A Federal Censor For the Web?


A friend just sent me this summary of a panel discussion from last month in which FCC Commissioner Michael Copps—the same bureaucrat whose legal counsel recently joked that he'd love to have "jurisdiction over everything"—reportedly dodged a question about regulating indecency on the web while noting that Americans want "something done" about explicit content:

Copps said that the [indecency] issue concerns him as well, suggesting that a majority of Americans want "something done" about  "over the top" "mindless violence" or sexual material, but dodged Smith's question about whether regulation or "voluntary codes" should be applied to the Internet, saying that "we need to have a national discussion about" applying public interest and decency standards to the Net. 

There may be exceptions, but it's usually pretty safe to assume that anytime a politician or bureaucrat dodges a question while calling for "a national discussion about" the proposal at hand, what he or she really means is, "I want to indicate that I support this idea without actually going on record as supporting it." In this case, Copps' proposed national conversation could complicate things for Julius Genachowski, the FCC's Chairman, who has spent a fair amount of time this year denying that his agency has any intention of regulating the Internet. He gets away with this by making a distinction between the Net's infrastructure layer, which his agency most certainly intends to regulate, and the content layer, which he's insisted the FCC won't touch. But if Copps becomes any more open about imposing indecency regulations on the web, it will be tougher for Genachowski to make his case.