Citation: Mitchell, Kimberly et al. “The Exposure of Youth to Unwanted Sexual Material on the Internet: A National Survey of Risk, Impact and Prevention.” Youth and Society. Vol. 34 No. 3, March 2003: 330-358. Accessed 6 April 2009. .
The authors of the study gave a survey to 1,501 Internet-users between the ages of 10 and 17, asking them about their inadvertent exposure to sexually explicit content while online. The results found that 25 % of those polled unintentionally encountered sexually explicit material while on the Internet. The people who discovered sexual content tended to be heavy Internet users and were older teens. About one-fifth of those who accidentally viewed the content were embarrassed and very or extremely upset by it. The minors whose parents had put filtering software on their computers were 40 % less likely to have been exposed to unwanted sexual material. However, most parents did not install filtering softwares on computers. Other forms of parental control, such as restricting the amount time their children could spend on the Internet, did not reduce chance of exposure.
This study is significant to my paper for a few reasons. Firstly, the experiment established that children are inadvertently exposed to sexual content, and that this exposure can cause harm. Knowing that sexual material on the Internet is a problem establishes a greater need for remedies to the situation. Additionally, this study is important because it measures the effectiveness of different types of controls on preventing youth exposure to sexually explicit material in a relatively scientific manner. Since filtering was determined to be more effective than parental restrictions, yet was not perfect at preventing exposure to the content, perhaps resources should be devoted to improving filtering softwares and persuading parents to install filtering programs on their children’s computers. The authors noted that a problem with the study could be that adolescents who have filtering softwares on their computers happen to be more likely to use the web in ways that would shield them from exposure to sexual content, and not the other way around. If this is the case, perhaps the best way to protect minors from harmful content is to educate them better about smart Internet use.
Citation: Reno v. ACLU 117 S.Ct. 2329. 1997. Cornell Law School. 4 April 2009. <ttp://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/96-511.ZO.html>.
This source is a Supreme Court decision that curtailed the federal government's ability to prohibit that could be harmful for children. The laws in question were provisions of section 223 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 that prohibit knowingly transmitting "indecent" and "patently offensive" material on the Web to minors. The Supreme Court ruled that these provisions were unconstitutional, and upheld the ruling of a lower court, because they violated the first and fifth amendments of the Constitution. The court believed the terms "indecent" and "patently offensive" were too broad, and could restrict content that is actually not harmful. Additionally, the provisions were struck down because the court felt there was no good way to specifically target and identify Internet users under the age of 18, making this law difficult to violate or enforce. The portions of the law that prohibited knowingly transmitting obscene materials and child pornography to minors were upheld, because obscene content warrants less free-speech protection than indecent content. In the decision, written by Justice Stevens and agreed to by a large majority of the justices, there was also an overview of the history of the Internet and an explanation as to why cases upholding government laws monitoring commercial interests to protect children did not apply to this case.
Reno v. ACLU relates to my paper because it is a court case imporatnt to the ongoing battle to determine how best to protect children from harmful content online. If free speech bars the government from protecting children from certain types of potentially harmful content, then government regulation is not going to be the only solution needed to help shield children. However, since the government can pass laws regulating obscenity and child pornography, this case does demonstrate that there is a place where government regulation could potentially be helpful and useful. Stevens' decision would support my thesis, because the difficulty he acknowledges in detecting the age of Internet users makes it difficult for any organization to properly filter content. In order for children to be protected from some content, there will need to be intrinsic motivation for indecent websites to self-regulate and to try not to reach children.
Citation: Majoras, Deborah Platt. “Rights and Responsibility: Protecting Children in a Web 2.0 World.” Keynote Address at Family Online Safety Institute. 6 December 2007. Federal Trade Commission. 6 April 2009. http://ftc.gov/speeches/majoras/071206fosi.pdf.
This document is the copy of a speech made by the Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission describing methods used to protect children from dangers lurking online, including harmful content, cyber bullying, and privacy invasion. After describing the media use of children and some of the dangers they face online, Majoras summarizes the law enforcement efforts the FTC has taken to prevent exposure to harmful content. The laws the FTC works to enforce have provisions including requiring adult content to be notified as such in the e-mail tagline and preventing websites from asking children too much personal information. Majoras then describes the FTC’s push and efforts to educate and empower parents and children to stay safe. These efforts are viewed by the FTC as important because first amendment restrictions will prevent the government from being able to completely restrict dangerous content themselves. Marjoras also said that it is important for companies to self-regulate content. Majoras concludes by stating that a multidisciplinary approach is needed in solving this problem.
