Online Child Safety, Privacy and Free Speech: An Overview of Challenges in Congress & the States

Adam D. Thierer

George Mason University - Mercatus Center

Berin Michael Szoka


August 18, 2009

Progress & Freedom Foundation Progress on Point Paper, Vol. 16, No. 20, August 2009

This paper is an edited transcript of PFF Congressional Seminar that took place on July 27, 2009 in Washington, DC.

Online child safety, privacy, and free speech remain hotly debated issues at both the federal and state levels. How serious are these concerns? Is legislation or regulation needed to address them? What free speech issues are at stake? Should Congress take the lead or leave it to the States to experiment with different models? These and other issues were discussed at a Congressional seminar hosted by The Progress & Freedom Foundation.

PFF Senior Fellow Adam Thierer began the discussion by describing current online safety issues and outlined regulatory, privacy and free speech issues surrounding government responses and proposed solutions to the problem.

Parry Aftab, Executive Director of WiredSafety.org, discussed federal legislation that has been proposed to address cyberbullying, including making such behavior a felony.

Todd Haiken, Senior Manager of Policy at Common Sense Media, outlined what he viewed as the biggest change in proposed solutions to online safety concerns: the shift away from a focus on crime and risk prevention to an education and empowerment model.

Jim Halpert, Partner at DLA Piper, questioned the effectiveness of proposed regulation.

Berin Szoka, Senior Fellow at The Progress & Freedom Foundation, voiced concern over the costs to websites if mandatory screening or filtering of users was implemented. He explained that 'if every website, every blog around the world that integrates social networking has to take on responsibility for doing that kind of screening or filtering or segregation of users, the effect on the media landscape and Internet culture would be enormous.'

Number of Pages in PDF File: 33

Keywords: Jim Halpert, Berin Szoka, Adam Thierer, Parry Aftab, Todd Haiken, Wiredsafety.org, DLA Piper, Common Sense Media, Online child safety, online privacy,free speech,COPPA, COPA, parental controls, facebook, myspace, cyberbullying, child predator, teen angels, age verification

JEL Classification: L82, L96, D18, I2, I20, I28, O38, O33

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Date posted: August 20, 2009  

Suggested Citation

Thierer, Adam D. and Szoka, Berin Michael, Online Child Safety, Privacy and Free Speech: An Overview of Challenges in Congress & the States (August 18, 2009). Progress & Freedom Foundation Progress on Point Paper, Vol. 16, No. 20, August 2009. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1457111 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1457111

Contact Information

Adam D. Thierer (Contact Author)
George Mason University - Mercatus Center ( email )
3351 Fairfax Drive
4th Floor
Arlington, VA 22201-4433
United States
Berin Michael Szoka
TechFreedom ( email )
1899 L ST NW
12th Floor
Washington, DC 20036
United States
HOME PAGE: http://techfreedom.org
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