COPA: Child Online Protection Act
Now I’ve felt for a long time that COPA is yet another example of misguided, stupid legislation coming from Washington. It’s purpose is noble: protection children from the Internet. It’s purpose is also misguided. How do we protect children from the Internet? Well, in my opinion, you can’t easily do that at a macro level withouth pretty much breaking the Internet (the web specifically) as we know it.
As an entrepreneur I found COPA particularly annoying becuase it creates a substantial amount of overhead on anyone who is starting a site. In theory you are supposed to verify someone is over 13 anytime they register. Really, it is when you “collect personally identifiable information” I think, but since that includes an e-mail address (although everyone who knows the Internet is not made from TUBES knows that e-mail is hardly personally identifiable – any moron can get 100 e-mail address that are not remotely traceabe unless you work for the NSA or FBI). That’s why all these stupid agreements ask if you are over 13. Although some lawyers argued that wasn’t enough.
I once got a bill for $10k for COPA compliance work. WTF. We ended up ignoring 75% of what the lawyers said anyway because if we had one it no one would have every registered for the site. So we did mimicked what Google did, which according to our major law firm was not enough. I’m not going to kill my site because of legalese, but it did worry me a lot.
Thankfully it has been mostly beaten down: Net porn ban faces another legal setback
I really like news.com but this title really pisses me off. COPA is a lot more than a porn ban, but I guess that doesn’t make a good headline.
And NO my site was not a porn site. COPA messes a lot more crap up than just porn sites. It basically forces webmasters to maintain all sorts of checks to make sure kids don’t access the site. Some of them are virtually impossible. But of course no one in Congress thought this crap might make live difficult on web entrepreneurs. Do it for the kids! Keep your kids safe!
I’m not a parent, but I’m going to solve this problem for Congress. Here is how you keep your kids safe from the Internet:
- Don’t let them have unsupervised access to the Internet! (ZOMG, this might require parenting!)
- Assuming that is that is to inconvenient, install a filter. You can buy a ton of good filters that will stop your kids from going to almost all inappropriate sites. (ZOMG, this might cost $50 and require a parent to “install” something on their computer.)
- Assuming visiting bad sites is only part of the problem, you can also configure your router (which you almost certainly have) so that access to the outside world is only available during certain times.
Wow! Three easy steps and your kids are safe!
Oh wait, parenting isn’t a requirement. Soundbites are good. We must protect the children. What the hell. Yet another example of the failure of personal responsibility / accountability in the United States. Sad.
Anyway, I hope they don’t bring this albatross back.