Representative Brandon Jones
P. O. Box 1018
Jackson, MS 39215
RE: HB 676 – Social Networking Website Legislation
Dear Representative Jones:
NetChoice writes to oppose House Bill 676, which would mandate the development of a system to age verify and obtain parental consent from the parents of minors under age sixteen.
Foremost, this legislation is premature. Attorney General Jim Hood, along with 49 other state AGs, recently signed-onto a Joint Statement with MySpace, the largest social networking website. The statement announced the creation of an industry-wide Internet Safety Technical Task Force devoted to finding and developing online safety tools, including online authentication technologies. The task force will meet over the next year, and report to AG Hood on a quarterly basis. Thus, any legislation that would effectively preempt the findings of this expert task force would not be prudent.
Moreover, secure and reliable age verification technologies are simply not available for implementation. Databases do not exist that allow for online methods to precisely determine a child’s age. Minors don’t have access to documents that are recognized as providing verification of identity and age, such as a driver’s license. Nor do minors have the track record to answer “out of wallet” questions that ask about monthly car loan and mortgage payments.
And most significantly, there are no effective methods to verify that a person whom a child designates as his or her parent is in fact the parent.
Instead, there are better ways to increase online safety. We can teach online safety in the schools and encourage online companies to make parental control software available to their subscribers. And we can increase the punishment for sex offenders, enforce online solicitation laws that criminalize meeting a minor offline that you met online for purposes of sex, and monitor the Internet activity of convicted sex offenders. NetChoice would vociferously endorse these and other sound measures.
Thank you for considering our views, and please let me know if I can provide further information.
Policy Counsel, NetChoice
cc: Rep. Mark DuVall
NetChoice is a coalition of trade associations and e-Commerce businesses who share the goal of promoting convenience, choice and commerce on the Net. NetChoice members include AOL, the Association for Competitive Technology, eBay, the Electronic Retailing Association, News Corporation, Oracle, VeriSign, Yahoo! and others.