IM: The Next Regulatory Target?

by on October 5, 2006 · 8 comments

I have nothing to back this up at this time, but I have been hearing rumors on Capitol Hill this week (and from others) that, in the wake of the Foley scandal, Congress might be considering regulating instant messaging. Specifically, someone might introduce a bill that would seek to limit access to IM services by minors.

When I first heard this rumor I thought it seemed outlandish, but upon further relection, I can see how some lawmakers might view it as a logical extension of their efforts to regulate social networks or to age-verify all minors before they get onto those networks. IM is a much more complicated thing to take on, however, and if Congress is going to regulate it, what are they going to do about e-mails? Hell, better stop the kids from talking on phones too!

Wouldn’t it just be easier to punish that freak Mark Foley and be done with it? Regulating the Internet or IM isn’t going to solve the problem posed by perverted congressman or any other perverts for that matter.

Again, I have nothing to back this up at this time but if I hear more about this effort to turn IM into the boogeyman du jour I will let everyone know.

Update: My friend Leslie Harris talks more about this issue over at CDT’s PolicyBeta blog.

  • http://www.techliberation.com/ Tim

    Congresscritters may be dumb, but I don’t believe they’re that dumb. Banning IM would be both completely useless and utterly infeasible.

  • http://www.techliberation.com/ Tim

    Congresscritters may be dumb, but I don’t believe they’re that dumb. Banning IM would be both completely useless and utterly infeasible.

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com/ enigma_foundry

    Obviously, and I would be very surprised if this isn’t already being discussed, the problem is we are teaching our children to read and write. If it wasn’t for that evil invention of the alphabet, they wouldn’t be able to read their IM’s or understand how to navigate in a web browser.

    All they other efforts don’t get to the root of the problem.

    Literacy. Just say NO!.

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com eee_eff

    Obviously, and I would be very surprised if this isn’t already being discussed, the problem is we are teaching our children to read and write. If it wasn’t for that evil invention of the alphabet, they wouldn’t be able to read their IM’s or understand how to navigate in a web browser.

    All they other efforts don’t get to the root of the problem.

    Literacy. Just say NO!.

  • http://www.codemonkeyramblings.com MikeT

    Tim, never dismiss on “they’re not that dumb” grounds what can be reasonably predicted on “they’re that evil and tyrannical” grounds. No one ever went broke betting on government being evil, when it’s not just stupid.

  • http://www.codemonkeyramblings.com MikeT

    Tim, never dismiss on “they’re not that dumb” grounds what can be reasonably predicted on “they’re that evil and tyrannical” grounds. No one ever went broke betting on government being evil, when it’s not just stupid.

  • http://www.toad.com/gnu/ John Gilmore

    Yes, the appropriate reaction is to punish individual criminals rather than to restrict speech, particularly the speech of minors. But please skip the perjorative language (“freak”, “pervert”) when advocating for this.

    (And let’s see whether Foley’s whole “crime” was speech — or whether there was more to it than that. It cannot be criminal to talk about sex with a minor — else minors will end up with even less information about sex than today’s taboos already choke off.)

    In a society that holds young people up as the epitome of sexiness, it’s not perverted to want to have sex with teenagers! It’s not even perverted or illegal to *have* sex with teenagers, if they’re roughly 18 or 19 (depending what state you’re in). I haven’t seen the full extent of the scandal (ho hum) but the stuff I read was “virtual sex” through IM, with a former employee a long distance away — hardly coercive, not likely to spread disease, easy to evade if the other party wants to skip it.

    Personally I know a lot of people who are proud to call themselves perverts, but it’s a word in the sense of “nigger” — they’ve had to use it for themselves as a way to reclaim it from those who use it to disapprove of them.

  • http://www.toad.com/gnu/ John Gilmore

    Yes, the appropriate reaction is to punish individual criminals rather than to restrict speech, particularly the speech of minors. But please skip the perjorative language (“freak”, “pervert”) when advocating for this.

    (And let’s see whether Foley’s whole “crime” was speech — or whether there was more to it than that. It cannot be criminal to talk about sex with a minor — else minors will end up with even less information about sex than today’s taboos already choke off.)

    In a society that holds young people up as the epitome of sexiness, it’s not perverted to want to have sex with teenagers! It’s not even perverted or illegal to *have* sex with teenagers, if they’re roughly 18 or 19 (depending what state you’re in). I haven’t seen the full extent of the scandal (ho hum) but the stuff I read was “virtual sex” through IM, with a former employee a long distance away — hardly coercive, not likely to spread disease, easy to evade if the other party wants to skip it.

    Personally I know a lot of people who are proud to call themselves perverts, but it’s a word in the sense of “nigger” — they’ve had to use it for themselves as a way to reclaim it from those who use it to disapprove of them.

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