A warning on side effects of Internet laws

Feb. 6, 2008 at 1:41 PM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 6 (UPI) -- Technology advocates warn that legislation pending in the U.S. Congress could have unintended effects on social networking and other new Internet media.

"We are in a risky period," said John Morris, general counsel for the Center for Democracy and Technology. "The Internet is maturing in our society … legislators are no longer afraid to regulate (it), but they don't understand the medium" and their efforts would likely have unanticipated consequences.

Adam Thierer of the Progress and Freedom Foundation said there were several bills that would "open the door" to the expansion of the existing broadcast regulatory regime -- run by the Federal Communications Commission -- to cover content distributed on other platforms, like wireless devices and the Internet.

"In a world where a clip from (a TV show) can be fined by the FCC one night and be broadcast a million times by YouTube the next day," he said, legislators felt the authority of the existing system "slipping away."

Morris said the desire to try and regulate so-called social networking sites like MySpace was especially concerning because "there is no definition of social networking that does not sweep up … all blogging."

The two men spoke to reporters during a briefing about bills pending in Congress, launching a joint initiative to monitor the progress of Internet legislation.


Shaun Waterman, UPI Homeland and National Security Editor

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