Peer Enforcement

As reported by cNet last week, Republican Senator John McCain has proposed legislation that would require web sites to report user-posted child pornography or forms of obscenity to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The “Stop the Online Exploitation of Our Children Act” (he couldn’t come up with a catchier acronym than SOEOCA?) would apply existing reporting requirements to Web-based message boards, chat rooms, social-networking sites, e-mail providers, IM services, Internet content hosting services, domain name registration services, Internet search services, any electronic communications service, and any image or video-sharing service. The Act would also require sites reporting prohibited images to retain information about the posted images for at least six months and create a safe harbor for sites that follow its provisions. Violaters could receive fines of up to $300,000. Another section of the Act would create a federal registry of sex-offender email and IM addresses.

An expansive definition of child pornography creates one problem. The same cNet article mentions a federal indictment against Jeff Pierson, a commercial photographer from Alabama who photographed automobiles and aspiring models (not the same shots). The latter were clothed (often in swimsuits), photographed with their parents’ permission, but struck “lascivious poses one would expect to see in an adult magazine” in the words of the U.S. Attorney from Alabama.

The U.S. Attorney from Alabama must never have seen an Abercrombie & Fitch catalog.

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