Pseudo-DOPA Suggestions (Age Verification) Provide False Sense of Security
Age verification for social networking sites provides teens and parents with a false sense of security. I believe that age verification just cannot be the best solution to the child safety issue. Adam Thierer, Progress & Freedom (PFF) Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for Digital Media Freedom basically states this as well, warning us that
“creating [age] verification schemes that are too cumbersome for the user and the site owner [could result in] having popular networking sites pushed offshore, out of reach of US laws. An overly broad definition could [also] have a chilling affect on free speech. Moreover, collection and verification of the personal information of minors raises serious concerns of privacy and data protection.”
All of this is discussed in detail within the “Social Networking & Age Verification: Many Hard Questions; No Easy Solutions” report published yesterday from the The Progress & Freedom Foundation, where Thierer discusses some privacy and constitutional issues related to age verification proposals for social networking sites. He (along with many of us within the library and education arenas) logically explains that
“A combination of efforts, including greater online safety education, should be implemented to protect children from child predators and objectionable content.”
I found Thierer’s paper last night (read it again before work this morning) to be a rational, up-to-date, educational explanation of some of the political and personal implications of social networking and child safety issues and concerns—something I hear about often and am constantly asked about while I present on Web 2.0 and social networking topics at workshops and conferences—even while working the reference desk at Rider University! I just had to blog about it at lunch today.
What a lot of people don’t seem to fully understand is that many, many websites require user interaction in some way, shape, or form, and the legislation proposed today, as written, would, if passed, pretty much outlaw all blogs and other forms of online communication, making them pretty much worthless. I understand the privacy and safety concerns being batted around, especially as a parent and educator myself, and I believe that there are no easy answers or solutions at this time, especially regarding this aspect of our digital revolution.
However, age verification is not the answer, not to mention, as Thierer states, it would be extremely difficult to control and/or manage. A combination of educational programs and parental involvement is still the most effective way to keep our kids safe online. I think our legislators and law enforcement personnel do have legitimate concerns and are mostly looking out for our best interests. Still, I agree with Thierer’s statement that
“Policymakers and law enforcement should also focus their efforts on the prosecution of online predators under existing laws and ensure adequate punishment for the crimes.”
Let’s not go to the extreme while proposing and/or mandating legislation (like DOPA or some of the other pseudo-DOPA suggestions) which can and will effectively terminate our First Amendment rights, all for the sake of ineffectively protecting our online safety. Keep informed, and read this report and other current papers on the issue of online safety, and let’s work together, rationally, on this.
Come on, you know you are eating lunch while sitting in your office at your computer anyway! Your input and other suggested readings are certainly welcome.