Indiana E-Mail Advertising Bill – a Trifecta of Bad

We see a lot of bad proposed Internet laws, but even for us it’s rare to see a bill that hits the trifecta of being bad for businesses, bad for state taxpayers and bad for the very people it’s theoretically intended to protect.

It’s hard to cram that much bad into one bill but an Indiana senator found a way.

We were back in Indianapolis earlier this week opposing SB 344, an e-mail registry designed to stop advertisements to children, but actually places them in greater danger while costing in-state businesses up to $72,000 a year.

You may remember this from our February 2012 iAWFUL list.  If passed, this bill would establish stiff fines for companies that  e-mail to registered minors ads for products that minors aren’t legally allowed to purchase.

As with so many bad Internet laws, it sounds ok…until you take even a moment to think about its implications. Read more

Protect Employees from their Social Ghosts But Don’t Rush Bad Social Media Rules

A new survey looking at how teens perceive the Internet reinforces the need to think seriously about how and whether employers should be allowed access to employees’ social media accounts. Striking the right balance could have a profound impact on the next generation of workers, whose entire lives have played out online.

The survey, performed by Hart Research Associates, found 31% of teens are concerned that their social behaviors online will “haunt” them when it comes time to apply for colleges and jobs.

The study blows holes in the notion that teens are oblivious or uncaring about the long-term affects of their online behaviors. It paints a picture of a generation of Internet savvy teens who grasp the extent to which the Internet has lengthened the half-life of youthful indiscretion.

The measure may also heap more fuel on the fire of legislative efforts to limit employers’ ability to use employees’ social media histories against them Read more

Leaving Dishes in the Sink

Boy, that was a great party the White House threw today when their new online privacy rights were unwrapped and passed around.

Most everyone hefted their shiny new rights, agreed they were nice, and talked about the need for swift adoption.  But when the party was done, everyone filed out, turning a blind eye to the post-party cleanup and a sink full of dirty dishes.

In this case, the dirty dishes aren’t baked-on casserole pans.  What’s left in the sink is the messy “multi-stakeholder” process that will decide the details about how to implement and enforce these new privacy rights. Read more

Good News That Won’t Make the News

Because good news is so rarely reported, here’s a headline you probably won’t see today: Social Network Funds Grants to Protect Kids Online.

Then again, it’s possible that some reporters will spin that into bad news to make for a flashy headline.  For example, last November PEW came out with research on teens’ use of social networks.  The Washington Post led its story with, “There’s something about the Internet that can bring out the meanness in teenagers.”

While PEW found that 9 of 10 teens have witnessed bullying online, it went on to report that teens encounter far more bullying in-person and in texting than on social networks.  PEW also found many positive benefits to teens’ use of social networks, including the finding that 80% of teens have defended a victim of online bullying. Read more

Emotional Climate Change

Flashy newspaper headlines drive clicks but they can also mislead readers.

The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project just released a study of teens’ use of social networks.  It was a joint project with the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI), who featured the study at their annual conference in Washington.  Like all of Pew’s work, this study provides a deeply nuanced view of the subject, breaking down behaviors and identifying emerging trends.

At the FOSI conference yesterday, I thanked Pew for helping to describe what they call the “emotional climate” for teens using social networking.   But the media wants to write headlines about “emotional climate change” when it comes to meanness among teens – and then blame it on the Internet. Read more

How to Quarantine Online Virus Outbreaks

Epidemics, virus outbreaks, we want and try to stop them.  We’ve seen their destructive capabilities throughout history: small pox, yellow fever, and more recently, swine flu.  Often, the best way to slow and even stop an outbreak is through research, education, and enforcement.

At a meeting of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences on the Hill last week, Prof. Deirdre Mulligan of the University of California-Berkley analogized applying tactics used in preventing the spread of real world diseases to limiting the spread of viruses on computer systems, stating “We must manage the ‘disease’ in the computer system” much in the same way we manage diseases in the real world.

This analogy makes sense, but Prof. Mulligan was speaking to a room of House and Senate staff who might misinterpret the analogy to justify new laws instead of using exising laws to protect the common online good. Read more

iAWFUL: the 10 Most Awful Laws for the Internet

Today we published our September 2011 “iAWFUL” list of bad Internet laws.  The worst offenders are new burdens on small businesses using the Internet, plus a Puerto Rico bill restricting how 17-year-olds can use social networking.

Our Internet Advocates’ Watchlist For Ugly Laws (yep, iAWFUL is an acronym) is the 10 items of state and federal legislation that pose the greatest threat to the Internet and e-commerce. Read more

A Gift for the Man Who Has Everything

Today, a distinguished US Senator who was once concerned that the Internet had become the “number one national hazard” held a hearing on online privacy.   During the hearing, Senator John Rockefeller (WV) added these informed judgments on ad-supported Internet innovation and business models:

Read more

Why Online Dating Criminal Background Checks Aren’t As Advertised

Recent media attention has resurrected the notion that criminal background checks for online dating sites are helpful and should even be required by law. Sunday’s front page article in the New York Times described how companies selling background checks can “unmask Mr. or Ms. Wrong.” And today’s Good Morning America featured a segment called “Online Dating: Are you Flirting with a Felon?”


Braden Screenshot GMAI was interviewed by both the Times and Good Morning America to say that these background checks are superficial, create a false sense of security, and that government should never mandate these for online dating sites. First of all, I should say that I’m personally involved in this issue. I met my wife on We didn’t screen each other, at least not for a criminal past. I remember doing a simple search on her screen name however, and for a while thinking she could be someone who she wasn’t, though. Read more

At FCC’s “Generation Mobile” Event, the Kids Speak Plainly & Pointedly

FCC Gen MobileAt today’s FCC “Generation Mobile” forum — chock-full of online safety experts, company reps, Jane Lynch of the TV show Glee, and even Chairman Genachowski himself — it was the kids that made the show about mobile technology worthwhile. On a panel about generation mobile, here are a few of the statements we heard from high school kids:


  1. “Don’t just take the phone away.”
  2. “When parents snoop too much, it’s a privacy invasion.”
  3. “We’ll listen more if you present us with concrete evidence for behavioral restrictions.” Read more