2010 Children's Online Privacy Protection Act Rule Review
Please do not impose a constructive knowledge standard, apply COPPA to those between 13 and 18, or require or encourage age-verification. Implementing these approaches would limit Internet access for both children and adults and destroy Internet privacy. Requiring proof of age would destroy Internet privacy Any mechanism for verifying someone's age would necessarily force them to identify themselves, thereby linking their identity to their web browsing. Of particular concern is the idea that this program could make it difficult or impossible to express one's opinion online anonymously or using a pseudonym. The Supreme Court has long recognized that the First Amendment protects the right to anonymous speech. Talley v. California, 362 U.S. 60, 65 (1960) (holding anonymity protected under the First Amendment because forced “identification and fear of reprisal might deter perfectly peaceful discussions of public matters of importance.”). Stated another way, “[a]nonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority,” that “exemplifies the purpose” of the First Amendment: “to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation...at the hand of an intolerant society.” McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Comm’n, 514 US 334, 357 (1995) Currently, online posters are able to protect their identity to a limited degree. Websites log a poster's IP address and browser information, not their name, making it difficult for average citizens to identify the poster. In exceptional cases, subpoenas and national security letters can be used to link an IP address to a specific person. In other words, people who have a legitimate need to know an Internet user's identity can find out using legal processes. Requiring proof of Age would limit Internet access Requiring proof of age would make it difficult for those between 13 and 18 to access, without their parent's knowledge, information on sensitive subjects such as homosexuality and birth control. A 17 year old who wonders if they are gay would be unable to obtain information on homosexuality without their parents' knowledge. Sexually teenagers would be unable to read online about how to avoid pregnancy, STDs, and AIDS without telling their parents. When the Communications Decency Act attempted to legislate morality in this way, it was struck down by the Supreme Court. Providing proof of age would also be difficult for adults without links to the financial system. The poor, the elderly, and recent immigrants would be unable to easily convince an automated screening system of their identity. Free speech does not depend on access to a credit card. Programs of this type inevitably suffer from “mission creep,” encompassing more and more activity in the interest of security. Please do not destroy Americans' right to Internet access and privacy.