Sunday, May 10, 2009

Federal Government to Regulate the Internet and Social Networking

FEDERAL GOVN'T. TO REGULATE THE INTERNET & SOCIAL NETWORKING

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Recently NewsWithViews.com dispatched a reporter to attend a press conference regarding new legislation proposed that will be used to regulate free speech and expression on the Internet.

Congress will soon debate a bill that could lead to regulating the Internet in the name of protecting the children.

Representative Linda Sanchez (D-CA) and 12 other lawmakers have signed onto a bill being considered by the House of Representatives' Judiciary Committee Congress which may seriously threaten the First Amendment rights of every American who uses the Internet, blogs online, uses Twitter, Facebook and other social media.

The bill (HR 1966) proposes up to two years in prison for those whose electronic speech is meant to “coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person." Regardless of where you stand on the political spectrum the potential harm of this bill on our freedom of speech will be massive.

"What this bill is really designed to do is to go after and prosecute Bible believing Christians and those who speak out against homosexuality, gay marriage, and pro abortion advocates" said a NWV reader.

While some may argue it's farfetched, the proposed law as written may be used to stifle communication by citizens to their elected officials including the White House and the US Congress.
Sanchez, and the 14 other lawmakers who signed on to the proposal, are grandstanding to show the public they care about children and are opposed to cyberbullying, according to Wired Magazine's David Kravits.

The Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act was created to target the behavior that led to last year’s suicide of the 13-year-old Meier.

In response to Meier’s suicide, prosecutors turned to an anti-hacking statute, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and prosecuted Lori Drew. She was accused of violating MySpace’s terms of service agreement in what prosecutors said was a complex conspiracy to harass Meier via a fake MySpace online profile.

A federal jury convicted Lori Drew of three misdemeanor charges of computer fraud, but rejected felony charges and was deadlocked on a conspiracy charge, according to the New York Times.

The defendant, a teenager herself, received probation and a fine which outraged many.As a result some lawmakers believed additional legislation is necessary to ensure future defendants will be more strenuously prosecuted.

According the the proposed legislation, the US Congress found that:

(1) Four out of five of United States children aged 2 to 17 live in a home where either they or their parents access the Internet.

(2) Youth who create Internet content and use social networking sites are more likely to be targets of cyberbullying.

(3) Electronic communications provide anonymity to the perpetrator and the potential for widespread public distribution, potentially making them severely dangerous and cruel to youth.

(4) Online victimizations are associated with emotional distress and other psychological problems, including depression.

(5) Cyberbullying can cause psychological harm, including depression; negatively impact academic performance, safety, and the well-being of children in school; force children to change schools; and in some cases lead to extreme violent behavior, including murder and suicide.

(6) Sixty percent of mental health professionals who responded to the Survey of Internet Mental Health Issues report having treated at least one patient with a problematic Internet experience in the previous five years; 54 percent of these clients were 18 years of age or younger.

Section 881(a) reads: "Whoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication, with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person, using electronic means to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both."

According to the Wired Magazine alert, Sanchez’s bill goes way beyond cyberbullying and "comes close to making it a federal offense to log onto the Internet or use the telephone."

The methods of communication where hostile speech is banned include e-mail, instant messaging, blogs, websites, telephones and text messages.

"We can’t say what we think of Sanchez’s proposal. Doing so would clearly get us two years in solitary confinement," wrote Wired Magazine's David Kravits


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