This article is important in the broader context of regulating Internet content for children, because the FTC is a major governmental organization involved in the issue. A governmental organization believing that education and self-regulation needs to supplement governmental regulation enhances the importance of education and self-regulation, which could be seen as an alternative to the government. This article gives good specifics about the role of the FTC in law-enforcement and education, and describes different features of education programs and self-regulating devices; those details could be useful for figuring out the absolute best way to determine how to protect children. Although this article was written by someone in the Bush administration, it is likely that the opinions of Obama’s FTC workers are not too different; protecting children from harmful content on the Internet is a bipartisan issue.
Citation: Jordan, Amy. "Children's Media Policy." Children and Electronic Media. Volume 18 No. 1. Spring 2008. 235-355. Annenberg Public Policy Center. 5 April 2009. http://www.futureofchildren.org/usr_doc/18_10_Jordan.pdf.
Jordan’s article gives an overview of how media policy concerning children is developed and shaped, and what is and is not effective about it. The article begins by discussing how events and public opinion changes can motivate the government to enact policies protecting children, and how outside groups influence these policies. It outlines how the three branches of government work together to shape these policies, and what the role of the FCC and the FTC are in enforcing the laws. The article then describes motivations by media industries to self-regulate content, types of self-regulation, and how self-regulation and government regulation interact with each other. While a combination of legislation and self-regulation seems to be the inevitable and most logical way to regulate new media, according to Jordan, she thinks these actions are still largely ineffective; they are not enacted properly, little is known about media habits and production of material online is becoming increasingly decentralized.
While much of the article discusses policies relating to media other than the Internet, the article is useful as an overview of the formation process for children’s media policy, especially because it contains useful charts. The similarities and differences between the Internet and older forms of media are important to note in order to figure out what types of regulations used on other forms of media could and could not be applicable to the Internet. For example, ratings systems akin to the ones established for television shows and video games would likely not be a good way to regulate Internet content. So many websites are created on a regular basis that it would be impossible to assign ratings to all of them. This article supports my thesis because it describes issues relating to the regulation of Internet Service Providers. Jordan believes that the Internet cannot be fully regulated by the government because Congress and the courts treat ISPs like common carriers rather than media outlets. Perhaps it also provides a counterargument to my thesis, however, because the author does not think that self-regulation is necessarily effective.
Citation: Etzioni, Amitai. “On Protecting Children from Speech.” Chicago-Kent Law Review. 2004: 3-53. Google Scholar. 5 April 2009. http://lawreview.kentlaw.edu/articles/79-1/Etzioni.pdf
This article discusses and analyses the issues concerning children’s rights to free speech. According to the author, past court cases care more about how restricting access for children would inadvertently affect adults than they do about how there is a compelling state interest to protect children from harmful speech. To remedy this, Etzoini thinks Internet access for children and adults should become separate. Where it is not possible to make a separation, government regulation is needed, because voluntary measures, such as parents choosing to purchase filtering softwares, are generally ineffective. A review of research studies concludes children can be harmed by viewing objectionable media content, although this has been more definitely proven for violent content than for pornography. Etzoini also says that as children get older, they should have greater free speech rights, and should have their content restricted less.
The article provides a counterargument to some of the other documents published concerning how children can be protected from harmful content on the Internet. The Supreme Court cases concerning section 223 of the CDA and COPA were struck down in part because it was believed that there was truly no way for to restrict content for children without also inadvertently restricting it for adults. Etzioni, however, believes there may be ways to separate Internet access based on age. Additionally, this article differs from the arguments made by Thierer, because it favors governmental regulation of content over self-regulation. Etizoni’s reason for the ineffectiveness of voluntary regulation does however relate to a concept Thierer discusses – that of self efficacy. If people’s motivation to filter the Internet content of minors, self-regulation could potentially work. The problem right now is that efficacy is too low for people to want to take an initiative and regulate content.
Citation: Thierer, Adam and John Palfrey. "Dialogue: the Future of Online Obscenity and Social Networks." 5 March 2009. Ars Technica. 1 April 2009. <http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2009/03/a-friendly-exchange-about-the-future-of-online-liability.ars/2>.
This source presents a discussion between Adam Thierer, Director of the Progress and Freedom Foundation's Center for Digital Media Freedom, and John Palfrey, Harvard law professor and Vice Dean, about the merits of Section 230 of the Communication Decency Act and the role online service providers, including social networking websites, should play in protecting children from obscene content. Thierer has concerns about revisions to CDA 230; he does not think social networks should have extensive liability concerning objectionable material on their sites, and he thinks CDA 230 has been beneficial overall. However, Palfrey believes that ISPs and social networking websites should not be immune from tort lawsuits claiming harm from the carriers’ negligence. Instead, accusations should be allowed to be brought to court, where the plaintiffs will have to prove that the ISPs were in fact negligent. Palfrey believes that CDA 230 should be amended in such a way because it will encourage online service providers to make more of an effort to protect minors and develop more innovative ways of protection. He added, however, that most ISPs would not be found negligent by a court, and a multi-faceted approach must be taken to achieve the goal of protecting children on the Internet. Palfrey also acknowledges the merits of CDA 230, and said he would not want the goals of it to be drastically impeded.
