John McCain Wants To Regulate Blogs

Arizona Senator, and 2008 Presidential candidate, John McCain has proposed extending federal obscenity laws to require extensive reporting and regulation by social networking sites and blogs:

Millions of commercial Web sites and personal blogs would be required to report illegal images or videos posted by their users or pay fines of up to $300,000, if a new proposal in the U.S. Senate came into law.

The legislation, drafted by Sen. John McCain and obtained by CNET, would also require Web sites that offer user profiles to delete pages posted by sex offenders.

In a speech on the Senate floor Wednesday, the Arizona Republican and former presidential candidate warned that “technology has contributed to the greater distribution and availability, and, some believe, desire for child pornography.” McCain scored 31 of 100 points on a 2006 election guide scoring technology-related votes.


Internet service providers already must follow those reporting requirements. But McCain’s proposal is liable to be controversial because it levies the same regulatory scheme–and even stiffer penalties–on even individual bloggers who offer discussion areas on their Web sites.

In addition to turning every blogger and web site operator who hosts any kind of a public discussion area into, effectively, an agent of the police, McCain’s legislation would also have a significant impact on social networking sites:

The other section of McCain’s legislation targets convicted sex offenders. It would create a federal registry of “any e-mail address, instant-message address, or other similar Internet identifier” they use, and punish sex offenders with up to 10 years in prison if they don’t supply it.

Then, any social-networking site must take “effective measures” to remove any Web page that’s “associated” with a sex offender.

Because “social-networking site” isn’t defined, it could encompass far more than just, Friendster and similar sites. The list could include: Slashdot, which permits public profiles;, which permits author profiles and personal lists; and blogs like that show public profiles. In addition, media companies like publisher CNET Networks permit users to create profiles of favorite games, gadgets and music.

What would happen if this law is passed and upheld in Court, of course, is easy to predict. Unfettered public discussion forums would, largely, become a thing of the past as most web site operators will not want to invest either the time or the resources into policing every conversation that takes place. Debate and discussion will be limited. All of which argues quite strongly that these regulations would violate the First Amendment.

All of this is being done, of course, to “protect the children.” The problem is there’s no evidence I’m aware of that children are being victimized by people who post comments on blogs.