NetChoice filed comments today with the Federal Communications Commission in its inquiry on Empowering Parents and Protecting Children in an Evolving Media Landscape.
As we explain in our comments, the great majority of youths experience an enriching, enlightening and safe online environment. Online risks to youth—in the form of inappropriate content, advertising, or criminal predation—must be tempered with the overwhelming benefits online communities and content provide to today’s youth.
We then highlight the numerous studies, including from Harvard Berkman and the Progress and Freedom Foundation, that document the way that technology helps empower parents to control their child’s Internet experience. We discuss a comprehensive legislative approach developed by the online industry that combines education, parental empowerment, and law enforcement. We also dismiss one technology that has previously been touted as a way to keep kids safe online – age and parental verification:
Teens are very active users of Internet websites. To verify parental consent, parents would have to provide identifying data (most often credit card information) to a myriad of sites and services. This would require private companies to store vast amounts of parents’ personal information and, by doing so, increase customers’ vulnerability to security breaches and identity theft. According to the Berkman study, “there are significant potential privacy concerns and security issues given the type and amount of data aggregated and collected by the technology solutions….” Many online companies have moved away from collecting and storing this type of data for good reason.
Finally, we asserted our belief that the FCC lacks jurisdiction to regulate online media platforms. Neither the Telecommunications Act of 1996 nor the Children’s Television Act of 1990 provides the Commission with the authority to regulate online media content. Furthermore, if the FCC were to pursue regulation of the Internet in the same manner it regulates broadcast and cable television, we believe there would be serious first amendment implications.
The lack of FCC jurisdiction notwithstanding, online safety is an important and evolving issue. NetChoice and our members will continue to work with state and federal policymakers and law enforcement agencies to better protect children online.