Monitoring the Would-Be Monitors
December 11, 2006
Filed under Free Expression
Recently, MySpace announced that it was launching a program to monitor its site for child predators. The announcement prompted a discussion on the blogosphere about the potential abuse of active monitoring by social networking operators and law enforcement. In particular, Micah Sifry had a good post on Personal Democracy Forum entitled "Who's Molesting Whom?" which discusses the dangers of the new policy and describes the potential slippery slope that the announcement portends. He relates the troubling trend of prosecutors adopting fake identities to register as members of social networking sites in order to investigate low level crimes in the community such as vandalism among high school students and decries the "warrantless tactics" that appear to be proliferating with respect to law enforcement access to information posted on social networking pages. But the news is even more complicated. Late last week, Sen. McCain introduced a bill: the "Stop the Online Exploitation of our Children Act" that would significantly expand an existing obligation by ISPs to report possible child pornography to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). The bill would:
- apply the reporting requirement to a broad range of social networking, blogging, and conversation sites;
- impose very significant fines on any service provider that fails to report possible child pornography; and
- require the service provider to retain any reported information for at least 180 days.