I learned of this debate from a curious source; by listening to
Chicago Cubs baseball. On Opening Day this season, Rep. Upton was in
the WGN radio booth and when asked by play-by-play man Pat Hughes what
business Upton would be attending to upon his return to Washington,
the Representative replied that he would be holding hearings on the subject
of mandatory Internet filtering in libraries and schools receiving public
funding. That thought stuck in my mind all day, with slight indignation
that Upton was proceeding full speed ahead with this without apparently
considering its long-term effects and ramifications. I continued mulling
it over until a thought suddenly struck me.
What if, as has been done with "Internet2", a separate TCP/IP network
was established with the sole purpose of educating and informing young people?
Such a network would be placed in schools, libraries, and any private homes in
which parents wished to pay for their modem or broadband connection to this
network. With such a network in place, I reasoned, free speech would have a
chance to continue on the Internet with a lesser fear of hinderment or outright
censorship by either the government or by corporations pushing their filtering
Upon further thought, though, it occurred to me that a battle would be
fought over what would be and what wouldn't be appropriate for "KidNet". Even
if it was just a very large reference section (A connection to the Library of
Congress and several other great sources of knowledge, for instance) debates
over just how sanitized KidNet should be could go on and on, with zealots on
both sides attempting to bend it to their needs.
I will now leave this to discussion, with a few more points to make. I
would not intend KidNet to be a total replacement for the experience of the
Internet at all for a minor, but a supplemental network that could serve more
as a vast encyclopedia than anything else. I worry that while well-meaning,
Rep. Upton and his ilk could end up destroying or at the least significantly
damaging free speech and expression on the Internet. KidNet, while by no
means a perfect solution, could be the means to preserve freedom while
allowing the education and enlightenment of America's youth without fear.
sources:www.house.gov and www.epic.org