The dialogue presented is a good analysis of the issues concerning child protection and CDA 230. The dialogue format enhances the analysis because it allows Palfrey to address the questions raised by a critic of his opinion. Palfrey’s approach to modifying CDA 230 strikes a balance between the competing goals of shielding minors from harmful content and promoting the development of ISPs. However, Palfrey is the first to admit that a change in the law would likely not make too much of a difference in increasing liability, especially among the larger ISPs who can afford to make some effort to protect children. What is perhaps the most important element of Palfrey’s argument is that he stated that there needs to be an increase in efficacy for children to become more protected online. Empowering people to protect children could achieve the same goal without having to navigate the complex legislative process.
Citation: "Communications Decency Act of 1996: Section 230" 1996. Cornell Law School. 4 April 2009. http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/47/usc_sec_47_00000230----000-.html.
This source is a section of Congressional Legislation that plays an important role in regulating the filtering of online content, with some particulars relating to the filtering of such content to protect children. Titled “Protection for Private Blocking and Screening of Offensive Material,” Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) of 1996 guarantees Internet Service Providers (ISPs) a great deal of legal protection. The section of the law begins by describing the increasingly large role that the Internet was providing in people’s lives in 1996. Congress then establishes broad principles that guide its policy concerning the Internet. After that, Section 230 begins to lay out protections for ISPs, saying they are not the speakers or publishers of content provided to them by another service and guaranteeing civil protection for efforts made “in good faith” to filter obscene material. The law also requires ISPs to notify parents of parental control filtering programs that they can use to protect their children. Section 230 concludes by describing the previously mentioned provisions relationships to other laws and by defining terminology used in the document.
This document relates to my project because it has a large effect on the policy concerning the protection of children on the Internet. If ISPs are not considered the author of any of the works people can access through them, they have less of an incentive to develop effective filtering software. Section 230 of the CDA wants ISPs to act “in good faith” and try to restrict access to harmful material to children. However, the term “in good faith” is ambiguous and could be interpreted loosely. Despite the problems with the law when it comes to protecting children, it is understandable that Congress decided to take the approach of siding with the ISPs. In 1996, when the law was written, the Internet was a relatively new development, and many people still did not have access to it. As a result, the government wanted to prioritize helping ISPs, because it wanted the ISPs to expand and be able to give services to a greater number of people. Over a decade later, the online landscape has changed significantly, with the vast majority of people in the United States having Internet access. Perhaps Congress should now focus more on promoting the filtering of harmful content and less on supporting the legal and economic interests of the ISPs. This would likely to be tricky to do, because the ISPs would likely continue to lobby for their position and fight back, and too much government regulation could be seen as violating the Constitution.
Citation: "Children's Internet Protection Act." 2000. Internet Free Expression Alliance. 4 April 2009. <http://ifea.net/cipa.pdf>.
The Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) is a law passed by Congress that encourages filtering the Internet to protect minors by giving schools and libraries financial incentives to do so. Throughout the text, the legislation defines terminology used in the remainder of the document. It states that schools and libraries cannot use federal funds to buy computers or aid Internet access unless they have policies and softwares in place designed to filter visuals on the Internet that contain obscenity, child pornography and material harmful to minors. There is also discussion of how the government plans to implement the law in schools and libraries and how groups can waive this requirement. An exception to the filtering rule is also provided; schools can disable filtering softwares for research purposes. The law concludes by discussing how schools and libraries need to document and enforce the policies outlined in CIPA, and what the legal ramifications for the schools and libraries are if they do not enforce the policies.
CIPA is relevant to my paper because it demonstrates how the government can constitutionally play a role in protecting children online and it shows governmental support for self-regulation. CIPA, unlike parts of the CDA and COPA, has been ruled to be Constitutional and not in violation of the first amendment, because Congress is providing incentives for schools and libraries to regulate content on their own computers, rather than requiring regulation. Congress seemed to take the Supreme Court’s ruling concerning the CDA into consideration when drafting CIPA, because the law allows filtering of obscene and pornographic material but not indecent material. Encouraging communities to enact regulations protecting children themselves is also a better strategy than governmental regulation because it allows communities to better apply their own standards regarding what is obscene and harmful to minors. The government’s established definitions of obscenity and harm to minors involve applying community standards, so this law does a good job of following past legislative precedents, giving the law even greater validity.