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Online Child Safety, Privacy, and Free Speech: An Overview of Challenges in Congress & the States

A PFF Congressional Seminar
July 27, 2009
12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Room SVC-208
Capitol Visitor Center
1st Street and East Capitol Street
(Entrance is across from the US Supreme Court)
Washington DC, 20002

Audio now available:

Read the transcript:


  • Adam Thierer (Moderator), Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for Digital Media Freedom, The Progress & Freedom Foundation
  • Parry Aftab, Executive Director, WiredSafety.org
  • Todd Haiken, Senior Manager of Policy, Common Sense Media
  • Jim Halpert, Partner, DLA Piper
  • Berin Szoka, Senior Fellow, The Progress & Freedom Foundation

Online child safety, privacy, and free speech remain hotly debated issues at both the federal and state level.   Bills introduced in Congress to address cyberbullying concerns propose either educational initiatives or a criminalization approach.  Access to objectionable content also remains a concern and a new, government-mandated task force is looking into those issues.  Meanwhile, state officials, including many state attorneys general, continue to explore age verification mandates for social networking sites and some have considered building on the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) to expand "parental notification" mandates. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has recently announced an expedited review of COPPA to see if it is keeping up with new developments. The FTC is also exploring child safety in virtual worlds. New concerns about "sexting," or the sending of sexual explicit images over mobile devices, has also raised new concerns led some lawmakers to ponder penalties.

How serious are these concerns? Is legislation or regulation needed to address them? What free speech issues are at stake? Should Congress take the lead or leave it to the States to experiment with different models? These and other issues were discussed by a panel of leading experts in the field of online safety and privacy policy.

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The Progress & Freedom Foundation