Szoka Submits Comments Regarding Maine Pharmaceutical Marketing Bill
WASHINGTON D.C. - Proposed legislation that
would extend regulations in the federal Children's Online
Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) to adolescents would be
unconstitutional, explained Berin Szoka in comments
filed today with the Maine State Legislature. Specifically,
expanding age verification mandates would require all users to
surrender privacy and speech rights while doing little to
benefit minors. The comments were filed in response to the
proposed "Act to Protect Minors from Pharmaceutical
Marketing Practices" pending in the state legislature.
In the comments,
PFF Senior Fellow Szoka argued that the proposed law, like
others that seek to extend child online protection laws to older
minors, would be unconstitutional because it would:
- Restrict the rights of adolescents to access legal and
potentially beneficial information, even though these rights are
not on par with those of adults;
- Burden the free speech rights of adults to the extent that
such laws force online operators to presume that everyone they
deal with online might be a child and to require adults to rebut
this presumption through age verification;
- Impose an undue burden on the rights of online operators to
engage in truthful speech that is not misleading about legal and
potentially beneficial pharmaceuticals; and
- Violate the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution when
enacted at the state level, since Internet activity clearly
represents interstate commerce that states have no authority to
Such laws are also generally inadvisable from a policy
perspective in that they would:
- Come at the expense of the clear benefits of pharmaceutical
advertising provides to consumers, including adolescents, such
as increasing information about their choices and lowering
pharmaceutical prices through competition;
- Potentially reduce, rather than enhance, the privacy of
adolescents, parents and other adults because of the massive
volume of personal information that would have to be collected
about users for authentication purposes (likely including credit
- Likely be the subject of massive fraud or evasion since it
is not always possible to definitively verify the parent-child
relationship, or because the system could be "gamed"
in other ways by determined adolescents; and
- Would not be enforceable for offshore sites.
The comments are available on the PFF website.
Szoka is also the co-author of "COPPA
2.0: The New Battle Over Privacy, Age Verification, Online
Safety & Free Speech."
Szoka is available for further comment. Please contact Amy
Smorodin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Progress & Freedom Foundation is a market-oriented think tank that studies the digital revolution and its implications for public policy. It is a 501(c)(3) research & educational organization.