this turned into law. I think this is the first step to protecting innocent people on the website, while not infringing on anyone’s rights for free speech. Labeling is done on records, movies, and TV shows, why shouldn’t we have a guideline for websites as well. We as consumers should demand it.