Monday, February 11, 2013

The PROTECT Act of 2003 deserves discussion

I wanted to point out another detail from Mike Young’s book (post yesterday) that needs to be mentioned specifically on this blog.
This matter would be the PROTECT Act of 2003, or the ”Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to End the Exploitation of Children Today Act” of 2003. The simplest source for imparting an understanding of the provisions of the law is simply the entry on Wikipedia, here

Young notes that the Supreme Court had at one time rules that computer-generated images (stills or videos) that simulate child pornography and that didn’t use actual minors in their creation, are protected from prosecution by the First Amendment.  (I’m not sure what case this was – might have been CDA.) The 2003 law specifically punishes the user of computer generated images that look exactly like minors, inasmuch as animation technology is so good now that this can be done.  An interesting question could arise if a real actor were “made up” to look under 18 and then used in explicit images, but that sounds legal.  I wouldn’t do it! Wikipedia notes that non-obscene fictional beings under 18 do not, in the language of the law, trigger prosecution.  That makes it sound as if the person simulated in an image must exist to trigger prosecution, but that could be a very dangerous assumption for a website to make.
The law also prohibits drawings of minors that meet the “Miller Test" of obscenity, and has some age relationships as explained on Wikipedia. 
The United States Department of Justice has a Fact Sheet on the Act here
The full text of the law can be viewed on Thomas here.
Public Resource has a one-hour video on “Protect Act: The Statement of Reasons” (2010) on YouTube. 

I recall the libertarian opposition to this law back in 2003.
There is another law, the Child Protection and Sexual Predator Punishment Act of 1998, which requires ISP’s to report suspected child pornography detected on customer’s sites, although ISP’s do not monitor sites for them.  Their responsibility (as far as future liability) is a bit like DMCA Safe Harbor; it usually ends when they report and cooperate with authorities.  Wikipedia doesn’t seem to have a page for it.  

Sunday, February 10, 2013

"RTALabel" looks like a promising voluntary content labeling "opportunity"

Soon, I will review a book “Internet Laws” by Mike Young, but I wanted to mention, in advance, a point that he makes about another opportunity to put adult-oriented websites behind verification filters.
The service is call “RTLALabel” (link here).  The facility has considerable capability to label entire sites, individual pages in different formats, mobile sites, and Wordpress (it doesn’t mention Blogger).   The FAQ page on the site is well-worth reading. It hints that Congress could try to pass COPA-like laws in the future (even though COPA was overturned in 2007, as documented here).

RTA (“Restricted to Adults”)  is set up by the Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection, ASACP, link.
There is some material about RTA on YouTube:

As Young hints, there is also a Guide to sites that use AVS, or “Adult Verification Systems”, here. There are commission arrangements for AVS sign-ups which some might see as seedy or unethical.
Previously on this blog, I have covered the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSA) and the ICRA product, which discovered had been discontinued and last wrote about on Feb. 10, 2011. I don’t know why it was discontinued or has any connection to RTALabel now.  

It us unclear how these products could affect the constitutional or legal issues surrounding any future attempts to require adult verification to web sites.  

One other problem comes to mind right now with COPPA (not COPA);  a regular site could inadvertently collect personal information from minors without parental consent.  I talked about this last on January 1, 2013, but the matter still seems a bit unclear still, and Young mentions it in his book.  

Sunday, February 03, 2013

More on protecting kids and culture wars; Fairfax County VA c.p. case shows kids ignorant of risks

Regarding the “slippery slope” in my previous post here about protecting kids, it seems to me there is a big gap in “culture” regarding Internet freedom between those who have kids and those who don’t.
If you draw analogy (to restricting Internet speech) from the gun control debate, there is a difference.  Many people who want absolutely no government interference with their right to own weapons have large families, tend to live in more rural areas, and tend to believe that they could be on their own defending their families. 
On the other hand, single people (including women alone and gay men) living alone in large cities or suburbs sometimes are also outspoken on their rights to defend themselves (the “pink pistols” argument).
There’s another “disturbing behavior” story from Fairfax County, VA, where some high school boys were arrested at West Springfield High School (where I have subbed before) for getting some underage girls to make sexually explicit tapes for them (WJLA story and video here ).  It does seem that many teenagers don’t fully understand the legal ramifications of the things they do “under age”, as we know from "illegal" cell phone photos.  As Dr. Phil says, teens don't see around corners.  

Petula Dvorak weighs in on this incident saying teen sought "fame", here, in the Washington Post, on February 5.  She cites modern values, "If you aren't important, you aren't alive" and "Normal life is no life at all in today's value system."  How about real skills?  (Piano counts.)  How about others depending on you?
The kids seem to have thought their activity was "consensual".