The Internet Parent
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Friday, August 17, 2007

A Ripple In Washington...

...In the Face of a Tsunami

In July, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held a hearing on "Protecting Children on the Internet".

To the committee members' credit, they actually held a hearing. To the witnesses' credit, they actually showed up. I read through their testimony, and acknowledge their efforts to help enlighten the committee and stimulate dialog.

But sadly, this hearing lasted ONE DAY.

We're watching the most dramatic, powerful remaking of our culture and our economy unfold at cataclysmic speed.

We're seeing explosions in crimes that are made a thousand-fold easier by this phenomenon, from identity theft to child predators.

We're watching our kids experience devastating new kinds of peer-harassment, leveraged and amplified by this phenomenon.

We don't even know how to TAX this thing yet...! (I can hear the groans, but really - who are we kidding?)

And just one day of hearings.

I've looked at the presidential candidates' websites, and watched hopefully for news that might indicate that they:
  • view the Internet as potent cultural and economic force
  • recognize the need for public policy to address it
  • aren't afraid to step up and address the issue in their campaigning
I've found an interesting polarity:

Hillary Clinton has a plank in her platform about the impact of the Internet and Internet content on the lives of children.

Sam Brownback speaks aggressively against Internet porn and violence in his platform.

(Mitt Romney, from whom I would expect the most impassioned objections, has occasionally spoken out against the impact of Internet pornography in our homes and the lives of our kids, but I suspect the recent dust-up regarding his position on the board of Marriott, who's hotels sell porn-on-demand by the bucketful, has left him gun-shy.)

Left and Right.

But not Front and Center.

It's time we asked, "Why not?"

I think the Internet is a beautiful, powerful, and magical thing. We as a species have created something that can undoubtedly speed our evolution, and can certainly bring us all a better life.

But we can't ignore its negative consequences. All you have to do is read The Jungle by Upton Sinclair to know what happens when we "let the market do its work", without responsible social conscience. His story of the unregulated meat-processing industry of the early twentieth century spurred dramatic changes, driven by public outcry and responsible governance.

It's a weak-minded cop-out to let the Internet roll over us, under the guise of "free market evolution", and we owe it to ourselves, our kids, and our society's highest aims to start doing our homework, and start demanding that our elected representatives do theirs.

One day of hearings is not enough. One sentence on a web site is not enough. One line in a speech is not enough.

It's just not enough.