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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Comments in FCC "Child Safe Viewing Act" Proceeding
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Today I filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in its proceeding examining the marketplace for "advanced blocking technologies." This proceeding was required under the "Child Safe Viewing Act of 2007," which Congress passed last year and President Bush signed last December. The goal of the bill and the FCC's proceeding (MB 09-26) is to study "advanced blocking technologies" that "may be appropriate across a wide variety of distribution platforms, including wired, wireless, and Internet platforms." My colleagues will no doubt laugh about the fact that I have dropped an absurd 150 pages worth of comments on the FCC in this matter, but I had a lot to say on this topic! Parental controls, child safety, and free speech issues have been the focus of much of my research agenda over the past 10 years.

In my filing, I argue that the FCC should tread carefully in this matter since the agency has no authority over most of the media platforms and technologies described in the Commission's recent Notice of Inquiry. Moreover, any related mandates or regulatory actions in in this area could diminish future innovation in this field and would violate the First Amendment rights of media creators and consumers alike. The other major conclusions of my filing are as follows:

  • There exists an unprecedented abundance of parental control tools to help parents decide what constitutes acceptable media content in their homes and in the lives of their children.

  • There is a trade-off between complexity and convenience for both tools and ratings, and no parental control tool is completely foolproof.

  • Most homes have no need for parental control technologies because parents rely on other methods or there are no children in the home.

  • The role of household media rules and methods is underappreciated and those rules have an important bearing on this debate.

  • Parental control technologies work best in combination with educational efforts and parental involvement.

  • The search for technological silver-bullets and "universal" solutions represent a quixotic, Holy Grail-like quest and it will destroy innovation in this marketplace.

  • Enforcement of "household standards" made possible through use of parental controls and other methods negates the need for "community standards"-based content regulation.

My entire filing can be found here and down below in a Scribd reader. All comments in the matter are due tomorrow and then reply comments are due on May 18th.

posted by Adam Thierer @ 10:51 PM | Free Speech , Online Safety & Parental Controls

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