One Mistake Rule Threatens All Our Electronic Freedoms

Internet SafetyHere’s the problem: everyone over-reacts. One low-life kills a masseuse who advertised her services on Craigslist and Craigslist has to shut down an entire category of advertising [Read more CBSNews].

Yet for years when someone murdered a masseuse using the telephone and Yellow Pages, the phone company was not asked to stop taking ads for message parlors, nor did the government try to control the phone company.

Last year, a postal worker in Maryland recognized one single Operation Santa volunteer as a registered sex offender, and the Post Office summarily drops a popular national program begun in 1954 in the small Alaska town of North Pole, where volunteers open and respond to thousands of letters addressed to Santa each year [Read more CNews].

There is an element of risk to everything in life. Drowning Is the number one cause of death among children in Miami, Florida; does that mean we should close all pools, beaches, lakes and water parks? Or doesn’t it make more sense to educate the public and put in place better pool fencing in the case of pools, and to examine how the deaths occurred so as to prevent them?

A fourteen year old Texas girl and her mother sue MySpace because the young girl went out on a date with a 19 year old who, they claim, sexually assaulted her. Luckily for all of us, the suit was dismissed by a Federal Judge, but cases like this continue. This was never a MySpace problem, but a negligent mother problem.

One day, a woman will be buying a car she saw on eBay and will get murdered and the auction house will be pressured to close down that portion of its business.

When a plane crashes and people die, we do not ask that the entire airline industry stop doing business. The causes of the crash are investigated and the problem identified and improvements are made. As a consequence, airplane travel is one of the safest modes of getting from here to there in the world. That is the proper response to a problem, actually find the cause and fix it – don’t just shut it down.

The easy, knee-jerk reaction by government to anything untoward on the Internet is to try to shut it down. In September of 2006 the FBI joined the Bush administration’s War on Porn and began looking for a few good agents for a new anti-obscenity squad. The new squad was to gather evidence against ‘manufacturers and purveyors’ of pornography — not the kind exploiting children, but the kind that depicts, and is marketed to, consenting adults [Read more Planck’s Constant].

Closing down a Craigslist section does not make women safer from predators. One incident should not spell the end of our electronic freedoms.

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