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: 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.